Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Changes of Life

I wanted to point everyone to a fascinating Fast Company article all about the brain science that explains why it’s so hard to change and suggests some recommendations for how it might be made easier. The article is titled “Change or Die” and well worth a read.

Change is always a fascinating topic. Why is it so hard for people to change their behavior?

There was one part of this article that really hit close to home for me. A few years ago I lost a lot of weight. Eighty pounds to be exact. To be honest, it was one of the easier things I’ve done in my life. Most people don’t say that. But for me, it just happened. One day I woke up and decided I wanted to start eating healthier. I stopped eating junk food and started going to the gym. About a month-and-a-half later I had lost 20 pounds or so and I though, “wow, this is really working.” Once I got to that point, there was no turning back.

So why was it so easy for me? Well, according to this article, it’s because I went about it the right way . . . all the way.

. . . radical, sweeping, comprehensive changes are often easier for people than small, incremental ones. For example, he says that people who make moderate changes in their diets get the worst of both worlds: They feel deprived and hungry because they aren’t eating everything they want, but they aren’t making big enough changes to quickly see an improvement in how they feel, or in measurements such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. But the heart patients who went on Ornish’s tough, radical program saw quick, dramatic results, reporting a 91% decrease in frequency of chest pain in the first month. “These rapid improvements are a powerful motivator,” he says. “When people who have had so much chest pain that they can’t work, or make love, or even walk across the street without intense suffering find that they are able to do all of those things without pain in only a few weeks, then they often say, ‘These are choices worth making.’ “

I haven’t given up my healthy eating since I started it over three years ago. I can’t remember living any other way. I’ve essentially reprogrammed my brain to work a different way.

“Radical change” is just one of the sections of the article. Don’t miss the rest, go read it now, it’s definitely going on this year’s “best of” list.

May 2, 2005