NEW: Plant Yourself merch designed by my daughter, Yael Zivan.

Who Won the Debate Last Night?

No, not that debate.

I'm talking about the one between You and You. There's the forward-looking, rational, health-conscious You, that knows late-night snacking and staying up watching TV or surfing online is not a good idea.

And then there's the impulsive, bored, hangry, tired, instant-gratification-seeking You that just wants to feel better right now, even if the cost is feeling shitty tomorrow and compromising your health long-term.

The Big Problem

In some ways, this is the Big Problem in health behaviors, and in most bad habits: the fun is now, and the pain is later.

Dan Ariely of Duke University, author of Predictably Irrational, asks us to imagine a restaurant where you pay for each bite in real time. Instead of enjoying your meal and then getting the check, you pull out a quarter or a dollar after each fork trip to your pie hole. That would suck, right?

But why? You know you're paying for the meal. Rationally, it might be cheaper paying per bite, since you stop paying when you get full.

Pay-per-bite sucks because you're bundling the joy of consumption with the agony of payment. We like to get our jollies up front, and deal with the consequences later.

Much later, preferably.

Or even never.

And that's how bad habit loops are formed. We feel bad, we eat ice cream, we feel better instantly. We associate the happy brain juice hit of dopamine with the ice cream because they're linked in real time. When we feel bloated and gross two hours later, there's no association in our brain.

It's like yelling at the dog who pooped on the rug five hours ago. They're like, “What are you even talking about?”

So the You/You fight isn't a fair one. The rational You doesn't stand a chance against the impulsive You. Not for long, and not sustainably.

As soon as stress hits, or boredom, or fatigue that you don't address by going to sleep, or social pressure, the instant gratification You takes over the control panel, guiding you to do whatever it takes to change that state.

How to Win the Debate

You can't win the debate.

End of story.

The only way to win, to quote one of the great movies of the 1980s, War Games, is not to play. Here's the full quote, because I feel exactly this nerdy right now:

WOPR: “What a strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

You see, once you engage in debate, you've already lost. Impulsive You is indefatigable, and will not stop talking. Rational You has just landed a total zinger, game over, no way you're touching that cookie, and as soon as you cut to commercial break, Impulsive You is like, “Yeah, but if you just eat that cookie then there won't be any more cookies in the house and we can start our diet.”

And so it goes, on and on, until just to relieve the frigging tension you eat the damn cookie. (Please say those last four words in a Bernie accent.)

The Only Winning Move is Not to Play

Here's why debating is a losing strategy: once you're in a debate, you're in the realm of thoughts. And thoughts are the opposite of habits.

Let's look at your morning routine. Pretty standard from the moment you get up, right?

You don't pontificate on peeing.

You don't wonder about washing your face.

You don't discuss getting dressed.

You don't contemplate making coffee.

You don't take toast under advisement.

You just DO it.

Without thought.

Habit is the Absence of Conscious Thought

So the game here is to replace debate with foregone conclusions.

You know how you feel so relieved when you give in to temptation. When you finally eat that damn cookie (thanks, Bernie!) that you've been staring at?

You get exactly the same feeling of relief when you throw the cookie in the garbage. Or put it back in the cupboard. Or do anything that cuts off the possibility of eating it.

It's not the damn cookie. It's the end of the debate.

The trick to winning these fight-thrus is to decide irrevocably what your standards and rules are – in advance.

That way there's no negotiation. No internal struggle. No debate.

Make one decision, and then stop making decisions.

If Impulsive You wants to keep debating, you can change the channel (sometimes.)

You can simply let it be annoying background noise, like Rush Limbaugh playing on the radio while you're waiting to pick up your car at the dealership repair shop. Nothing to do with you.

Yes, this is a practice, and no, you won't succeed every time.

But when Rational You stops falling for Impulsive You's call to debate, you win a hell of a lot more than you lose.

As BadassVegan posted on Instagram this morning, “My silence could mean you are not worth the argument.”

Are we done? Because America is tired of hearing about your damn cookie! (Love you, Bernie!)

I've got two spots open in my health coaching practice. If you want an ally to help you establish good habits and reach your health, weight, and performance goals, check it out:

Also, the Sick to Fit Retreat last weekend was amazing! The next one on the calendar is in New Orleans, first weekend in March. Read some about it:

Looking for Transformational Change?

You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?

That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.

But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, that I'm devoting the next year to mastering it, studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, and then introducing it into health coaching through my trainings.

Right now, I want to triple my coaching practice to get more and more opportunities to do this work. And I'm lowering my fees – a lot – to make it easier for people to work with me.

If you're interested in working with me (and willing to commit to a minimum of 2 months), click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab and I'll get back to you within 3 business days.

Yes, I'm interested in Memory Reconsolidation Coaching.

You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.

It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂

Tip Jar

This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by clicking the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.


The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.


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