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It’s not often I compare myself to a Toyota truck, today is an exception. You see there’s a Japanese business theory that, while commonly used to speed up production in places like the Toyota factory, works just as well applied to our minds and bodies.
It’s called Kaizen and the theory behind it is that it doesn’t take massively big changes to make a massively big difference – small changes work too.
What is Kaizen?
It’s the idea that by analyzing without blame, judgement or opinion, the precise, specific, small areas where you need to improve things (and then doing so) you can trigger change with, what seems like minimum effort.
You can use it many areas of your life, but it works really well for weight loss because it won’t leave you feeling deprived, but it’s also a gradual life change which means it’s something you can sustain once you’ve lost the weight in order to keep it off.
Some Ways to Use Kaizen For Weight Loss
Now, the beauty of Kaizen is that there’s no one way to do it. Instead, you just need to look at your own life, think what’s stopping you meeting your goal and ask what you could do to slightly alter that.
Applying the Kaizen approach to my current eating plan I have identified five small changes I could if I so desire, make and that would probably improve things in my diet. They are…..
1) I could serve myself one less spoonful of the carbs and protein part of the meal. I eat well, but I eat too much as I get greedy – but half the time I’m full before I get to the end. If I just didn’t put a spoonful of food on my plate, I wouldn’t miss it.
2) If I’m not going to be home in the evening, then I could choose one of the low-calorie options I talk about all the time on here- or, go for at least a 20-minute run first.
3) If I’m going out, I should start with a soda and lime or something else low calorie – I’d have one less drink a night, and often when I do this, I don’t switch to alcohol at all. There’s plenty of non-alcoholic options to choose from after all.
4) When I do drink, choose a schooner: I default of pints of lager just because when I lived in the UK, a half a lager was a bit too small. A schooner though, at 425ml, is actually the perfect amount but a quarter of the calories. I could also stick to bottled beer at 330ml a serving.
5) Stop eating salad dressing: I’ve snuck it back into my meals again – but salt and vinegar really do taste just as good.
The Kaizen approach would see me picking one of those, focusing on it and doing it well. Once it’s established as a habit, then you can bring in the next choice. This might sound slow and ineffectual, but as psychologist Robert Maurer says in his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life, we’ve been so conditioned to think big and supersize and to demand big results fast, we’ve forgotten the power of slow and simple changes.
It’s like that old adage how do you eat an elephant…one bite at a time.
Will I do them?
To be honest, just looking at them written down in a list is sending me into ‘but I don’t want to’ mode – yet, if I don’t make some changes I’m going to be trying to lose this damn weight forever (and it’s only half a stone, you’d think I was eliminating entire limbs!).
Kaizen theory though tells you not to think about doing everything at once, but just making one change at a time, get it established and then move to the next. I can do that without throwing a tantrum. So, how could you Kaizen your diet?
If you like the idea of Kaizen, there’s now a whole books on the approach and how it can change your life. You might therefore want to have a look at these.
Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits One Step at a Time
Author Sarah Harvey first heard about Kaizen when she moved to Japan and she talks about how she used it to change her own life – and then gives short, simple practical tips on how to use Kaizen to change many different areas of your life too – including health, finances and relationships.
The Spirit of Kaizen: Creating Lasting Excellence One Step at a Time
Written by a psychologist and organisational consultant, this focuses on how you can use Kaizen to help improve business and efficiency at work.
What to Read Next
Another great Japanese health idea is that of Hara Hachi Bu. It’s said to be one of the reasons why Japanese people live so long.
If you want to know more about that, you’ll find the full post on it here.
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster, and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail, and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.