Gretchen Rubin

“I’ve Cultivated the Habit of Hard Work, Which Is Deeply Satisfying.”

“I’ve Cultivated the Habit of Hard Work, Which Is Deeply Satisfying.”

Habits interview: Nina Teicholz.

I'm hard at work on my book about habits, and it focuses on how to change a habit -- whatever you want your habit to be. Whether you want to start flossing, stop procrastinating about writing your novel,  get more sleep, spend more time with friends, or however you might want to see change. (If you want to know when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

Most of us have some habits that we'd like to make or break. A few years ago, I changed my eating habits. For one thing, I used to eat non-fat everything -- non-fat yogurt, skim milk, egg-white omelets, turkey burgers -- and now, based on the research I've read (borne out by my personal experience), I embrace the full-fat version of everything.

Nina Teicholz has written a fascinating book, The Big Fat Surprise, which is a deep look at this question. In this book, which has generated a tremendous amount of discussion since it came out, she explores why we came to believe that the macro-nutrient fat is bad for our health -- and why it really isn't bad for our health. Really. Even saturated fat is fine. It may be hard to believe, I know, but the research is very compelling. The arguments are complex, so I won't summarize them here, but this heavily researched account takes you through the debate.

By chance, she and I live very near each other, so recently we met for lunch (which included fat).

Gretchen: You've done fascinating research. What's the most significant thing you've concluded?

Nina: The research for my book led me to conclude that the saturated fats in meat, cheese and eggs are not bad for health. In fact, they are essential parts of a healthy diet. Also, fat does not make you fat.

What's a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

I've taken a good hard look at the past year--the result of working like crazy to finish my book--and have to conclude that I have few good habits. I hardly do anything in a routine way and don't take time for myself. Work and motherhood have stretched me thin. However, I make time to read to my boys every night, which is a wonderful way for us to all be together. I call my mom regularly--that always cheers me up. And I've cultivated the habit of hard work, which is deeply satisfying.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Yes, of course. I fail to exercise regularly, rarely sit down to eat properly, and allow myself to obsess about things I can't change. I have, however, achieved a state of enlightenment about how bad these habits are for me and know that one day, I'll get my act together.

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