A one percent change that makes a big difference

Our family recently got to spend an evening together watching our youngest daughter perform in her third grade musical. She was a “cute chick” who joined her friends in a chorus line of adorable, sassy and intelligent bright yellow chickens, performing a barnyard song.

After the show, she asked if we could all go out to ice cream. “Of course!” we all chimed. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate with a trip to Culver’s?

In reality, these celebrations stir in me a bunch of conflicting emotions. I want to be that mom from my past who could join in the fun of eating ice cream after a big event. On the drive over, I started convincing myself (as I have at other times the past few years), that it will be OK.

One little cup of Culver’s concrete never killed anyone.



Then, I remembered something I read in a book I finished recently called, Atomic Habits by James Clear. The premise of the book is that making just a one percent adjustment in your life can make a huge difference over the course of many years. When most of us want to create a change in our lives, we think of setting a big goal that will take a ton of determination and perseverance. Instead, he suggests that we make tiny tweaks, which can grow into big changes over time.

One of the strategies for creating these changes is to think of yourself as the person you someday want to be.

So on the drive to get ice cream, I told myself that I want to be a person who feels great because she’s healthy. I want to wake up in the morning feeling as healthy as possible.


I’m not allergic to ice cream, and I wouldn’t even appear “sensitive” to dairy on a food test. But after two years of eliminating inflammatory foods from my diet, I know exactly how I will feel the next day if I eat ice cream.

Dairy, gluten and sugar are the three most highly inflammatory foods that humans can eat. This is true regardless of whether you have an allergy or a sensitivity. While some people react worse than others, these foods cause some level of inflammation in all people.

When my diet was packed full of inflammatory foods, I had no idea how my body was reacting to any one of them. But now that I rarely eat these foods and many others, I can tell the difference immediately.

If I eat ice cream, the next morning, I will have huge bags under my eyes. I used to think this was a normal consequence of being a middle-aged woman. “I must need a better eye cream,” I told myself.

Dairy causes inflammation in my sinuses, which not only causes puffy eyes, but can cause my entire face to look swollen, give me a migraine and even cause vertigo. It also causes inflammation in my digestive system, which makes me feel miserable. And I will have an overall feeling of lethargy, which I often describe as having “sludge in my veins.”


Even knowing ALL of this, can you believe I would still have a mental battle with whether I should eat a cup of ice cream from Culver’s? Even after TWO years of avoiding dairy as much as possible, can you believe I still have mental wars over whether to eat it?

But my daughter was such a CUTE chicken! Would I even be a good mom if I didn’t celebrate with some ice cream?



Since I read the book about Atomic Habits, I’ve been making some other one percent changes in my life:

  • I want to improve my writing, so I’ve been writing more regularly on my blog.
  • I’ve been putting on my work-out clothes as soon as I get out of bed, which then motivates me to exercise before starting my day.
  • I’ve even been making my bed! 🙂


Thinking of myself as the person I want to be has been helping me in several areas of my life. A few weeks ago, I said “no” to the concrete. The next morning, I woke up feeling like my normal self, rather than a tired, miserable, puffy-eyed person.

And when we went back to Culver’s last night with my daughter’s gymnastics team to celebrate the beginning of spring break, I barely even had to think about what I would do. I didn’t sit there feeling left out because I couldn’t eat the ice cream. I remembered the healthier version of me I would be this morning.

I guess those small changes do add up.


Do you have any new habits you are trying to make in your life? Have you ever made a one percent change that led to a big difference?

Leave me a comment and let me know!




  1. I completely identify with this 1% theory! I’m always more successful if I ease into big lifestyle changes. I need huge measures of grace for myself.

  2. I can totally relate! Changes, big or small are hard enough and being consistent with them is the biggest battle for me. I have been decreasing intake of both salt and sugar in my diet. So a few weeks ago, we were at a birthday party and a couple of days ago I was at another birthday party and both times I said no to cake! I was so proud of myself. Hoping to keep going with it.

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