Breakfast and the Butterfly Effect

Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? Not the early 2000s thriller movie, but the meteorological term used to describe how small changes in a complex system could lead to some pretty dramatic results. Want to read more about how the theory came about? Click here.


So what has this complex scientific theory got to do with my breakfast? Well let me explain.

I've been thinking a lot this month on how small changes in my habits can produce big results. Some results are evident sooner, some later, but all disproportionately larger than the initial effort expended.


Changing a small habit, like having a healthy breakfast daily, can have huge long term results.

This is true of so many actions, even ones we don't notice that we're doing. Contemplate the simple act of turning off the tap (faucet) while brushing your teeth. This act is small. Even insignificant you might think. But every time you do it you save approximately 15 litres of water. In a household with four people, just turning off the tap during teeth-brushing can save 43,800 litres of water per year. That is a substantial consequence for a rather minute action.


Have you thought about taking a reusable cup when you head to the coffee shop for your daily caffeine hit? That's a tiny habit change in the scheme of things. However that micro shift has large outcomes. If I buy 3 takeaway coffees per week (less than the average Australian) for the next 45 years (assuming I live to 85), I will save over 7000 cups. In addition I will prevent 1750 pounds of CO2 from being released during the cups' production and save 12 trees from being cut down. Further to that my 7000 cups wont sit in landfill for over 100 years to fully decompose. That's a pretty hefty outcome for a small act like remembering to take my reusable cup for takeaways.


Think about other small changes that can have big impacts. Like:

  • stretching before exercise which could prevent serious injury

  • putting sunscreen on daily to prevent skin cancer

  • investing small sums of money now to see big returns later

  • making a micro-loan to an entrepreneur in a developing country (see Kiva.org)

  • unsubscribing from email lists to avoid the daily overwhelm in your inbox

  • asking open ended questions- who knows where the conversation may take you?

  • offering a smile to a stranger or doing a random act of kindness, for the increase in personal or community positivity

  • packing lunch everyday and the effect on your hips not just your wallet

  • meditating regularly to relieve or combat stress

  • getting an extra 30 minutes sleep and the effect on your immunity

  • taking the stairs instead of the lift and the result on your health

Which leads me back to breakfast. I've always been a lazy breakfast eater. I could easily survive until 10am on a cup of black tea. But then hunger strikes and I get crazy for carbs (and not the good kind), I have peaks and troughs in energy all day and I feel pretty lethargic while exercising. I've always heard about the benefits of eating a good breakfast but haven't really committed to making a consistent healthy-breakfast habit. Until now. I've started prepping my week-day breakfast on the weekend. I make enough chia pudding (recipe below) to last the week and because i'm lazy in the morning, it's a no-brainer to scoop a bit out, throw some fruit or nuts on top and shovel it down. I've only been doing this for a few weeks but the effect is already noticeable. I have a better attention span in the morning, have increased and sustained energy levels and am running further and faster than I have in ages. The sugary mid-morning snacks are gone and I honestly feel great. Plus science tells me that by having a regular healthy breakfast daily I am more likely to stay in a healthy weight-range, lower my risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease and boost my immunity. All because I'm spending 5 minutes on the weekend prepping my breakfast for the week. Small actions = big results!


There is also a great TED talk by Rory Sutherland about how small or simple changes can have big effects in the corporate world. Check it out here.


Now you cannot possibly ignore the butterfly effect. Little shifts; like eating a healthy breakfast, remembering to take your keep-cup or turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, compound to produce some incredibly large results. What small shift can you make today that might create a big impact in your life?


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My Breakfast Coconut & Chia Pudding recipe:

- 3 cups milk (I use non-dairy almond & coconut)

- 1 cup chia seeds (any colour)

- 1 cup shredded coconut (I toast it in the oven first)

- 1 or 2 tbsps maple syrup or honey

- 2 tsps vanilla extract

Whisk all ingredients together to combine. Refrigerate (covered) overnight or for at least six hours. Serve with fruit and nuts, seeds, chopped mint or a dollop of jam. Deeeelish! This amount lasts me 5 days.

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