Speed bumps are simple actions we use to reset our habits. They make following our nourishing routines easier, and help us get closer to balance in our lives.

Today, our founder and CEO, Nicole Centeno shares her speed bumps that keep her eating habits in balance, and create a positive relationship with food.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Nicole! How do you define a speed bump?

Nicole Centeno: I’m a sensory junkie, so if it tastes, feels, or looks good, I’m likely to want lots of it. Like everyone else, I do my best to strike a healthy balance between the because it feels good stuff (margaritas and sleeping in) and the better for you stuff (salads and yoga). Speed bumps are my reminders to slow down on the things I do simply because they feel good. I’ll never eliminate feel good things from my life, but I don’t want to do them all the time because, ironically, that doesn’t make me feel good!

SS: What does a balanced diet mean to you?

NC: To me, balance just means awareness. I don’t believe any food is inherently bad or good.

I’m in balance when I can see my behaviors and modify if they start to feel out of sync with where I want to be holistically. For example, I have a rule of three: if I do a because it feels good thing three days in a row (like margarita happy hour), I pause and ask myself how I’d feel if I didn’t do that thing today. It’s a way to be aware and accepting of my behavior, while also pushing back and giving myself an opportunity to modify.

SS: How and why did you first create these food-focused speed bumps?

NC: Like many busy ladies out there, I have a tendency to add more and more to my schedule. When I became pregnant with my first son, I noticed I was passing off café pastries and granola bars as meals. There’s a fine line between: “I’ll have a chocolate croissant for breakfast today as a treat”, and doing it every day. Pretty soon my homemade dinner was taken over by frozen pizza.

Behaviors become habits very quickly, especially if they’re easy and taste good. Replacing one of my meals with a wholesome soup transformed my habits for the better. I felt confident that at least once a day I was getting a big dose of nourishing veggies. Launching Splendid Spoon was my grand attempt to create a plant-based speed bump in the middle of my day, every day.

SS: What attitude do you take when you’ve gone off track and need to reset?

NC: As someone with a history of eating disorders, I’ve worked hard to establish a kind and forgiving conversation with myself. I try to focus on how I feel about being off track, rather than the indulgent thing I’ve eaten. It’s not the food that needs to get back on track, it’s our relationship with it. I also focus on the week rather than the day: it gives me more space to say, hey this wasn’t awesome, but there’s plenty about this week that was! When we feel good about ourselves, then we’re able to move on. We have to reinforce this behaviour — croissants and cupcakes will always be there!

SS: How do you make sure you always return to your speed bumps?

NC: I create a ritual around my speed bumps: my mindful lunch is one that I return to every day. Another trick is to start with just one speed bump and do it for two months before adding another. Good habits take more time to develop.

SS: How does mindfulness help your relationship with food?

NC: Food is so cool because it ignites all our senses. Unfortunately, because we’re moving so fast these days, many of us don’t get the full sensory experience and instead feel anxious because we fear we aren’t doing it right. This is especially true if we’re making an effort to be healthier.

A mindful meal slows your body down so you can better taste, smell, see, and feel your food. When we do this, our body moves into a more relaxed state which aids with digestion and eases us out of anxiety. Everytime we have a mindful meal, we create a more positive and healthy connection with food.

SS: What should the key elements of a speed bump be?

NC: The best thing is to lower your expectations. We’re often so hard on ourselves and believe we must enact complicated or difficult behaviors to make improvements. The reality is that if every American swapped out a bag of chips for some carrots (just one extra serving of veggies per day), the US would save $5 billion in health care expenditures and prevent over 30k heart disease and stroke deaths annually. Speed bumps do work, and perhaps the smaller ones are even more effective, because they’re more likely to stick.

SS: Are there any speed bumps you want to develop to help other parts of your life?

NC: I’d like to develop some speed bumps around my cardio workouts. I love to go for a run but I have a very all or nothing attitude with it — it’s either an hour-long or not at all. So more often than not, I don’t do much cardio. Hannah [That’s me! — Ed.], I’m looking at you for help here ;).