One of the biggest challenges to getting healthy is knowing where to begin.
When I talk to people about my book or programs, the biggest hesitation is often from the overwhelm of not knowing where to begin. I am always told “Well of course you think it’s easy, you live this stuff”. But I’ll tell you a little secret – it wasn’t always so. My weight has been super high and super low (mostly during middle and high school), I have been super healthy and super unhealthy, and I have eaten really great foods and total crap. I have exercised fanatically and been a complete and total lazy bum. It’s the balance of it all that I’ve learned over the years that has me feeling healthier than ever and able to make healthy choices without hesitation.
Growing up, I ate healthy, but not by today’s standards. When I was about 12, we suddenly found ourselves on the Heart Healthy diet of the 90’s. My dad had a heart attack and his doctors prescribed a super low-fat diet (which was the main thought regarding heart disease during that era). It meant no red meat and more vegetables and fruits. It also meant fat free everything – the ultimate “health” food of the times. These were highly processed, sugary substances, along with diet sodas and low-calorie yogurts, which turned my stomach into a digestive nightmare. But, they were healthy, right?
In college, my diet changed a little. My roommates and I still bought diet drinks and foods, but we also ate 90% of our meals at the sorority house. These were home-cooked meals, but they were definitely not the highest quality of ingredients. We were also pros at dieting or “balancing” our meals with our extracurricular activities, aka parties. If we knew we had a night of binge drinking ahead (aka Friday and/or Saturday) we would eat salads and “lighter” foods to counteract the binge…and then drive-thru food on the way home because we were starving.
Out of all of this, one thing I knew for certain – diet foods were king. The more low-fat or low-calorie it was, the better for you. I knew that fruits and vegetables were important, red meat was not so great, and eating chicken was the best thing ever. I also knew that organic meant hippie nonsense. It didn’t mean low calorie or low-fat. It definitely didn’t mean weight loss and it definitely wasn’t diet food.
Flash forward to grad school. I was becoming more and more interested in nutrition and eating healthy. I was already a little ahead of the game as far as the Standard American Diet went – I knew fast food wasn’t so great, produce was good, saturated fats weren’t super healthy, and fried foods were unhealthy. I drank green tea, limited my caffeine intake, and ditched dairy for digestive reasons. I started watching a health show that focused on living “green” and sometimes made recipes using non-dairy alternatives – which was unheard of at the time.
One day, I watched the show that came on after. It was following a day in the life of a pregnant model. She ate healthy foods, went for massages and practiced yoga. She also had a sister with cancer and she would help her get to her chemo treatments. She talked about how her sister would go to chemo, then come home and drink 6-pack of mountain dew. My reaction was, “Hell yeah, don’t let that cancer get you down.” At that moment, her sister brought up the point that if she ate better quality food, organic and no-processed, she wouldn’t feel so bad after her chemo. So she tried it. And she did.
That’s when it all changed for me.
I had the sudden realization that there was more to health than eating health foods. Health was about quality not quantity. It was about how it made you feel, not just about how it made you look.
Organics made her feel better. I thought, “Oh crap, I’ve had it wrong all along. It’s not diet foods that keep you healthy, its healthy foods that keep you healthy”.
After that day, I made a switch. I ate organic foods, I stopped eating as much processed and diet foods and drinks. I learned how to cook more than 2 dishes. And all of these small changes built up to where I am now.
My health has definitely been a journey – one that I am still on and will always be. Knowledge changes, ideas change, and the road continues on.
For you, you might be on a journey to improve your diet, your fitness, your stress or relationships. Whatever you need, you can begin now:
1) Drop the idea of being at the end of the road right this instant. Health and happiness take time, and finding your way there can be interesting and enjoyable.
2) Let go of overwhelm and complications. Instead, just start where you can. Take a small step in the direction of where you want to go. If you want to eat better, start buying more organic foods or more produce. If you want to move more, take 10 minutes a day to go for a walk or find a YouTube video you enjoy.
3) Write down some ideas of where you want to be in the next month. These don’t have to be set in stone. Just brainstorm what you envision a healthy life to look like and write down a manageable step you can take to get there.
4) Check in and see how you feel. If you feel that your first few steps have made you feel less than fantastic (and look like they’ll keep heading that way), ditch them and regroup. If you feel fantastic (or know you are on the road to fantastic), keep going with it. Example: Recently, my sister changed her and her family’s entire way of eating and shopping (actually saving $100 on groceries a week). It wasn’t easy, but they made small changes and feel better about it.
What are you going to work on with your own health? Leave it, along with your 4 steps in the comments below, to seal in your commitment.
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