We are all unique beings. The way our bodies react to certain foods and the environment varies from person to person. The foods, schedules and eating patterns that work for me may not work for you! But there are three things that are common to everyone and they are the reasons that prevent us from being healthy. They go beyond "I don't have time to cook" or "I don't have willpower." They are related to the way we think.
Not having the right motivation
It doesn't matter how much money we have for personal trainers or healthy meal delivery, if we don’t have the right motivation we won’t accomplish our health goals.
But what's the right motivation? The right motivation is aligned with our values, focuses on the long-term and isn't driven by external approval. Getting healthy to "prepare for the summer" or a wedding in two weeks may not necessarily be aligned with values. Also, the motivation is driven by external approval and doesn't look beyond the summer or the wedding. In contrast, if your goal is aligned with how much you value family or maternity, for example, it will be easier to stick to a health goal that once achieved will allow you to have more energy to play with your kids, or prepare your body to have a baby. These motivations aren't driven by what others may think about you, and focus on the long term.
Our favorite sabotaging reasons
The power we give to the "I don't have time to cook" or "I have a very active social life" -which I call sabotaging reasons- is the second roadblock to being healthy. The way we express about these conditions implies that they have control over us, over our time and our lives. That's not the case. Ask yourself, how do I change roles? How do I regain power of these conditions?
Although it seems these events have control over you, we’re the ones who make the decisions. Instead of saying "I can't work out because I have a very active social life", you can say "I decide to go to happy hour on Wednesdays after work instead of making lunch for the next day." It doesn't matter if you do. The key is that we see our actions as choices. We have the liberty to decide and prioritize what we dedicate our time to. I encourage you to reflect how can you make your health the protagonist of your actions?
Our (rooted) beliefs around diet and health
The third obstacle is the way we were trained to think about health and diet. In general, society, media, our parents and culture have taught us to think that in order to be healthy we must be on a diet, and that it should be hard. We think that only people who have the willpower to diet are healthy, and they were fortunate enough to get an "extra glass" of willpower or discipline when they were born. That’s not true! The problem with diets is that they are the equivalent to restriction and our decisions are framed in a mindset of prohibition.
Gillian Riley, an English food writer, has a very popular TedTalk where she talks about the science that shows that human beings are naturally rebels and want to be free. That’s why is so hard to diet, because we can’t make choices! Diets aren't sustainable because they eventually feel like a punishment. Haven't you noticed that the moment you start a diet you want to eat precisely the forbidden foods?
Riley proposes that in order to be healthy, we must relate to food from a place of freedom. It’s easier if we think about food as choices with different outcomes: sluggish and bloated if I eat a pizza and pint of ice cream too often, and energized and light if I drink water and eat veggies, for example.
Awareness about the way we think and how our mind works is the key to getting healthy. It is the path to transforming our unhealthy habits into healthy ones. As a Health Coach, I provide suggestions on nutrition and healthy lifestyle, but this is complemented with a strong focus on how do we change our behavior to accomplish transformation in the way we eat and live. If you're interested in learning more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org