Nutrition is a science, but eating is a behaviour. And so much of what we eat, and what we do each day is habit-driven.
The state of our health and wellbeing, our weight, fitness, our appearance and even our mood and cognitive performance is the result of thousands upon thousands of small, seemingly inconsequential choices, often made without any thought. They are the result of unconscious habit. Potato chips as a snack instead of a piece of fruit. An evening relaxing on the sofa after a busy day at work rather than a walk, home delivered Chinese food rather than a quick home cooked meal. Late nights surfing the net rather than a bath and bed.
Each small choice on its own is innocuous. But hundreds of tiny, habitual choices repeated year upon year... well, they are the difference between a healthy weight and obesity, excellent blood pressure and hypertension, living a healthy active life well into old age or having to go into a nursing home.
Everyone has lots of reasons any they want to improve their eating habits, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and make their health and wellbeing a priority. They want to lose weight, feel good in their skin, have more energy, get ready for swimsuit season, the list goes on. And yet, all too often we don’t do these things we know will make us feel better and safeguard our health over the long term.
There are two big reasons for this.
Firstly, even if we have truly terrible food and lifestyle habits, it can take years or even decades for the ill-effects of poor nutrition and lifestyle choices to manifest. We can’t see the damage we are inflicting on a daily basis through our bad choices at the cellular level. We can’t see the inflammation, the fatty streaks in our arteries, the fat deposits in our livers or the damage to our eyes and blood vessels from excess blood sugar. And because of that, any harms associated with our choice to overeat or skip yet another walk or workout won’t be top of mind.
The second huge challenge associated with making positive dietary and lifestyle changes is that all too often we choose what we want NOW over what we want MOST. Researchers have known for decades that the ability to delay gratification is central to our ability to achieve our goals. Studies have actually shown that those people who are better at resisting immediate temptation are the most successful at school and in their careers. But the problem is that we are hard wired for instant gratification: most of our actions and decisions each day are undertaken with the goal of an immediate positive outcome for us!
And nowhere is this more evident than with our food choices!!!
We want to be fit, healthy, vibrant and energetic, and look and feel awesome! And we know what we need to do to achieve this. It’s not rocket science - eat healthier foods, step away from energy-dense, nutrient-poor processed foods, and move our bodies.
But changing what we eat, or how often we exercise, can be HAAAAARD, especially if you don’t know the tips and tricks for successful habit change.
Unless we put something powerful and emotive right at the front of our mind.
But how do we do this?
I have a little assignment for you...
FIND YOUR WHY THAT MAKES YOU CRY
Take a few minutes (or longer!) to get in touch with your deepest desires, and your deepest fears.
From there take some time to find your Why That Makes You Cry - that desire that is so dear to your heart and is so compelling that it literally brings tears to your eyes when you think of it.
And once you have done that, find ways to bring this why to the front of your mind - to help guide you to making better choices each day.
Here are a few “why’s that make you cry” that I have heard recently:
- "I want to be alive to walk my daughter down the aisle and dance with her at her wedding."
- "I have been booked to present in front of a thousand people and I want to be as confident in my appearance as I am with my expertise."
- "I want to look amazing in my wedding photos - and in my bikini on our honeymoon."
- "I know I need it but I hate being on blood pressure medication - I want to change my lifestyle and my weight so that I no longer need it."
- "I’m the same age my father was when he died. I can’t imagine leaving my family. I want to outlive him by decades."
- "I survived cancer. I never want to take my health for granted again!"
I have also seen some really lovely ways that people have chosen to keep their Why That Makes Them Cry front and centre, to help them stay on track with their health and wellbeing goals:
- a special piece of jewellery worn every day,
- a tiny tattoo on the wrist,
- a word engraved into a watch band,
- post-it notes on mirrors
- screen savers on phones and computers
- ring tones that are their kids' voices
Staying in touch with your powerful, emotive “why that makes you cry” can be so incredibly helpful while you are in the process of changing your way of eating (or ramping up your exercise!).
If you need motivation to start making healthy choices now, to give yourself a healthier future, check out these powerful videos: