No pizza? No cake? No coke? Going to bed early? Spending time exercising instead of watching TV shows? Being a ‘health freak’ is not for me, thank you.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is daunting for most people. Change is daunting. Change is hard. It’s so much easier to keep on doing what you’ve always been doing. That’s why it often takes a serious health scare to shake people and get them thinking about their lifestyle. Sometimes, even that is not a guarantee that they will change.
As I mentioned numerous times in this blog before, health coaches like myself are trained to accompany people and help them adopt behavioral change. We are also trained to coach those who aren’t convinced that they should change anything. We help them uncover their motivation for change and hold their hands while they cross the bridge towards their newly-established health goals.
One thing that I often see holding back people is the fear that their lives will be less spontaneous; that a healthy lifestyle is boring and too restricting. Sometimes this fear can be enough to make them freeze and prevent them from doing anything at all. They are afraid that they will never celebrate birthdays with cake again, that they will miss out on life because of a tighter schedule and that others will criticize them and find them dull.
Is it just an excuse or is there some truth to it?
I am obviously someone who walks the talk and I could never be a health coach if I didn’t lead a healthy lifestyle. Am I boring? Well let’s see:
People often believe that eating well means mostly eating salads and repeating the same meals every day. Wrong! My diet is probably way more varied than the average person. Do I eat lots of vegetables? Yes! Always the same ones? Not at all! I vary them in colour and I try something new every week. Ever since I understood the power of food is medicine, I also realised how varied I should be eating. My pantry is full of things you have probably never heard of. For example, I don’t just eat rice and pasta, but numerous other grains. I mix up my legumes (there are so many varieties of beans!), my protein sources (I eat all kinds of meat and fish) and fat (olive oil is amazing, but so is linseed and walnut oil for example).
It is true that I often don’t help myself to cake or other sweets when they are around. However, contrary to what many people think, I don’t do that to ‘be good’, but because I really didn’t want to. Once you stop consuming sugar, you don’t crave it as much. I do eat sweets on holidays and special occasions. Do I get strange looks from people when I refuse to have cake? Yes I do. But it’s my choice and you would be surprised by how people won’t give you that look a second time. In addition, I am convinced that if you find your diet boring, you will never stick to it. I always work on creativeness in the kitchen with my clients – I even go to supermarket trips with them to help them discover new things they never tried before!
I do go to bed earlier than the average adult, at around 10h30-11h00. Most importantly, my phone is in airplane mode an hour before. There’s a lot of resistance around going to bed early, considered to be for little kids, not for adults. I have no shame in admitting my bed time because I don’t still have the mindset of a university student and I don’t see anything wrong with it. I feel so much better the next day if I go to bed earlier rather than later. Does this mean I don’t go out at night? Nope! If something interests me enough I’ll certainly go out, although I admit that sometimes if something begins late, like 11 or 12pm, I might opt out, but I don’t feel guilty about it or like I’m less cool than others are. I choose to be present and feel good the next day, if I can help it.
I don’t normally have alcohol when I go out and haven’t even been tipsy in 6 years, with the exception of my wedding day. People often want you to drink because they do, but I have found that you can discover other ways to have fun than drinking alcohol. To me, getting drunk and feeling bad the next day doesn’t sound like fun. If that is other people’s idea of fun, they can have at it. That doesn’t make me a boring person. In fact, I can’t count the number of times people asked me how many drinks I’ve had because I looked like I was having so much fun, and the bland look on their faces when I said ‘none’.
These are just a few examples. The bottom line is that you will not lose yourself by committing to being a better you, if you do it in a way that is authentic to you. You also don't have to follow the same lifestyle I do. You have your own life, your own limits, your own goals. But if you try to go cold turkey and make a resolution to suddenly become an example of health on every level, you will most likely feel restrained and won’t last long. Again, a health coach can help you discover your own version of being healthy, one that works for you and the only version that you can stick to in the long term.
Be prepared to hear comments in the beginning. Your friends may not like it. Your family may not appreciate it. Your colleagues may roll their eyes at you. But in the end, it’s your life and your choice to make. Just remember that healthy and boring are not equivalent.
What can you start with this week?
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