Whether it’s the New Year, or new goals set every 3-6 months, intention alone doesn’t work with “resolutions”. How many times have you set a resolution for yourself, then something happened, time passed and you were still where you began?
The moment a goal is set, the challenges arise.
Have you ever noticed when you set a goal to make changes to your health, suddenly it seems at every turn there’s a challenge standing in the way? This is especially true with social gatherings, vacations, and events that tend to bring about feelings of social anxiety.
Close relationships have a tremendous influence on your behaviors. You may experience this as internal or external pressure, or the desire to partake in what everyone else is eating or doing to feel included. Social pressure alone can derail the best of intentions around food. We eat what we “shouldn’t” in order to feel a part of the community around us.
Family gatherings, parties, and holidays are a time of seemingly endless temptation. That mixed with stress, a busy schedule, and the desire to eat what’s in front of you to please others is the perfect cocktail for “throwing in the towel” on a healthy goal.
Decision fatigue occurs when the quality of decisions made by the individual deteriorates after a long day of decision making.
Picture yourself after a very long day at work, coming home with no dinner planned ahead. The mental and physical exhaustion sets in as you stare longingly at the couch and TV remote steps away. You decide to order pizza or pick up fast food. You don’t have the mental capacity to make one more decision, let alone a healthy one! Plus it’s been a stressful day and you feel you deserve a treat. Sound familiar?
Thinking in Extremes
That “all or nothing” thinking can truly throw behavioral choices down the wrong path. It’s the voice inside your head that feels guilty after getting just a little off track from your intentions. You eat one piece of cake, believe you’d ruined your diet, and decide you might as well “eat the whole cake” and start over the next day. Or binging over the weekends and saying “I’ll start fresh on Monday. Too late now”. Getting back on track immediately will make a “small slip” just that. Very little harm done.
Cravings, Comfort Foods, and Weather
We all experience cravings – but do you stop and ask yourself where the craving might be stemming from? Or whether or not the craving is physical (the body is needing something) or emotional (your mind is needing something)? Asking ourselves these questions in moments of craving can positively influence the end choice and give ourselves what we truly need. Instead of feeling guilty and immediately feeding a craving with comfort foods, we can actually get in tune and see what our body/mind is actually asking for. Here are some example of questions to ask yourself:
- What would serve me best at this moment?
- Am I thirsty? (Thirst can actually be confused for Hunger)
- Do I need emotional support? (If you aren’t truly hungry, are you stressed? Sad? Tired? All are okay.)
- How can I satisfy my needs in a healthy way? If I’m stressed, I can meditate. If I feel sad, I can phone a loved one. If I feel tired, I can take a nap or go to bed early.
Don’t wait for “The New Year”, “Monday” nor “Post Vacation” to get healthy.
Conventional Western medicine has saved many lives and is very important, but as functional medicine professionals, we notice a major deficit in preventative measures. As a society, we’ve been taught to wait until symptoms show to actually work on our health. And “work” involves going to the doctor to get prescribed medication.
For us, it’s not about putting yourself on a short-term diet only to return to what you were doing before. Health is something we all work at every single day, and it never sleeps. Health doesn’t take a holiday. We practice mindful lifestyle changes that we repeat day in and day out to reach, exceed, and maintain great health and wellbeing all year round. You reap the rewards of this work each day and it’s worth every ounce of effort.
This is also why we do Health Accelerator Challenges alongside our patients. We teach them 1 new healthy habit each week and help them get 1% better every day of the year.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This breakthrough book by James Clear is the most comprehensive guide on how to change your habits and get 1% better every day. Here are some of our favorite highlights for how to accomplish any habit your want to achieve:
1. Forget goals. Yes, you read that correctly. Example: I want to run a marathon or lose 50 pounds are both goals that focus on the end result. What you want to focus on are the micro habits that, when practiced consistently, get you to a larger goal. Your brain wants to feel like it’s attaining something fairly quickly. So a habit for the marathon goal could be “I will run X minutes at X time each day, starting today” – keeping the habit very realistic, easy, and attainable to start. If you haven’t been running in a while, that means just 2 minutes to get started. Trust us, as simple as humanly possible.
2. Focus on consistency. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. When it comes to your health, where you are now is the result of the things you repeat daily overtime. Every small action matters when repeated. Knowing this keeps your focus on getting the habit accomplished one day at a time until it feels automatic. You’ll see the results add up when you focus on consistency rather than the end result.
3. Focus on your system of achievement. For example, if your goal is healthy eating, the system is set up for failure if your pantry, freezer, and fridge are filled with processed foods. You’re also asking yourself to resist temptation right in front of you when you’ve only just started the new habit. Change is hardest in the beginning so make it as easy as possible. Stock your fridge with whole foods, prep your meals to avoid decision fatigue, and trust in the system to pave your way. Examine all of your routines with this same framework in mind and discover where your current systems may not be set up to help you succeed.
4. What is your “Health Identity”? What are the thoughts you believe to be true about your personal health? Examples: “I don’t work out or eat healthy because I don’t enjoy it, I don’t have time, I don’t see the point because everyone dies someday, etc.” Tell yourself those phrases enough times and it’s no wonder you don’t want to make healthy changes. Once you’ve written down your current health identity, we encourage you to visualize where you’d like to be. How would change your Health Identity to move closer to that goal? If you need assistance, think of someone in your life who is healthy and how you might emulate their actions. Develop affirmations around that new self and you’ll be amazed how much your actions change.
Small healthy habits
Lastly, here are some of our favorite habits we use in our own lives:
- Use blue-light-blocking glasses in the evening so that your sleep is not disrupted – it’s ideal to give yourself “no screen time” on devices at least 1 hour before bed as well.
- Open your windows in the morning and let fresh air in.
- Expose yourself to natural light in the morning to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Track your water! You can use a bottle and mark down the ounces you drink or download an app to help remind you.
- Clean up your fridge and fill it with fresh whole foods.
- If you are going to a party or a social gathering, bring something to the table you love that supports your health, and encourage others to try it and see how delicious it is. You will not only influence yourself but enjoy sharing with people you love!
- I should vs. I will: Instead of telling yourself, “I should do this or that because of my health” which brings up mental resistance, tell yourself, “I will do this or that for my health,” How does each phrase feel when you say it out loud? Remember – our choice of words influences our success.
- Make a list of how new healthy habits could benefit those around you – if doing it for yourself isn’t motivation enough, that can help inspire your desire to change.
- Habit Bull App: it allows you to add a habit and it will create a calendar for you per your requirements.