You have more healthy behaviors than you may realize.
I can already hear you saying, “I don’t do anything healthy. Ever.”.
To which I call BS.
Well, unless you spend every hour of every day in McDonald’s slamming shots of Fireball and watching Fox News. Even then though, I’m sure you drink some water (read: something healthy) at soooome point.
I’m certain there are actions you take towards your health, be it brushing your teeth or eating the occasional broccoli floret.
You may not feel healthy. Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as one of those "healthy, fit people". One of those weirdos who eats out of tupperware, packs lunches, and goes to bed before 2am.
So it might be a little hard to reconcile when someone on the internet whom you’ve never met is like, “Hey, you’re better at this health thing than you give yourself credit for”.
I bet you’re shouting, “You don’t know my life!” at your computer screen.
And fair enough. I don’t.
However, I’ve helped tons of people who “eat like shit” (their words, not mine). People who struggle to come up with a positive answer to the question: “What’s something you’ve done well this week”.
Despite these views, after digging a little bit, my clients and I always find an answer to that question. The true answer is never, “Nothing. I’ve done absolutely nothing well this week.”.
What I’ve found in my experience is that everyone is making an effort in some way.
You might not identify as the healthy person of your friends group. I get it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t already take some amount of action regarding your health.
Why is this important?
Because it’s easier to do more of what you’re already doing than to build something from scratch. Beyond that, how we describe ourselves, how we identify plays a huge role in the decisions we make.
If I identify as the scrawny guy, I’m going to do scrawny guy things -- actions that line up with that sense of identity. I’m going to poke fun at myself being scrawny as a preemptive way to shield my insecurity. Even if I want to get bigger, I probably won’t lift.
And if I do, I’ll probably find ways of sabotaging myself, because changing your identity is scary.
It’s the foundation for how we interact with the world -- shaking up your foundation is something us humans really don’t like, even if what we’re doing currently is at odds with the life we want.
If you’ve built your life and worldview around a certain identity, what happens when you change that?
The answer is unknown. So your subconscious often fights back against the changes you know we need to make -- whether that’s by eating 5 scoops of ice cream because you’ve “earned it”, or skipping a workout because XYZ. You might be unhappy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not comfortable. It may suck but at least it’s familiar.
This is why, if a behavior is tied to your identity it’s much more resilient than a behavior that exists outside of how you see yourself as a person.
If you feel like you’re just not the kind of person who does healthy things, you’re more likely to think “what’s the point” and talk yourself out of cooking those veggies in your freezer.
In fact, a behavior becomes integrated into your life as a habit when that behavior becomes associated with your sense of identity.
Going back to the first point: looking for things you’re already doing well. There’s a time and a place for obnoxious, almost nauseating positivity. That time is now.
Because success is an accumulation of miniscule, seemingly irrelevant decisions over time.
You have to be completely convinced:
- All the little decisions count .
- Whatever you do the most often creates the biggest impact.
- Doing something most often requires repeating the same small decisions over and over and over and over.
It’s that cliche Lao Tzu quote:
But it’s true. You can’t skip steps, so it’s best to just put one foot in front of the other.
Highlighting and celebrating what you’re already doing well breeds the confidence you need to make small decisions that lead to big changes.
Recognizing and realizing you are, in fact, capable of making healthy choices changes the game.
It shifts the decisions making process from, “How do I completely turn my life around” to, “How do I do this thing I’m already doing more often?”. The latter is significantly less daunting and complicated.
The task now seems much more manageable. This is important. Because why would you put in the effort if you feel like it won’t matter? If you feel like the goal is so far off as to be unattainable, or that nothing you do now will make a difference?
You won’t. So it’s crucial you realize the decisions you make now are the foundation of where you’ll be in the future.
This sort of hopelessness is something many of my clients have struggled with. It becomes an easy justification for making poor dietary decisions i.e., self-sabotage.
However, once they overcome this mindset, they see those first results that spark the confidence in them that says, “Oh wow, this is actually possible. The way my body is now is just a temporary state, and I have the ability to change it so long as I stay focused.”
Sometimes it’s just a matter of powering through to that first “a-ha” moment where they realize their goals are attainable.
This is why my clients focus on daily action related goals. They take their eyes off of the end goal. Because no matter how bad you want to achieve something, wanting it doesn’t get you there. Action does.
Looking at how far you have to go wastes energy and misdirects focus. It’s better to put all of your energy into what actions you need to be taking right now, rather than where you wish you were already.
Everybody has a different starting point in this
I don’t just mean in terms of weight, health, strength, flexibility etc.
Everybody also has a different relationship with food, their body, and life in general. Everybody has different habits, and some habits are more stubborn than others.
Your starting point isn’t solely about how many pounds you have to lose, it’s about everything. Because all of that influences how you go about changing your behaviors, what mindsets need to change, and what ultimately brings you success.
You might “only” want to lose 10 lbs, but if the habits you need to change are longstanding, and you don't have the right mindset, it’s going to take time, patience, and finesse to hit that goal.
This is why one-size-fits-all approaches aren’t effective. And why there isn't an answer to:
"How fast should I be losing weight?"
While I can give you a rough physiological answer to how fast it's possible to lose fat without losing too much muscle or causing detriment to your health, that doesn't take into account the complexity and individuality of habit formation and behavior change.
Nutritional guidelines based off what we know about nutrition, health, and weight serve as a good compass. But how you follow those principles, how you implement those guidelines into your life is an inherently personal endeavor.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat", as the saying goes.
It’s specific to you. For this reason, while my online clients sometimes struggle with similar problems (busy work lives, travel, social eating, stress, etc.) the solutions we come up with are different for each individual client.
The trick is to look for what you’re already doing well and/or what you’ve done well in the past. If it has to do with health, awesome. If not, that’s ok too. You can still learn a great deal about what will specifically get you to your goal, given your own unique circumstances, habits, and struggles.
Because how you get good at 1 thing is the same as getting good at anything else.
How you learn a language is the same as learning how to eat better is the same as learning how to juggle is the same as learning how to not be so stressed all the time. Chances are, the principles, strategies, and mindset you used to accomplish one thing, will work again when adapted to your health goals.
What’s something you’ve accomplished in the past, or something you’ve made progress in? How did you do it?
These are the questions you want to ask yourself.
Like I said, you might have to take on a level of optimism you’re not used to. I want you to actively look for anything you do that’s good for your health, even if that’s just having a sip of water, brushing your teeth, or getting medium french fries instead of the large.
I can already hear you saying, “But french fries are obviously bad for you! What happened to being honest about how you’re eating?!”
Being honest about your nutrition means acknowledging both what’s productive and what’s not.
Because honesty is about objectivity, not negativity. So acknowledging the positive here gives a more accurate, honest view on this decision.
There’s a big difference between justifying a poor decision to alleviate food guilt and objectively analysing what went well and what didn’t. The former is driven by emotion, the latter is based on cold, emotionless logic.
By acknowledging what you did well here, you’re not saying french fries are healthy. You’re breaking down that decision and looking for aspects where you made a mindful effort, no matter how small it seems.
In this example, you’re exercising portion control and mindfulness. Two crucial skills for building a healthy lifestyle.
You could easily order the biggest one. I mean, they make it soooo freaking convenient, and convenience is major drive behind human decision making. So this absolutely freaking counts as a victory.
Find what you already do well.
Then dig in. Explore those behaviors. Figure out why, and how you can apply that to build other behaviors.
Then come up with a plan to multiply that habit to build some momentum that will give you confidence to continue building the skills required to eat better.
What are some other situations where you think you could repeat this?
Here’s a step-by-step of how this works:
Phase 1: Reflection
- Identify something you did well.
- Describe the external circumstances that influenced this decision.
- Identify what was going on in your head when you did that thing well. What were the voices in your head saying?
- What ultimately drove you to make this decision.
Phase 2: Strategy
- Set a mini goal for the week related to this decision. Your mini goal should have a trigger, something that you already do consistently to remind you to practice the mini goal. For example, when I brush my teeth (trigger) I will drink a glass of water for the next 7 days (mini goal).
Phase 3: Action
- Follow through. Hold yourself accountable either by writing about it in a journal, recruiting an accountabilli-buddy or hiring a coach.
- Each week set a new mini goal that builds off of the last week’s.
- Repeat this process each week for long enough and you will see results.
So long as you’re consistently moving forward just a little bit, success is guaranteed. It’s only a matter of time.
Again, how long it takes to see that first light-bulb, be it your pants fitting more loosely, or your knees not aching when you walk, varies depending on where you are now.
So be patient. There’s no speed minimum. Your path won’t look like anybody else’s. As long as you’re better than you were last week, you’re doing amazing.
Look for healthy things you already do. Then do more of those things. Keep doing more of the healthy things and the unhealthy things get seamlessly edged out as a side-effect.
Ultimately building a healthy life is all about practice. Just like you get better at a sport with practice, you get better at making health oriented decisions with practice.
The more you practice, the more mindful you become, and the easier it gets. When it gets easier you become ready to develop the more advanced skills, just like with sports.
Also, just like sports, people have different natural abilities. Some things come easier for them. That said, there’s no point in comparisons. They aren’t productive.
You will get better with practice. That’s all that matters.