As I start a new business, I’ve been thinking a lot about new beginnings and journeys. For the past several years, I’ve been going through school and gaining the experience I need to help coach people toward their wellness goals. It’s been a journey to where I arrived last week – quitting my job to focus on my business full time.
Our lives are full of these types of journeys. We set our sites on goals far off in the distance, and then we take steps to reach them. Eventually, we arrive.
Wellness is also a journey. And it’s probably one of the most important journeys you will ever take. But, where do you get started?
If you’re saying to yourself, “I want to start eating healthy but I don’t know where to start”, I hope this post provides some insight.
Most of us have a pretty good picture of our desired destination…
- To lose 20 lbs
- Lower our cholesterol
- Bench press an elk
And, we have no shortage of fitness gurus telling us how to get there.
- Cut the carbs
- Practice High Intensity Interval training
- Put butter in our coffee with a fist full of supplements… stir… swallow
Aside from some of this just being downright horrible advice, here’s the real problem. These recommendations are missing a key ingredient – You.
Where Fitness and Diet Programs Often Fail
You are a unique person, with unique challenges, desires, and abilities. So, if you start applying fitness strategies before you take YOU into account, you increase your chances of failure.
- You quit the diet because it was nearly impossible to maintain.
- You can’t keep up with the workout regimen intensity or frequency, so you stop.
Then what happens? You probably feel like shit.
You feel like shit, because you’re in the same place where you started + you just failed a program that’s supposed to work for everyone. Then your brain spins out of control.
“This diet works for everyone, but I couldn’t do it. There must be something wrong with me. Maybe I’m broken.”
You didn’t fail the diet. The diet failed you.
You didn’t fail the exercise program. The program failed you.
If this sounds familiar, I want you to let go and try a new approach – one that begins with awareness.
Wellness Begins with Awareness
When I work with new clients, we often begin by building awareness. That’s because a lot of us get stuck on autopilot. We lose touch with our satiety cues, we have beliefs that go unchecked, and we become overwhelmed with information.
This is a bad place to start a journey from. Rather than being motivating, it’s more likely to keep you stuck in place, spinning your wheels, feeling frustrated.
So, what’s the alternative?
The alternative is to let our foot off the gas pedal. We stop. We look around. We reorient ourselves. We take inventory of our situation. By doing so, we can better strategize and take effective action.
Think about it this way. If you were lost in the woods, what would be the best course of action?
- Do you run aimlessly through the trees hoping to find a road?
- Or, do you stop, consider your daylight, use a compass and a map to estimate your location, and then make an informed decision on which way to move?
I’m hoping you said option #2.
Before you can figure out where to go, it helps to know where you’re at. You need a sense of awareness.
Here are a few questions, and methods to help you develop awareness as it relates to health and wellness.
What Do You Want?
A good place to start building awareness is to ask “what do I want?” This is sometimes challenging, because culture has often indoctrinated us to desire certain images of health. Try to challenge those notions and hone in on what feels compelling to you.
One way of doing this is to picture yourself in the future. Rather than settling for answers that involve looking a certain way, ask yourself how you want to feel in the future. So, rather than saying “I want to lose weight and look good”, go one step further to ask how that might translate to a feeling that you want. An example would be “I want to feel more mobile, energetic and comfortable in my body.”
Defining what you want can be difficult, but also very powerful. I talk about this more in my blog post on Creating a Wellness Vision Statement.
What Are You Currently Doing?
Before you can make changes, it helps to have a baseline. There are two simple ways to do this in terms of measuring activity, and nutrition.
- You can use an activity tracker to count your daily steps
- Keep a food journal, or use a meal tracker like Myfitnesspal or Nutritionix.com
By monitoring your steps, and your meals, you can more easily identify trends in your behavior. Maybe you tend to snack on more sweets or get less steps on Thursdays. On examination, you might be able to identify why that is, and then develop a plan to help address that specific challenge.
What Inner Voices are You Listening to?
It may sound crazy, but it’s not all that uncommon to have voices in your head. Seriously. And, they’re usually not all that helpful. They often call us lazy, and remind us of what we “should” be doing.
When you miss a workout session, these voices might pop up and say something like “well I guess you just don’t have the discipline to get into shape.”
When you eat an “unhealthy” snack, the voice chimes in “What’s the point in trying to eat better? You clearly don’t have any self-control. ”
If you can identify these inner dialogues, you can prevent and disarm them before they hijack the rest of your mind.
You can practice by trying to recognize these thoughts when they come up. When you recognize them, get curious and try to approach it like a scientist collecting data.
What are your inner voices saying to you? When do they most often occur?
How do they make you feel? Do they drain you or inspire you?
Would you let somebody else talk to you this way?
How Does Your Body Feel?
Our body comes equipped with a pretty decent barometer. But, we often forget to check-in with it, or just ignore it all together. Try getting back in touch with that instinct.
Before you eat, ask yourself “how does my body feel? Am I physically hungry? What food would fuel my body right now?”
When eating, slow down and ask yourself “how do I feel?” By taking the time to eat your meal away from distractions, you’ll find it easier to recognize your natural satiety cues. Try to recognize how you feel when you’re “hungry” and when you’re “full” or past the point of “full”.
You can take a similar approach with exercise, by noticing how you feel before, during, and after exercise. If you feel better after than when you started, it’s a good reminder of the immediate mental benefits of exercise. If you feel worse, it’s an indicator that you probably need to lower the intensity level.
What are Your Unique Challenges?
We will all face slightly different obstacles in our wellness journey. But it usually involves making and finding time for exercise or eating well.
Maybe you work long days, so you don’t have time to workout during the week. Maybe you spend a lot of time on the road and find it hard to eat well while avoiding the convenient temptations of fast food chains.
What are your current barriers? Be specific.
What Small Doable Changes Can You Make Today?
Lastly, to move beyond awareness, you have to get ready to take action. Fortunately, by building awareness, you’ve prepared yourself to take meaningful action.
So, if you consider your unique challenges, what’s a doable action you can take to get you closer to what you want?
Remember, we’re not looking for perfection here. We’re looking for action, however small it may be. It’s easy to tell ourselves “tomorrow I’ll get started”, or “I don’t have enough time right now.”
Instead, try shifting your perspective. Ask yourself “what can I do today, that will move me forward, without overwhelming me?”
We might think, “Well I should be going to the gym for an hour 3 days a week because that’s what Mr. Youtube Fitness Guru tells me.” Ditch that mentality. Start with where you’re at and make small simple changes. As you progress, you can raise the bar. But for now, start small.
If you’re not getting any exercise, maybe start by setting a goal to walk 3 days a week for 20 minutes. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. And, progress begets further progress. But, first you have to start. Start with what feels doable. Forget the Facebook Fitness fanatics, and Instagram health icons. Start with You.
What’s doable for you now, today? Is it a 20 minute walk with the dog? Jump roping for 5 minutes? Perfect. It will likely be challenging, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming.
Figure out what’s doable for YOU, then take action.
What Comes After Awareness?
The wellness journey may begin with awareness, but where do you go from there? To move forward and get results, you must take action and establish consistency. You practice awareness, you act, you learn, you adjust and repeat. The consistency of these efforts ensures progress.
This sounds super simple. But, don’t confuse simple for easy.
As you take action to eat better, move more, and live a healthier life, you will encounter obstacles. You’ll get overwhelmed, spun around by life, and you might lose your bearings. That’s okay. It happens.
When this happens, come back to awareness. Remember that it’s easier to navigate ourselves out of the woods and back toward the path of wellness, if we first know where we’re at.
Need help? Have questions? Reach out and let me know.
I work with clients to develop awareness and take action to create healthy eating and activity habits. We set goals, strategize and provide education where necessary to help clients move forward on their wellness journey.
To enquire about working with me, click here.