For Health, Think Progress, not Perfection
Making changes can be (but doesn't have to be) hard. Think about the first time you found a health or nutrition related blog or Facebook page. It's easy to look at someone you admire like a blogger and see them talk about their organic and locally raised food, balanced meals, daily workouts, and wonder how they do it all, or just afford to live that lifestyle. Some people may stop reading that blog immediately because they think "There's no way I can do or afford all this," or "I won't be healthy until I do it ALL."
First, let's be honest. What you see on people's blogs, Facebook pages, and Instagram is a snapshot of their life. No one lives a perfect life. In real life, there are days where I find myself watching hours of Netflix (lately Once Upon a Time) while eating delicious take-out Thai food. I definitely don't workout everyday and love my daily dose of chocolate.
When I first started on my health journey (my childhood was filled of chicken nuggets and oreos - I was a picky eater), it was overwhelming at first because I thought there were so many new foods or things I just HAD to try and LIKE, even if I really didn't like them (BodyPump and Crossfit come to mind. I love my yoga!). The point is health is a journey, not a destination. I am always trying to add new healthy habits to my life rather than change everything at once. Everyone starts somewhere, so choose to focus on just ONE thing at a time for a month. Don't become too overwhelmed to not start. When you're hiking a mountain, everyone starts at the bottom and slowly climbs up towards the top. You just have to get started!
Focus on ONE Habit at a Time
Healthy habits should be realistic and sustainable. While some people can manage to go cold-turkey and change their entire lifestyle all at once, most people do best with slow changes over time. You have time. Think about how much progress you can make over a year when you make small changes every month compared to going through a juice detox then returning to your regular lifestyle afterwards.
My advice is each month pick ONE or two habits you want to develop and focus your attention exclusively on them rather than 10 things you want to change. They should be realistic action steps you take everyday with a plan to stay accountable to yourself. Some great habits may include:
- Eating 5+ servings of delicious veggies daily.
- Eating fish 3 times per week.
- Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Taking self-love and care time daily - whatever that means to you (yoga, meditating, journaling, etc)
- Replacing sodas with water or tea
- Moving throughout the day with short walks, sets of squats or pushups, or jump roping.
Create a daily checklist, or use the app Lift to remind yourself to stay accountable to your habit.
Don't Aim for Perfection
You don't have to be perfect to feel healthy and vibrant! In fact, aiming for perfection may be detrimental to your health. There may be times when you need to be more strict, such as if you have a true food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. However, restricting entire foods or macronutrients like all carbs or sugar, may stop you from eating out with friends or enjoying yourself. Healthy eating can become an obsession - orthorexia.
If you find yourself stressing out about being perfect, try to think about nutrition with a 80/20 mindset. If you focus on eating nutrient-rich whole foods 80% of the time and enjoy yourself 20% of the time, you'll probably still feel amazing and won't feel like you're restricting yourself. This is especially important if you have a dieting history.
Reflect on YOUR Success
Take a look around the internet, and you'll find health success stories from people following every sort of diet out there. As I've said before, there is no ONE perfect diet. People and cultures around the world do well on a variety of different diets that may be very high-fat/low-carb or higher in carbohydrate. It's easy to be lead into following a certain diet after people exclaim its healing powers. Many of these eating styles do have health benefits to them, especially if they focus on whole foods.
However, your diet should be individualized to your personal needs and preferences. Your diet will also change throughout your lifestyle! A pregnant women will have different nutrient needs compared to a child or older women. Try experimenting with different ways of eating to find one that you feel amazing on. Don't compare yourself to others and their healing or nutrition stories. It's pretty amazing that everyone has the chance to travel their own healthy journey. Or if you're hiking a mountain and get to the top, then climb another one!
Some of my habits I'm focusing on this month are a daily yoga and foam rolling practice and meditation.