You might be reading this article, or our entire 9-part Health Series, because you want to be healthier in some way – lose weight, gain strength, train for a race, reverse a disease.
All of us are on a different path and at different levels in our physical and emotional health. But regardless what your personal goal is, all accomplishments must start with the deep, intrinsic desire for change.
Desire for true and lasting change is what propels us out of our current status and into new, unknown lands.
But before we begin our journey, we should spend some time examining this desire and why we have it. At the start of every new and challenging journey, we should have our clear reasons defined – even printed out if need be – to remind us daily. We should always start with our WHY.
You might be antsy to dive straight into the nuts and bolts of Health: What to do, how and when to do it. But first, I invite you to take a moment to breathe and think.
Ultimately, Health is not a “diet”, in a deprivation sense. It is learning to listen to your body and adjust to its needs. It is loving yourself – truly, not just to the outside world. It is consciously choosing to tune out of commercial and cultural messaging.
Health is ultimately your journey with yourself.
Indeed, you are about to embark on a journey and a commitment that will last the rest of your life.
Defining Your WHY
It doesn’t have to be right this instant, but sometime in the next day or two, find yourself a quiet place and give yourself 30 minutes to really do some soul searching about your desire for change. Mentally prepare yourself for effort, hard work, and reward. Everything must start with your WHY. Why do you really want to be more healthy or fit?
Don’t just jot down the first two things that come to mind, but really dig deep and think past your initial reactions. Commit some undistracted time to journal about this. Think. Brainstorm. Write down ALL your feelings and thoughts as they come up, as you sit quietly and wait for them. It doesn’t matter right now if some that come to mind are shallow or embarrassing. Sit quietly and write until the reasons stop coming. You can go back and revise later. You may end up with 5 WHY’s, or 20. Everyone’s reasons are different yet similar – we crave improvement so we can be better people.
In the end, you’ll be glad you did this, and you’ll feel far more grounded moving forward.
When you’re finished, go back and re-read your thoughts. Now you can edit them and evaluate them against your Core Values as a person. (If you haven’t gone through a “What are my Values” exercise, we highly recommend that first!) The closer your reason is aligned to your core values, the more likely you are to stick with it when times get tough.
For example, let’s say you want to have more energy to play with your kids or more mental clarity to get to the next level in your career. Perhaps you want to prevent or reverse a disease or condition you have. Those are very strong WHY’s that are tied to mentorship, ambition, and longevity/quality of life.
If, on the other hand, you just want to look more like the latest Instagram overnight success story, you’re not likely to stick with this for the long haul. Comparison and jealousy are fleeting emotions, and when they fade, so will your desire to be more like them.
In fact, superficial WHY’s are proven to result in yo-yo dieting, chronic frustration, and negative self talk. “I can’t do it” or “Health isn’t in my genes” thinking is very dangerous to your overall well being. It means you’ve succumbed to your own internal critic, and it makes you much more likely to engage in what some of us like to call “f*ck it” eating – the mentality of “I’ve already messed up this week/I’m already 10 pounds overweight/whatever excuse, so I’m just going to eat and drink whatever the hell I want”.
This type of mentality just flat out makes you unhealthy. It’s going to result in an unhealthy body and a depressed, lethargic mind.
Our last tip on developing your WHY is to try to focus more on positive reasons than on negative ones. For example, a much stronger WHY is to tell yourself that you want to get healthy because you love the life that you’ve been given, and want to honor your body better so that you can get more out of that life. Or maybe you love your children and want to be a healthy role model for them. Perhaps you want to have more energy, or just find more joy in life, and laugh more. Choose reasons that will fuel you in a positive way.
Try to stay away from negative reasons. These are the reasons like, “I’m heading to Vegas soon – I have to be swimsuit-body ready so I won’t look embarrassing next to the tan college kids.” Or as we mentioned, any sort of comparison on social media – whether it be your friends or the latest Instagram sensation. You don’t know what their inner life is like, and everyone has challenges, tragedies and frustrations that they don’t post about. No one’s life is perfect, despite the pretty pictures they choose to let the world see.
So as the saying goes: You do YOU, and don’t worry about anybody else. If you need to physically take a break from social media (especially Instagram or Pinterest) for awhile to get your focus right, then do it.
Dealing With Our Inner Critic
For this journey, we need to understand who the Inner Critic is in our mind, and why that voice is there. Then we need to understand how to control it – because WE (the Adult) are in charge, not our Inner Critic voice.
The Inner Critic is nothing more than the place in your brain where you’ve stored all external messages about how you are “supposed” to be.
It’s important to know that the Inner Critic isn’t really your voice at all. It’s society’s advertising to you – a lifetime of it – all stored away in your brain.
It’s a set of cultural norms we all feel we need to fit into. It’s your mother telling you you need to lose some weight. It’s your partner checking out a younger fitter version of you. It’s the Chanel ads depicting perfect lives for perfect people. It’s Hollywood movies. It’s food packaging. It’s billboards. It’s social media telling you how much happier you’ll be if you fit into a particular mold.
You absorb these messages and then your Inner Critic ruthlessly parrots them back to you. The more messages you absorb, the stronger your Inner Critic becomes. That is why it is important to control what advertising messages you permit into your mind.
The problem with the messaging of expected perfection is that it is unattainable. We can waste our entire lives striving to be good enough for everyone else’s expectations of us (many of which are contradictory). But there is a huge difference between perfection, and the illusion of perfection.
The illusion of perfection is something our society has gotten extremely good at. But advertising messages can’t be trusted. They’re out to sell products, not speak truth. You have to opt out of those messages. Your WHY needs to be yours alone – not society’s.
So tell the advertising, your social media account, or your mother for heaven’s sake – whoever or whatever is a critical voice in your life – to sit down and shut up. You’ve got this. Believe in yourself. Take action – clarity increases with movement.
Choosing to become healthy in our unhealthy society is literally an act of rebellion. This is why your WHY will be so important later on, down the road. Health is your most important life journey. The food corporations, your friends who eat fast food twice a day… they can’t stop you. You have every right to choose what you put in your mouth and how you move your body.
You get to vote with your fork 3 times a day.
You can’t really trust the social media and advertising to have your back. But what you CAN trust are your inner values. Your inner character.
That quiet voice in your head that says, “I want to make a difference in the world.”
As a favorite quote of mine goes, “Do small things with great love.”
You have to feel at your best, to perform at your best. The world needs you now more than ever. So let’s get going!
Next Up: Talking about the Psychology of Getting Healthy – specifically our Inner Children.