We all know (for the most part) what is healthy. Fries or a salad? Vegetables and hummus or a chocolate bar? Water or coffee? The answers are obvious -- most healthy choices are not complicated. The problem is, when it comes to our own health, knowing and doing -- especially doing over the long term -- are two very different things.
The key words are our own health. Most of us are capable of making and implementing healthy choices for others (like a child or an elderly loved one), but yet we find ways of letting ourselves off of the hook. You know what I mean ... "I can eat that just this once" (once turns into weeks); "I will work out Monday" (this Monday turns into three Mondays from now); "It is a special occasion, I can watch another hour of TV instead of sleeping" (de-prioritizing sleep becomes a habit).
After 15 years as a trainer I have noticed a distinct pattern; too often there is a disconnect between what clients think is good enough for their loved ones and what is good enough for them personally. Too many people (especially mothers) are able to outline in detail the healthy choices they make for others, but find it nearly impossible to implement the same choices for themselves.
So, I devised a strategy: I now ask my clients to consciously choose to make decisions as if they were making them for someone else. The strategy works because it makes you mindful -- you can't just swipe food off of your co-worker's desk; you have to stop and think about the consequences of your health decisions.
For the next month I dare you to make all of your health choices as if you were making them for someone you care deeply for -- a elderly parent, your child or in my case a client. (I don't have a child so I often ask myself "What would I tell my client to do?")
Become aware of more than just your nutrition choices; become mindful of your exercise and sleep habits, your internal self-talk and even the people you surround yourself with. You wouldn't want a loved one swindled by an amoral "friend" -- pick your own confidants just as diligently. Love yourself; don't let people walk all over you.
A few examples
1. Schedule your life like you would a child's life.
Most people I meet actively plan their children's activity schedule; they know that if they don't schedule in movement their kids will sit and play video games or do something equally as inactive. Unfortunately, they often don't actively schedule and prioritize their own exercise regimen.
The key word is actively -- schedule in your activity like you would your child's. If it is not in the schedule it won't happen.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not arguing that every person needs to play a team sport just because their children do. I get that an adult's economy of time is different than a child's, but that doesn't mean you can't be mindful and plan in advance -- in fact that means mindfulness and planning are more relevant, not less.
2. Apply the same amount of mindfulness to your own nutrition as you would for a loved one.
You wouldn't expect your kids (or someone you care about) to eat food off of your plate, nibble while cooking or mindlessly grab a chocolate bar at 3 PM, but that is how most parents I work with feed themselves.
Love yourself enough to make healthy, nutritiously dense food choices with the same diligence you would for a child or an elderly parent.
3. Talk to yourself in a way you would want your child or best friend to talk about themselves.
Too often people confess to an unhealthy internal dialogue -- that they are fat and unlovable, etc -- and then in the same hour discuss how worried they are about their children's negative body image.
Get rid of your destructive internal dialogue. You wouldn't let your best friend or child talk badly about their body and self-worth; why is it okay for you to berate yourself?
Love yourself. Period.
Obviously be honest. Don't tell yourself you are making healthy choices if you're not, but don't metaphorically flog yourself with unproductive self-hate.
Work to form an internal dialogue that you would be proud of your child, best friend, spouse or parent -- or in my case client -- for having.
If you're not a parent and don't have an elderly dependent, and thus the idea of living how you would want your child or parent to live is not helpful, find another way to apply this concept. We all have people we care about; aim to apply the same standards to self-care as you apply when caring for your loved ones.
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