Lifestyle changes – nothing about these two words is sexy yet the phrase seems to have reached buzzword status in the last few years – just like any other diet that hits fad status – paleo, keto…. Lifestyle change… it’s as if granny panties were to suddenly be considered cool.
As happy as I am to see people wanting to move past diets and quick fixes, I’m not sure that this sweeping, massive shift idea of a LIFESTYLE CHANGE is the answer either. Sounds so dramatic doesn’t it?
I mean how do you possibly CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE just like that?
The answer…. you don’t.
Not a quick fix, remember…
A lifestyle change should be the exact opposite. But what I keep hearing – and even what I used to think myself – is that you can quick fix your way into it like every other diet that’s been popular.
Goes to show that quick fix mentality goes deep. Far deeper than we realize.
I remember years ago – when I was in my mid 20s – I saw a functional medicine doctor to try to figure out some of the underlying health issues that may be contributing to an autoimmune condition.
She explained to me that lifestyle changes would be a big part of my healing. And then proceeded to tell me to cut wheat (gluten), dairy and soy completely from my diet.
It was all negative – she only focused on what I couldn’t have.
So at the beginning of this little adventure (so I like to call it) I thought that’s what “lifestyle change” meant.
I obediently followed taking everything she asked me to out of my day to day. In the back of my mind though, I thought of it all as temporary.…like a diet.
I ripped it off like a bandaid, overhauling my diet practically overnight. It worked, but it was unnecessarily painful.
And I filled the void where gluten and dairy once were with alternatives that weren’t much healthier. It wasn’t until years later and lots of self education in health, nutrition and my own body that I was able to reframe the words “lifestyle change” into something more positive.
I look back on that first doctor’s appointment and see an opportunity lost.
I think, what if instead of immediately telling me to remove the foods that at the time were a staple of my diet and treating them like “poison” she instead focused on the positives.
What if instead she made it about flooding my body with the vital nutrients it was lacking. Maybe then eating the right foods for my body would feel like a gift rather than a punishment.
Or she could have challenged me to eat as many colors as I possibly could in a day.
I could go on and on, there are so many different, more positive, health affirming angles she could have taken.
I don’t blame her for this – after all she’s a doctor. Yes, functional practitioners have a more progressive, alternative reputation, but in the end her job is the same: to diagnose and prescribe – to set the end points, if you will.
What I found out was there’s a whole lot of space in between.
That’s where I come in.
The transition of the lifestyle change is my job as a health coach.
As much as I wish my experience had gone better, been more positive, I see now that it’s what showed me this desperate need for people.
There’s a gaping hole in the health care system.
It breaks my heart to see others struggling with this like I did.
And I feel like I’m seeing it so much more in our current times of DIY test kits, food sensitivity testing and the black hole of health information on the Internet.
I have to think that what I’ve been through has been for a reason. It’s so I can help others on their own “adventure” do it better and have a more positive experience.
So today I want to give you something to help get you started. If you’re wanting to feel better this year, here’s where you can start. These are my tips for how to make lifestyle changes that last.
How to Make Lifestyle Changes That Last
Make it real.
“Lifestyle changes” or “eating healthy” doesn’t really tell you much. Get specific like: I’m going to drink 20 oz water first thing in the morning. I’m going to drink a green smoothie a day. I’m going to switch to green or herbal tea (these are my favorites). I’m going to get 8 hrs of sleep a night. etc. When you put a measurable action to it, it tells you exactly what you need to do and better yet, you know when you’re doing it and achieving it.
Start with one thing.
Keep it simple and choose just one of those tangible things to focus on until it becomes habit – to where it’s just what you do. It’s easy to get carried away, especially at the new year with alllll the things you’re going to do in the name of self improvement and the best year ever. That fresh slate energy can be very enticing. But just like biting off more than you can chew, you can choke if you try to take on too much. So, here’s my advice: start small. Just choose one nail and hammer away at it and only it until you’ve got it in there really good and not going anywhere. Then move on to the next nail.
Give yourself a win.
On that same note… whatever you choose to focus on first, make it an easy win. Go for the low hanging fruit. It’ll put a point in your column early and that win gives you more energy and momentum to go on and tackle the next one. So ask yourself, what’s going to be the easiest one of these for me to implement and stick with? Do that.
Look at it like an experiment.
Perspective is everything. When you’re making a change, especially if that change is swapping an old favorite for a healthier choice (ie. donuts for smoothies) it can be hard not to get caught staring at the closed door. Instead, look out the window and start to think about what could be. Play scientist and try to have a little fun with it. Get curious and interested to see what will happen. Keep your mind open to possibilities and let yourself feel excited to see what may happen (ie. feeling better, having more energy, etc.).This subtle perspective shift does wonders.
Connect the dots.
As you play out your little experiment, pay attention to clues and cues and make note of outcomes, results (ie. how it feels, how you feel and what else changes). Recognize and link the behavior or the habit to the result. When you reinforce the connection between the two, it affirms to your brain, your body and your heart that you want this. The more you do this, the choice gets easier until it becomes a no brainer.
Start another thing.
Once you have that one down, add to it. Ask yourself honestly what feels right next. What’s doable for you right now that you think will further add to that feel good feeling you’ve started. And do that.
Repeat the process, again and again. Before you know it, you’ll have made so many small changes that when you look at them together, you’ve changed your lifestyle.
Lifestyle Change? Start Here.
Want some guidance and support to know where to start? Join us for the R&R Challenge.
This is the new year challenge I’m hosting along with Dancers Shape starting January 7. It’s four weeks of small changes in the areas of food, fitness and mindfulness.
Each week we’ll give you three small things for each; you choose what you want to implement now or come back to later. And all the while we’ll be giving you support and motivation online, too.
Grab and friend and join us. Click here to get all the details and sign up.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.