Push or flow?
When did getting (and staying) healthy get so complicated?
Most of my clients come to me under the impression that (re)gaining their health is a long, painful, and complicated process.
They’ve tried every diet and detox, smoothie and supplement, workout and woo under the sun, and it’s. just. not. working.
Getting healthy feels like pushing a boulder up a hill. You push and you shove, you heave and you groan (LOL—sounds like a HIIT workout to me), and the minute you relax your guard, the boulder rolls down and crushes you and your dreams.
It takes as little as two weeks to lose endurance, strength, and stamina you’ve maybe worked on for months, and the pounds come back—and bring their friends!
What if getting (and staying) healthy could feel more like water flowing around the boulders in your life?
How would it look if it were easy?
Who decided that anything worth having requires the shedding of blood, sweat, and tears? (Oh yeah, we might want to put that at the feet of our Puritan founders?)
This is the question I ask my clients: how would it look if it were easy?
As the New Year rolls around, the specter of resolutions/goals/intentions looms right alongside the ghosts of holidays past, present, and future.
If you’ve followed this column for a while, you probably know my aversion to the “when/then” thinking, AKA “future living,” that this strategy promotes. Someday is NOT a day of the week.
Waiting for the calendar to turn to a new year simply isn’t the motivation you’re going to need to get and stay healthy.
Neither is setting goals such as “I’m going to lose 50 pounds in 3 months” or “I’m going to go from couch potato to marathon in 6 months” or “I’m going to break up with social media completely.”
So how would it look if it were easy?
- If you want to lose 50 pounds, “easy” looks like losing 1 pound.
- If you want to run a marathon and you’re a couch potato, “easy” looks like taking a walk around the block.
- If you want to break up with social media, “easy” looks like cutting back by a small amount of time or taking an app off your phone so you have to log into your computer to access it. (Yes, it really can be an addiction—another numbing device like food, alcohol, smoking, bingeing Netflix…. If this is on your radar, I highly recommend the book How to Break up with Your Phone.)
What’s your gateway?
Duhigg talks about a “keystone habit” as the easy entryway into health—for some it’s food choices, for some it’s sleep, physical activity, stress relief, etc. We’re all different.
Once you change your keystone habit for the better, he writes, you’ll experience a cascade of good effects in other areas of your life you weren’t even trying to change.
- If you start by eating better, you’ll likely have more energy and be more inclined to work out.
- If you start by exercising more, you’ll likely start to eat better to support your new habit.
- If you start by sleeping more, you’ll crave carbs less and help stabilize your blood sugar.
I think about a keystone habit as a gateway drug to better health—and because we’re all different, only you can answer the question, “What’s your gateway?”
On the spectrum
In my coaching practice, I talk a lot about spectrums (spectra?):
- The whole food spectrum (green apple-flavored candy on one end, whole apple on the other)
- The eating style spectrum (carnivorism to what my father referred to as vegeterrorism)
- The cooking spectrum (fast food drive through to cooked at home completely from scratch)
- The physical activity spectrum (a walk around the block to a marathon; gentle stretching to HIIT training)
- The sleep spectrum (3–4 hours to 9–10 hours)
- The screen time spectrum (2–3 hours to what feels like 24/7)
- You get the point….
My suggestion is that wherever you are on these spectrums, you try moving one tiny step toward the end you KNOW is better for you. Most of us find that we settle somewhere in the gray area in between the two extremes.
Yes, you really do know this intuitively: listen to your own body more than you listen to anyone else (especially your family, friends, coworkers, and the guru du jour) about this.
YOU are the expert on you: you’ll know what’s working and what isn’t after just a few days of trying something new out.
Want to get healthy? Consider what I call S3: make your changes
- Small (How would it look if it were easy?)
- Simple (What’s your gateway?)
- Sustainable (What’s one small step toward the place on the spectrum where you feel best?)
May the coming year be your healthiest one yet, and may your holidays (and you) be merry and bright!
WLAA health columnist Liza Baker is a health coach and employee wellness consultant, cookbook author, blogger, podcaster, and COO of a busy family of four spread across the country—and the globe. Liza lives in an empty nest in Ann Arbor and is passionate about health and happiness, education and empowerment, SOLE/SOUL food and social justice.