I am inspired to write something rather different today. Something personal. And yet, something that concerns those who desire, sometimes desperately, to get healthy. I hope it gives hope.
I have been healthy most of my life.
I started being conscious about food when my mother’s breast cancer and her pure will to survive has inspired her to seek alternative ways of beating it on top of cancer treatment she received.
Based on what I now know, she choose foods that reduce inflammation in her body naturally through seeking answers in plant-based diet and that gave her body a fighting chance to heal itself.
I don’t even think she knew why she did what she did, she just knew instinctively by being open to natural healing she picked up from books and advice from people who had knowledge about the natural healing of plants… Fast forward 40+ years, she is a healthy 78-year-old still inspiring with her attitude to health and taking care of herself.
I was only an eight year old girl at the time when she had breast cancer. I remember waking up every day with a fear that I would lose her to cancer. I was fully aware what was going on.
She made close friendships with nine other ladies in Zagreb clinic where they were all treated and all shared one room. Over the next 12 months, I remember phone calls she received being notified of their passing on, one by one.
My father was my rock at the time. Hers too. I remember overhearing her crying to him saying that she feels lesser than a woman after the operation. He replied: “You at least have one. Look at me, I have none!” She laughed. And retold that story many times after that. We still remember it.
Support is everything sometimes. When you feel you are at your lowest point, it can mean the difference between you giving up and picking yourself up again. Support is love. And I felt it. I still feel it. And I am better person for it. I am so grateful for this experience early on. It shaped who I am today.
My mum turning to alternative therapies has been an inspiration to me from that very young age.
I loved her potions of grated veg, fruit, herbs and nuts and fermented foods in the fridge and jars of so many different colours and flavours. It was like a childs play to me. I participated in its making as well as consumption. Little spoon of this, two of that…
Very soon the fear of losing her disappeared and we were not thinking about that. Well, I wasn’t. The whole process helped me create good connection with food and I ate everything as a child (you only could not make me eat a tomato, which happens to be my favourite food today!).
It also connected me to the attitude of “taking care of myself”. And it stayed with me to this day. I am not picky, I love everything, but choose wisely. Good 95% of the time.
When I don’t – it is because I made a conscious choice not to. To strike the balance. My kind of balance. But I always get to my equilibrium of healthy. For me, there is no pain in any of that. No feeling of some terrible sacrifice I am doing by denying myself food’s guilty pleasures. And I try not to entertain the feeling of guilt either when going for dessert.
My choices make me feel good. It is an Attitude. Habit. Mindset. Willpower. Or all of it.
My parents did well. Their legacy to me, the way I see it, was to show me how love truly feels and the price of health. They planted seeds and both seeds grew strong. It inspires me to continue the legacy with my own children, if that is all I give them, packed with buckets of love.
So, if I am a product of my own story, my clients and people, in general, are also products of their own stories.
I seem lucky that my story had positioned me well for self-care and general wellness. Because those were the standards I lived with.
Never underestimate the very first influences in life. But, I appreciate that most were not that lucky.
So, my question is, what about those who had a different experience?
From my previous article, statistics are that it is a 45% chance for someone to be obese if their friends or family (or both) are obese or unhealthy.
We are the average of five people we spend the most time with.
You can not give up on family or alienate friends, but, how to give yourself a better chance at being healthy and improving the health of your family, in case you are not there right now? How to find our own way to health, or back to health if you lost it on the way?
I should mention that my father was a smoker for 50 years, ate processed and red meats, fatty foods and loved cakes, we lost him at the young age of 59. He seemed so old to me then, because he looked old.
I would love to have my father alive today. Because he was also a great man.
I try to imagine my boys having a grandfather. Or two, as a matter of fact as my husband’s dad also died young, at the age of 52, also due to lifestyle.
My mother and mother-in-law would still have their life companions and would be less alone.
Cost of living an unhealthy life is huge and it goes beyond just your life itself. My father died over 25 years ago and, truth to be told, I don’t even know what it is to have a father, it was so long ago, not at an adult age anyway.
I have great memories of him and a huge void too. I do not remember him as a negative influence (on the contrary), however, when it comes to health, he chose the road 95% people choose and suffered from conditions that majority do, all because of lifestyle choices. I am lucky to have had my mum to show me a different way.
So, one good influence can be enough. Our children copy what we do, so, I am sure anyone can appreciate it when I say how important it is that we, as parents, take responsibility and be good originals so we give a better chance to our children at having a happy and healthy life.
They will still have to go through some pain and growth, but, what they experience while they are under our roof can make their lives slightly easier later on if we make sure our choices in words and actions are a good, positive influence.
So, if you look around yourself – do you see your parents and siblings being overweight and/ or unhealthy, your other relatives and friends are too, perhaps even your immediate family, including children? Some of the people dear to you are perhaps living with illness too. Do you ever even link it to their lifestyle? Most likely it is exactly the lifestyle that caused it.
I am trying to picture this myself. Feeling that comes back is that it must be so tough to change your ways from ground up. I can not relate because it has not been my personal experience, but, I have worked with hundreds of people who come from this type of background, so I understand how hard it is.
If the whole family wishes to get healthy together, it may be easier, but this is rare. Usually, it is one person who wishes to break the status quo. And what are the odds of them succeeding as others around them usually resist? Seems like a mission impossible. But I do not want to think like that because I know nothing is impossible.With awareness, internal strength and knowledge and support, it all becomes possible.
What if family is healthy, but as a mother, after pregnancy, woman is carrying that excess weight that bothers her, like it bothered me, but is unable to turn it around because despite finding herself in that predicament – never before she had to “go on a diet”?
Meaning – one knows how to eat to maintain healthy weight, then something happens like pregnancy, and we are in a different territory and do not have know-how to change the state, because this can require a specialist knowledge.
This was surely me. I was lucky to have found my way although I was not looking for it. Sometimes things just fall into our lap. Grateful should be those who have wisdom to recognise the opportunity when that happens. Or what about those that “tried everything” to no avail? Answers usually have a lot more to do with something internal rather than methods.
That is why, as a Coach, we must believe in our clients more than they believe in themselves as everyone comes with their own unique story.
I am always hoping they have support around them, those who believe in them and will support them in the process. Or that clients themselves are strong enough to resist negative influences around them.
I have seen so many give up because it is so damn hard, like going against the river flow. It takes so much energy just to commit every day when someone around you is unsupported, never mind energy needed on top to go through all the motions of a lifestyle change day after day.
If you don’t have support, well, I feel for you. It breaks my heart every time I see it happen. Because I know what actual support CAN do. It can give wings to a bird with a broken wing.
Sometimes, the magic ingredient is client’s unwavering strength, but not everyone is at that point in their personal development, to have strength to honour themselves first regardless of the good opinions of the people around them.
Of course, there are many psychological and other factors involved. Some clients are dealing with serious food addictions, as an example. Not just a simple sugar addiction (which is not simple at all) that, when we change the diet – it all sorts itself out. I am talking about replacing some feelings with food or drowning feelings in food and drinks. That is more serious and I always suggest a transformative intervention with a professional. Certainly a path of personal development.
My hope is always that there is enough strength in person to seek help and commit to doing work on themselves, “the road less traveled”, to achieve personal transformation and that work is more internal at first before we can even get to the changes on the outside.
But, most people can do with a few simple changes and sometimes the only thing stopping them is a lack of know-how. But, one who seeks will find. When student is ready, teacher will appear. Or the answers will be clear.
So, if you know someone who is trying to be healthier, find it in you to support them without giving them much of your opinion, unless you are qualified to do so.
Opinions can hurt someone’s chance of them taking the next step in making a decision to change. That is where everything starts and then it can be a game over.
Just support them by saying: “I hope it works for you, I wish you luck! I believe in you! I know how much this means to you!” Something in those lines. Anything opposite of this can hinder them. Even if it comes from good intentions.
Remember that road to hell is paved with good intentions. Whatever you do, support first. Give them piece of your heart, not your mind. If you think you do it out of love because you want the best for them.
Please don’t. Not that card. Do you just know how difficult making a decision to change is in itself? Let the excitement carry them to find their answers. Give them space. Even to fail. Because there is no success without failure. And because it is better to fail than never to start in the first place.
Everyone must start somewhere and that, my friend, does take courage. Like the plane that uses most of its fuel to take off. Applaud their courage. And wish them well. Their choice does not need to be your choice or need your approval. Let them be. That is love and kindness in action.
If you are someone struggling and yet trying to make a change, hang in there. Your time will come, just don’t give up trying. Keep being strong. Keep educating yourself. Education will save you. Sometimes it could be that future health of your entire family resides on your shoulders and your strength to do it first and show the way. Start by just making sure there is healthy food in the fridge, thinking more about your meals, prepping your food…
Education is everything, so, learn on your own, there are so many resources today. Which, I know, can be a problem in itself. So, if confused, seek help. Find your coach or your tribe, or both. Find a positive influence in your life when it comes to eating and spend more time with them. Perhaps go for lunch with a healthier colleague. Ask a friend to come to the gym or go for a walk with you. Get your family more outdoors. For long walks, perhaps. So you can all also connect and they can see how they can still take part in your healthy lifestyle. It may inspire them to change. It may lower the resistance to you making the change, which helps you tremendously in return.
When having a party at home, see how you can also serve some healthier options. We make around 230 food decisions a day. 95% are unconscious. Just knowing this can help you realise the importance of being more aware and mindful about choices you make. Don’t give in to instant gratification. It is instant, lasts just a moment, and, as it comes, it will go. And you will find yourself forever chasing the rush. So, stop the madness.
There is a lot of work, no doubt. Until it is just a habit and you start doing the right thing without thinking. That does take time, but, you must believe that it is possible. To be in control and happy with your choices is priceless and all the pain and sacrifice of getting there is worth it. Time will pass anyway. You may be changing your children’s destiny too. If your children are currently overweight statistics show that they, most probably, will be overweight adults too. Don’t allow your children to be part of this statistic. Because it means a shorter life span too. That hurts, doesn’t it? Some grow out of it, but remember, they will be just as good as the habits they have developed at home. So, do right by those you love the most. By changing yourself. Change always starts in our hearts and minds first. It is an inside job first. And our responsibility.
And You CAN change it around. Just start next morning by ditching toast and cereals for a few eggs and veg. Having sparkling water with some lemon instead of wine every evening. Green tea instead of coffee. Or coffee with no sugar. And a lot less of it. 8 glasses of water instead of 2 (because you drink so many coffees). Walk or cycle to work instead of using a car for a short distance. Get FitBit (or similar device) to measure your steps making sure you hit 10k every day. And to monitor your sleep, because it is so important you get 7-8 hours of active sleep every night. Pack lunch to work. Replace chocolate bar or crisps with yoghurt and some berries. Ditch night-time dessert with yoghurt and a teaspoon of honey and cinnamon. Make sure you do not skip breakfast or any meal or snack… Etc. And then, repeat the next day. And the next. And the next. Seek more recipes. Switch things around, but stay on course. Until it becomes your second nature. Until your child sees you and reaches for an apple instead of a biscuit (which may never happen, you just may need to give them an apple yourself) …
You must believe that your choices have a ripple effect on the world around you. When we change, that ripple effect can go way beyond just ourselves in ways we might never know. You may even inspire a friend or a relative. I can tell you – it feels amazing. It feels good to BE the change. It can give us purpose. And purpose is everything. It is what gives us wings.
And, keep at it, because there are no shortcuts to health. Healthy is an attitude. And you ARE worth it!
Until next time, yours in health,