Achievement of any goals in our lives come down to our mindset. Health goals included. I have been working on this article a while, bit by bit, until it came together. It is a message to those who perhaps struggle at this point in time with their health and choices they make. I have seen a lot of struggle and I wish to tell you that you are not alone and there is hope.
If it was enough to just be told to “eat healthy”, advice we are given all the time (ambiguous as it is as it means different things to different people), everyone would be at their ideal weight and peak health. No, it is not easy, because it is a science and we are only human, so, try to feel less frustration and let’s focus on what we can do. We all know we should choose, buy, eat healthier foods, however, unhealthy options can have such huge grip on us, until unhealthy habits are all we have. No wonder food gives us such anxiety.
Part of it, to a certain extent, is not necessarily even our fault. Do you know that the food companies employ food scientists who design foods with the exact ratio of fat, sugar and salt that gets us to the so-called “bliss point”? It is a point at which foods have such an appeal that we are begging for more. Foods with too much salt will cause us crave foods with sugar as body is seeking balance. And vice versa. Simple carbohydrates will make us crave just more of the same.
So, that is one issue and “easily” taken care of when we just decide not to touch foods we know are not good for us. Think cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, crisps, ice cream, etc… Easy peasy, right? Well, it is not. It is much easier said than done because foods with a “bliss point” can make a food addict out of us. Sugar addiction is real. But so is smoking and there are people who decide to stop, smoke their final cigarette and never smoke again.
The question is – how do we make the decision to change our lifestyle? Or get to the point of making that decision and, even more importantly – we stick to it?
It all depends on the self dialogue and what drives us. For those who may feel the frustration at their current state of health, but are able to stay focused and disciplined following the instructions – they will see the results straight away and this will appear “easy” to them and they will be so proud that they want to stick with it. They may have been addicted to some foods and may have just developed bad and unhealthy eating patterns and habits along the way and, with a little bit of education and guidance – they fly… and experience very rapid results. They feel so motivated that they even want to help some other people on the way. Pure joy on both sides when this happens. I happen to have many clients like this, but, not everyone is that lucky…
Then emotions get involved…
When emotions are involved, because of the past or something going on in their lives at that time – it gets harder to take control of eating because some clients may not have learnt to handle their emotions… yet. When we are able to stay in control of our emotions – we conquer life itself. The truth is, we have all been hurt, maybe humiliated, some of us go through life angry, some anxious, and everything else in between. But how we show up depends much on how we face up to our difficulties: whether we are bitter and defensive, or self-aware and honest. Deeper understanding of our emotions, dealing with them and carrying well our emotional baggage will, generally, result in more success in life. So, clients’ success in reaching their health goals too will depend how open and strong they are to deal with their emotions because food, like drugs or alcohol or cigarettes, is something we use to get high, by drowning real emotions.
Those clients who just want a quick fix are usually gone before they really even started – at the first point of struggle. I believe – their time will come too one day. When they decide to stop running and face the challenges. I believe in them. Probably more than they believe in themselves at that point. They need someone who believes in them.
Some clients stay with me for years making small progress over long period of time. We build trust and they feel safe with me, they learn a lot about healthy eating, they understand theory and logic behind it and we usually manage to stop them gaining further weight, but underlying issues are still there and we gently take a bite at it each time we meet. The key is for their beliefs to be gently challenged from time to time so that transformation can take place over time. Because, some of them are dealing with big issues. And we can not solve the problem with the same mind that created it. And changing our mindset is a process.
Then I also notice a group of clients who simply lack discipline. People who always choose an easier option. Because they never really learnt discipline. I can spot those because they are always late to appointments, as an example. They are not organised. They give up easily. They make up excuses and some even believe their own excuses. They give in to instant gratifications. Some of my dearest clients (and friends) are indeed from this group. They are decent people and what they need is a little bit of tough love. And they appreciate it. They do not like it, but understand I have to be firm with them. Because, deep down, they want to change and they come to realise that there is no success without discipline. Discipline to stay consistent in developing new, healthy habits.
Fear – a powerful motivator
Sometimes losing health is a motivator to change, when we realise that the biggest wealth indeed is our health and whilst everything can be replaced – once health is gone – we get a powerful wake up call.
Strangely, I have also seen many regress to old patterns once their health starts improving. When my father got lung cancer he stopped smoking immediately without even needed to be told to do so. However, once cancer was in remission, my mum caught him smoking again until he no longer was hiding it… only for cancer to return few years later, but this time he was at a point of no return.
Over a decade ago I was introduced to Tony Robbins and Neuro Linguistic Programming and the whole concept made total sense. Unless our pain of smoking (the smell, coughing, cancer fear or actual cancer) is higher than the pleasure that smoking gives – we will never stop smoking. Unless the pain of being overweight, unfit, sick is higher than the pleasure (the bliss point) of a bar of chocolate (or whatever your vice is) – health or successful weight management will be hard to achieve. Perhaps, for some, getting to the pain and experiencing the fear is an essential catalyst for change. And, once you achieve your goals, stay with the pleasure that new healthy lifestyle gives. Past pain might be there too to remind you how bad you used to feel so that you choose healthy and celebrate life with utmost gratitude.
My father forgot his fear of death and ill-health he had and found no other pleasure either, so he went back to smoking, which eventually killed him. I left home at that time due to the war raging in the country and emotions took over him. Fear of losing me. Fear of never seeing me again (and he never did). Cigarette was a pleasure again in the midst of all the horror taking place around him. I understand it all now and do not blame him for losing him so young. How could I? On the other hand, my mum to this day denies even having a breast cancer. When she was operated on over 40 years ago, she did everything in her power to make herself well again so she could live to see all the important days in her daughter’s life… graduation, wedding, grandchildren, birthdays… She even decided to believe they made a mistake. What a mindset. We are powerful beyond measure. We just need to find the right motivation.
Similarly, I have seen many getting to their ideal weight, feeling amazing, looking good and then – something happens. It is like that pain of being overweight, feeling heavy, unfit, unhappy is long forgotten, like when mother quickly forgets the pain of child labour. Many pursue weight loss thinking they are unhappy because they are overweight, therefore it is logical that being slimmer leads to happiness. However, they soon come to realise that “slim point” is not necessarily their “happy point” at all. They are, of course, happier that clothes fit better and they are getting compliments, but something is still missing that makes the whole lifestyle change unsustainable and, bit by bit, old ways creep in… and with that – weight gain. But why? Perhaps because life consists of ups and down, all the time. It is easy to do things right when all is going well, once we gain traction. But how to keep going when going gets though again?
And it is naive to think that it won’t. Such is life.
So, how to make our habits constant despite what goes on around us?
We obviously need another breakthrough that we will set our sails in the right direction.
Actually, life might seem to be series of little breakthroughs and perhaps a big one comes along sometimes too. Those internal realisations that help us keep marching forward in the right direction. Small shifts in thinking and behaving. Realising our work is never final, we are never done, we will always need to keep trying because life will try to get in the way.
Finding the motivation within – other than fear
Many that walk through the door to an appointment with me have developed a very clear awareness that they must do something about their health. Many times it is fear speaking. Fear of ill-health is a very real fear. Because we all know that unhealthy lifestyle takes us only in one direction. It is like playing a Russian Roullet and we experience a moment that acts as a catalyst to create the environment for change. Because we are tired of living in that fear. Because someone close to us helped us wake up. Because we get to that point of being fed up, or fed up of being fed up – of carrying extra weight, being out of breath, not being to enjoy quality of life… That “fed up point” will be different for different people. This will depend on many factors, our set of beliefs and values, self-love and self-worth naming a few.
Emotional eating is a minefield. It is a huge topic (long, wide and deep) and I am no expert, but I had coached 15 hundred people in the past 14 years to get to know it, experience the challenges my clients face, see their pain, the effects of self-sabotage, the guilt… and then also the other side – courage to try again, to pick themselves up and keep trying to conquer the addictions as they deal with their emotions in pursuit of their health goals. Some are total superstars, the rest are superstars in making. Their time will come. I see it as my job to have patience, give meaning to their journey, have an understanding for their challenges, make sure they never feel judged as well as they always feel empowered after leaving a session with me as well as to, over time, help them develop healthier beliefs and values.
I am writing about all this today because I am fascinated by it as everyone is so different. I am also feeling the frustration of my clients and, while many say often:”I wish you can come and live with me, that is my only hope!”, I reassure them that it is not necessary, our final goal is to make them independent in living a healthy, active lifestyle. While being accountable to a coach helps, each of us need first and foremost to hold ourselves accountable. We need to find that strength and motivation within ourselves. And I really believe that needs to be about something a lot more inspiring than a goal of number of pounds lost or a fear of ill-health. Whilst fear is a powerful motivator, I think it is a negative emotion and we are far better off with something more positive as a motivator.
Find your own “bliss point”
It indeed is like searching for happiness. Health too is an “inside job”. And a spiritual journey.
Russell Brant’s Freedom From Adiction book illustrates this clearly. What he had to go through to succeed finally in beating his drug addiction.
When we conquer our demons and fears and finally make peace with ourselves and find happiness and joy in our life and feel the gratitude for all that is good in our lives – only then we can heal and have a chance to experience a sustainable change as we start choosing things that give us more joy, including vibrant and nutritious foods. When we start valuing ourselves more, we start valuing our health too. And, this is a process. Sometimes a long process until we reach that point. My aim is to be the catalyst for that change and have patience with those who pursue it.
What you can do is every day try to do something that gives you joy and changes your state, shifts your energy, raises your vibration and inspires you to keep going. Go for a walk in nature. Put the music on. Stop to enjoy the view. Buy yourself flowers. Hug your loved ones and tell them you love them. Find time to switch off. Meditate. Remember a happy time in the past… Move. Just move. Movement created energy.
As soon as the boys are off to school in the morning, I put the music on and dance. Once my window cleaner caught me dancing around the house and it was the funniest experience that I still remember although I was so embarrassed at the time. I still do not know how long he was standing there watching me. Smiling. It was not creepy at all. I don’t know why I am telling you this, but, if it made you chuckle – great. The point is – seek joy and much of that is free and readily available. We must find those pockets of joy each day in our lives. Joy does not live only when we are on holiday or are stimulated and excited by external things. Those can be easily taken away.
I wish to say to all my clients and others who struggle: Stop with negative talk about yourself (or others). Stop blaming yourself for your failures (or others). Failures or lapses in life do not define you. Only what you do about them. They are opportunities to pick yourself up and try again. Because giving up is never an option. Everything you are going through – someone has already gone through and shared his or her story to help those who can relate. I often tell clients stories. Success stories. Little anecdotes. Something I feel them may be able to relate to. They love it.
Find yourself empowering stories you can relate to! I find that incredibly helpful. YouTube is a great source of inspirational videos. Don’t just look at funny dog and cats videos, use free time to be truly inspired. Seek inspiration from the names like Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Princ EA, Brendon Burchard, and whoever they lead you to.
Be kind… to yourself
I love the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Because there is no success without failure. We must except that. Otherwise, all we are doing is breaking our own hearts. We must learn to love ourselves. And to love ourselves first. One of the ways to show that love is to be kind to ourselves when we lapse or make a mistake or even fail. We all know not to scold our children when they make a mistake as it ruins their self-confidence. So, why would we ever think it is OK to do it to ourselves? Instead, develop a healthy self-talk, self-dialogue… “What am I feeling right now? Why am I eating this right now? What is really missing in my life?” Just go with it… any question that opens up a dialogue of “you with you” is better than the absence of dialogue. This dialogue means – mindfulness.
Inspire yourself: Become an inspiration to others
I have recently taken running. I actually am pretty shy and, while I loved seeing runners on the street, I just could not bear the fact that others will see me running. I don’t know why, but, that feeling was overwhelming. Because it was fear based. It was paralysing. It did not help that I developed some kind of back or knee pain every time I run, but I wonder if it was me creating all that pain in my head as an excuse not to do it. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to actually go out and, at first, I run on my road. That was even harder as everyone knew me. I would glue my eyes to the pavement. Six months on and now I run anywhere and I smile to the strangers and neighbours alike and love when people see me running. I am thinking I may be inspiring someone. What is inspiring me to continue is the fact that I may be an inspiration to someone else. To my neighbours who see my picture in the local papers every month. I want them to associate my name and my face with something positive and me to be the reason why someone decides to change their habits. This, in turn, gave me more courage to share my message more than ever and to think of new ways each day I can demonstrate my commitment and share more inspiration…
People around you may need some inspiration. Why not you being that inspiration. It will inspire you too. It is usually when we make our goals bigger than ourselves when we find strength to do more and be more. We all need to find the strength in ourselves to lead the way. So we can show others the way. Not because we do it for others. Of course we do it for ourselves. But because we enjoy feeling that being an inspiration to others gives. It gives us power and strength and motivation to continue. “Change yourself to change the world around you”, remember! Our healthy attitude will also bring new people and opportunities that support our higher energy frequency. And it will lift those around you too.
And we all have to start somewhere. Be your own leader. Don’t wait for someone else to inspire you. You make the first move. Make a decision. Start from being careful about your thoughts. Tell yourself that you CAN. And, without thinking, just go and do it. One discipline has a ripple effect on your strength and your stronger character and will start pulling other things in the line. But, you need to know where you are going and who you want to be. And that requires building new habits that support those worthy goals. It is the habits that make or break a man. Or a woman.
Healthy & Happiness connection
The truth is, everyone wants to be happy. And healthy. However, it is almost impossible for a healthy body to coexist with an unhappy mind. Not for long. Not when our soul is crying.
What makes us happy is individual to us all and it has nothing to do with anyone or anything. No one can make you happy. We think they can, but I would not rely my happiness on anyone or anything who can take it away from me. Happiness is internal. Pursue it daily. Start with a smile and being thankful you are alive. For the son that is shining even when it is behind the clouds, because you know it will come out to shine on us again. Then have some water and make yourself a nutritious breakfast. Be grateful for each mouthful. You are already feeling better about yourself. Now be intentional about the rest of your day. Keep asking yourself: “What do I need to do?!”, “Why do I need to do it?”… That is how we start. Until we do it even without thinkimg. Most of us are far from here, but it is something to aspire to.
While there will always be things in our lives that we can not change, there will always be things that we can. To start, we can change ourselves by becoming better people, better versions of ourselves, spiritually, emotionally, physically… so we can have a good chance at a really good life. So, never start working on yourself, never start growing. Never give up. We are worth all the hard work. In this one life we all have. To be happy. And healthy. Always.
“Just because you are happy, it does not mean that the day is perfect, but that you have looked beyond its imperfections.” Bob Marley