One thing I know for certain about myself is that I have the best of intentions. But my best of intentions simply isn’t enough to get things done, and I am willing to bet that I am not alone in this.
We have the best of intentions every morning when we wake up to start the day off right. We intend to eat a balanced and healthy breakfast, we intend to get some exercise in, and we intend to be mindful of others and to ourselves.
So, what happens when despite our best intentions, we fall flat? Is it because we don’t really want to do it? Is it because we love to self-sabotage? Is it because we are so busy that we just can’t realistically focus on these intentions?
Or maybe is it because there is a stigma that looking after yourself when others around you aren’t as focused on their health is somehow selfish, that you are going against the grain of what your family and friends are doing?
Honestly, the trust lies in all of these possibilities, but the one I am most interested in is the idea that caring for ourselves shouldn’t be something that we have to justify to others. We shouldn’t have to explain to others that looking after ourselves is important to us; and yet somehow, if you are like me, I personally feel a wave of guilt wash over me despite knowing this.
I have been to the gym enough times to know that there are some dedicated people there. They are the ones who complete their cardio there almost every day of the week and the ones who have their regular spot during each yoga session.
I commend these people; I feel like they have always been this way and so people accept them as they are. I see myself as someone who loves to be active, has worked out hard in spurts, and eats healthy as often as I can. That said, those who truly know me, know that I enjoy a good beer, some good snacks, and some downtime, so, I wouldn’t exactly be described as a health nut.
And it’s not for lack of trying. I am always trying to keep my balance, and with that balance, the term moderation comes into play, which is right up my alley.
I’m not about to turn down a perfectly delicious piece of homemade birthday cake, but I do feel guilty when I know I need to focus on eating a super nutritious meal but my husband is looking forward to ordering some chicken wings on a Sunday.
Or even those times when I am dying to pull my mat out and get in some solid yoga practice (plus that wonderful quiet time that comes along with it) but my kids are home and they want to run around the house being silly.
If any of this sounds familiar, then I am here to tell you that you are not alone. But I believe that there is something we can do about it. I believe that there are some great (and true-to-life) health tips out there that will help us conquer this vicious cycle that I, and maybe you, find ourselves careening around in.
Breaking the Cycle
In order to break the cycle of not following through on our health or exercise plan, we need to make it a priority. A friend of me once told me that realistically we simply cannot have more than a few priorities in our lives.
At first, I questioned his logic, but as I get older and come to terms with the fact that I keep repeating the same patterns over again without the solid results I keep searching for, I am reluctant to admit that he may be right; (but, shh, don’t tell him I said that).
1. Make it a “Real” Priority
Health tip number one; simply put, make your health, whether it’s your yoga, your healthy food intake, or your mindfulness, a priority in your life. So, what does this mean, how do we accomplish this?
Well, there are obvious priorities that cannot be eliminated; our jobs, family, and friends to name a few, but there are many distractions we do in our lives that somehow become a priority when they really shouldn’t be.
I don’t doubt that you haven’t heard it before, but each time you check your social media feed, you swipe your phone to check messages, or you mindlessly watch a show, you are making these interactions a priority.
Essentially, you are saying that scrolling 20 minutes for updates from friends is more important than doing some yoga. That playing around on your phone is more important than taking the time to put together a healthy meal.
One particular internet meme comes to mind, one that you may have noticed floating around the web; it says “If you have time for Facebook then you have time for yoga.” It is unequivocally true; I have seen time flash by before my eyes by just scrolling for what seems like a few moments when in actuality, it is much longer.
Want your days to consist of healthy eating, exercise, and an overall sense of wellbeing? You need to eliminate the time-wasting priorities and make your health a true priority. Ready to do that? Perfect, now let’s move deeper into a couple more specific health tips.
2. Be Selfish
As I said before, it can be hard to focus on yourself when you have others to consider. As a mom, I am well versed in not making myself a priority; most moms and dads know this feeling. The guilt that comes from trying to look after ourselves when there are kids to consider is strong.
I have, on many occasions, made a meal that would please the whole family (and therefore not be the healthiest) over considering what is best for me. I have also forgone my yoga practice because it interferes with family plans or time spent with my husband.
It is not because my family is opposed to me looking after myself, often this guilt we put on ourselves is exactly that, we put it on ourselves. But what if we didn’t do this? What if we stood up for ourselves and decided that we deserve to be selfish with our health?
Recently, as I have been watching a lot of Olympics, one of the participants commented on the lifestyle that an athlete leads. He said point blank, athletes are selfish, to accomplish their goals they need to focus on themselves, and I definitely see his point. Perhaps we don’t need to go to his extreme, but would it be so bad to ask for a little more for ourselves?
Because by being selfish we are actually making a promise to our loved ones that we plan to be around for a long time. That our health is actually important for everyone, that it is our way of saying we care enough to take care of ourselves.
3. Be truthful
How many times do we say to ourselves, “I would get my workout in but my partner is watching a show I really want to watch.” Or how about, “I will not give in to eating late-night, salty snacks, but, hmm I didn’t know they made a poutine-flavored chip?”
We are only human, so giving ourselves these high expectations only to falter, then beating ourselves up over our supposed failures, is essentially like an endless torture. Maybe if we tried a little honesty we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves and would actually find it easier to set realistic goals?
If you know that Friday night pizza is a beloved family event then why try and cut it out of your routine? If unwinding with your partner at the end of a long day with your favorite show is one of the ways the two of you connect then don’t try and convince yourself that this isn’t valuable time spent.
By being honest with ourselves about what we actually believe we can realistically accomplish we are much more likely to succeed. Make plans to include Friday night pizza in your life by balancing it out with a healthy start to your day, two healthy meals and a good workout in the mix.
Refer to the Experienced
Not too long ago, I wrote an article about some great goal setting hacks that included a variety of ways to reach your goals, including some wonderful health tips that I know have always helped me whenever I have been struggling.
The funny thing about life is we often see ourselves differently then the world actually sees us. We convince ourselves that our peers will judge us unfavorably because we choose exercise over cocktails or our family won’t enjoy our company because we eat a salad over a pizza.
But we can actually have the best of both worlds. We can choose ourselves, what is important to us, and include our family and friends. We are our hardest critic, we are the ones making ourselves feel guilty and we shame ourselves just because we dare to be our own personal advocate.
Ultimately, it comes down to making ourselves a true priority, remembering that a little selfishness goes a long way and that by being honest with ourselves will help to avoid self-sabotage and may actually be a way to prevent the guilt that we continue to feel.
If we don’t speak up for ourselves, then who will?
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