You know from my last blog post that lack of time is not a valid excuse for sitting all day, being a slouch on the couch, or eating crap food (read No Time To Exercise And Eat Healthy? Think Again if you missed it).
Let’s call a spade a spade and say the REAL reason you don’t exercise or eat healthy is because it is not a PRIORITY.
I know what you’re thinking – you already have enough high priority items on your to-do list from getting the kids to school on time, to submitting that all-important quarterly report to your boss, and tackling the mountain of laundry that’s been building for the last two weeks. But just hear me out because this might help put all of the things we think of as priorities in our daily life in a different light.
I love this quote from Laura Vanderkam, author of several time-management and productivity books including 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
“Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.”1
I want you to say the following statements with me:
Eating whole food that makes me feel good and energized is NOT a priority for me.
Living without muscle tension, aches, and pain is NOT a priority for me.
Being physically strong and able to do the activities I enjoy is NOT a priority for me.
Preventing disease like diabetes and high blood pressure is NOT a priority for me.
How do you feel when you say this? I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. These statements go against our natural human instinct to be in good health and are simply not true.
We both know you want all of the above AND that you have the time to make it happen but how you use your time is a choice. If your priority is to be healthy, and to have a healthy family, it’s time to start making choices that will serve your health best.
Your 4-Step Plan for Success
So how do you even begin to make your health a priority and make better choices? Truth be told, this is something I have struggled with a lot. It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of work and family obligations, to meet the needs of others before we even think about meeting our own, and place taking care of ourselves last on our to-do list. But all is not lost and where there is a will there is a way.
Here is a four-step plan for you to consider. It’s one that has helped me re-organize my own priorities over the last while (with my health at the top of the list!) and I am positive can be helpful for you as well. I totally admit this is easier said than done and has been a continual work in progress but the more I’ve worked at it the better it has become over time.
STEP 1: Adopt a Positive Way of Thinking
To put your health at the top of the priority list, changing the way you think and talk about exercise, food, and your health is required. Repeat after me:
Eating whole food that makes me feel good and energized IS a priority for me.
Living without muscle tension, aches, and pain IS a priority for me.
Being physically strong and able to do the activities I enjoy IS a priority for me.
Preventing disease like diabetes and high blood pressure IS a priority for me.
Wow, doesn’t that make you feel good and sit up a little taller! Positive thinking is very powerful and can go a very long way to making any priority a reality. If you honestly believe the above statements, there is no reason you cannot achieve them – you just have to think positive!
STEP 2: Envision What Good Health Looks Like
Have you ever heard the expression “the picture of health”? I’ve always wondered what that means given that “good health” will look different for different people. It begs a good question: what is your picture of health?
I want you to take a moment to think about it. What does being healthy look like for you? How does it feel? What are you doing in your life that you maybe aren’t doing now?
Good health for some people might look simple: hopping out of bed in the morning feeling refreshed and energized, eating more vegetables and less junk food, having less bloat so you can fit into your favourite pair of jeans, or being able to have a good poop once a day.
For other’s it might be more complex: losing fifty pounds so your knees don’t hurt allowing you to play tag with the kids, taking your doctor’s advice to see a nutritionist because your blood work shows you are pre-diabetic, or maybe it’s finally kicking your smoking habit because you don’t want to get lung cancer like your mom or dad did.
Whatever your vision of good health, know that anything is possible! (remember that positive thinking we just talked about!).
STEP 3: Set Boundaries
Once you have a vision of what good health looks like, it’s important to determine what boundaries need to be set in order to make the vision come to fruition. This means identifying what you will and will not do in order to meet your goal.
For example, sleep is extremely important to my own health. I need eight hours of a good quality sleep on a regular basis to be able to feel good and be productive. Therefore, turning the light out by 10:30 pm is a non-negotiable boundary. That means if I have to leave the Saturday night party early or close my book part way through a thrilling chapter, I do it.
Other examples of non-negotiable boundaries might include: working out for an hour three times a week, eating a healthy breakfast every morning, taking the dog for a walk every day, or playing actively with your kids for a half hour every night.
Whatever your particular boundaries are, be sure they serve your vision of good health well.
STEP 4: Plan Ahead and Be Creative
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
I can’t emphasis enough the importance of writing your plan on paper and keeping it somewhere that it’s regularly visible. Many of us (me included!) are great at making to-do lists in our head but we don’t fully achieve many goals this way. If you start to write down what you need to do, when to do it, and review the plan often, things will start to change…you will get shit done!
If you know that going to the gym three times a week or a walk every day is non-negotiable, make a date with yourself in your calendar like you would a doctor’s appointment. This means rearranging everything else you need to do around this “me time” and making sure other people know you are unavailable for that time.
If eating a healthy breakfast every morning is non-negotiable but you are always rushed with getting the kids ready for school and out the door on time, plan 10-15 minutes the night before to prepare your breakfast for the next day. That way you can just reheat in the morning or grab and go to eat at work.
Putting a plan in place will go a long way to successfully achieving your vision for good health.
But life can be unpredictable sometimes so you may need to get creative now and then with how to stay within your boundaries. It’s OK to go off script occasionally and you might only stick to the plan only 85% of the time, but an 85% success rate is way better than 50%! The important point here is to have a backup plan in place to keep you on track and moving towards the end goal.
If you’d like to share your vision of good health, your non-negotiable boundaries, or some creative things you do to stay on track please leave a comment. Or if you’re looking for ideas, inspiration, or motivation to help you stay on track to meeting your healthy living goals, come join my private Dynamic Body Community Facebook Group, I’d love to have you!
1 Vanderkam, Laura, Are You As Busy As You Think?, The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203358704577237603853394654