I Want to be Healthy, But...
Let's get something straight - if you’re reading this blog, you probably care about your health, but every reader is going to be at a different point in his or her health journey. I could guess that some of you monitor your sleep habits, try to ingest high quality ingredients, and take things to the next level through supplementation and exercise. But, for others, you are just beginning to look into “healthy living” and functional medicine. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, everyone has friends, family members, and even colleagues who think differently and have varying opinions about nutrition. If the goal is to promote health and vitality for all, what’s the best way to move forward in your own health journey and simultaneously encourage those around you to do the same?
Today, we’re going to tackle a question that is central to the process:
How do you begin to transform your health?
What are the steps you need to take, and where do you even start? I frequently hear from individuals who are eager to invest in their own nutrition and supplementation, but they feel hindered by their partner’s resistance to healthy living (I have a blog post on that here), or they don’t know how to communicate the importance of functional nutrition to their social circle.
I hear you, so I want to offer advice to the person who wants to radically transform their health, but has no clue where to begin.
Problem #1: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
The first step to tackling the problem is admitting that there is a problem. If you’ve been living in the “ignorance is bliss” camp when it comes to your health, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to make a positive change. If you’ve generally assumed that your health issues, weight gain, or overall fatigue are normal or genetic, think again. While environmental and genetic issues play a role in gene expression (aka how genes act and contribute to the way you look and feel), they don’t automatically control factors like metabolism and disease.
In fact, if you’ve never researched your own health issues, which might be as small as recurring skin breakouts or as large as an autoimmune disease, you need to hear the truth: you have more control than you might think.
Your lifestyle and nutrition decisions can impact your health positively and negatively, so it’s time to learn the ropes.
Where to begin? Turn to a trusted friend, and ask for some resources. Websites, podcasts, and books are your new companions, and if you have a functional medicine practitioner, nutritionist, or naturopath in your life, ask them for some good topics to study!
Problem #2: Information Overload
No matter what you research, there’s a chance you will experience analysis paralysis from the vast amount of information and opinions out there. Because of bioindividuality, the concept that every person is unique because of their genes, gut bacteria, environment, and upbringing, you can always find medical cases that you relate to and ones that sound nothing like your experience.
It’s crucial to obtain information from both sides of any argument.
For instance, if you believe you might have a gluten allergy because your symptoms seem in line with one source’s description, don’t stop there. Find conflicting opinions, try not to throw out Western medicine or alternative medicine, even if you swing more to one side of the fence. There is knowledge in every area, which is why so many people devote their lives to helping others through medicine. Talking to experts and doing your own digging are both valuable, so use everything available to you to craft your own healthy lifestyle.
Problem #3: No One Wants to Do it Alone
Changing your habits is always easier with a buddy. Accountability isn’t a crutch, rather it reinforces your commitment to health and encourages you to make smart choices, even if the easier choice is ordering pizza and throwing in the towel on your workout. This is usually the toughest area of changing your life because, without accountability, we all have the tendency to slide away from our goals.
If you don’t have support at home, you might feel lost as to how to move forward, so you need a game plan.
The first thing to remember is that your family may fall into one of the problem categories listed above: they’ve never researched their health and/or they are overwhelmed by conflicting opinions on nutrition related topics. Instead of trying to force them into your newfound behaviors, remember that modeling healthy habits that produce real changes in the way you look and feel are the best testimony you can give. More so, you can’t force someone into being your support system, so look outside the box for your community.
If you aren’t already a member of a fitness studio or gym, that can be a great place to connect with other like minded individuals. If you’re a workout-from-home type or a busy mom that struggles to find time for a social life in your current season, consider joining a social media crew or online forum that allows you to share and track your newfound habits.
Your consistency will most likely pique the curiosity of your family at home, and you never know, they could decide to join you!
Problem #4: Which Diet is the Right One?
Paleo, vegan, keto, vegetarian, plant-based, intermittent fasting, and that’s just the beginning. If you’re on any form of social media, you probably have friends and acquaintances who preach each of these ways of life with gusto, and all of them seem to have science to back them up! Here’s the truth: they do.
Each of these ways of eating have advocates who have seen radical transformations in their health and vitality, but each diet also has naysayers that will tell you why you will suffer if you choose to dig your heels into the wrong camp. The biggest thing to remember is that, while there are general principals of nutrition that hold true across the board (eliminating processed food, limiting sugar, avoiding certain foods that create an inflammatory response, and making veggies your best friend), everyone requires different things.
Your microbiome (gut bacteria), activity level, age, and health history are going to radically impact which lifestyle works for you, so it’s important to research and be willing to try a lot of different things! You may find that a paleo lifestyle makes you feel great, and you can’t tolerate grains without running to the bathroom, whereas someone else might thrive with a little more oatmeal in their life. You are unique, and your diet should reflect that.
Problem #5: Getting Back on the Wagon
There is a chance that you’ve read all of these words and thought, “I know this. I’ve done this, but I have fallen off of the wagon, and I don’t know how to begin again.” It’s true. Many people undergo a massive health transformation, only to encounter a stressful season or tragedy and lose sight of their nutrition, sleep, and exercise. And once you fall off, it can become a yoyo effect of restrictive days, followed by binge-worthy weekends, with no end in sight.
If you want to stop falling off the wagon and climbing back on, realize that there never was any wagon to begin with.
Your health is a journey: good, bad, and ugly. Everyone’s goals are unique, and everyone’s starting point is different. So, when you make the decision to commit to your health, realize that you can’t undo the commitment through one bad meal or one lazy week. That’s what the steps above are for: to provide a framework that will guide you, even when life gets in the way. After all, if you do your research, find accountability, and craft a way of eating that is both nutritious and attainable, you will always have that knowledge to come back to.
When you live with the mindset that your health journey continues to move forward, it forces you to let go of past decisions and continue to strive for improvement.
If you loved this post and have a friend that could benefit from these steps, make sure to pass it along! Sharing knowledge is one of the best ways to contribute to someone’s health journey without coming off as pushy or dogmatic. After all, the more someone can feel your support and encouragement, the more they will be willing to try a supplement you recommend, hit up an exercise class with you, or take a clean eating challenge. I'm cheering you along, no matter where you are in the process, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!