I’ve been doing a habit-based approach to health for the past 15 months now. 455 days, to be exact. In that time, I’ve introduced 22 new habits, and most of them are easy and fit well into my lifestyle.
Well, shit. That’s a wake-up call. Because I thought I was health-conscious before.
And yet, after 15 months, I finally have some basic habits in place. I mean, I did some of these things before….but not often enough to call them “habits.”
Turns out that being “health-conscious” is not the same thing as having healthy habits. (And of course, they are not mutually exclusive….but they are not the same thing.)
[Insert disclaimer: having healthy habits, whatever that means to you, is a personal choice and is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or anyone else’s business. I’m only talking about myself in this post. Also, health is not entirely within our control nor guaranteed.]
Being scared of polyunsaturated fats, or GMOs, or soy, or corn, or sugar, or fruit, or fat, or antibiotics in meat, or non-organic produce, or phytates, or oxalates, or any other thing the internet tells me to fear, is not the same thing as having healthy habits.
Sometimes, I followed [what I thought was] a hyper-healthy diet that didn’t include any of the aforementioned food boogeymen….and got crappy sleep and little movement, other than workouts that were so intense they had me sitting on the couch the rest of the day. Even though the food I ate would be considered “healthy,” I often binged on it due to lack of awareness of my body’s satiety signals. Or I ate it late at night and it compromised my already broken sleep. I didn’t know how to enjoy my favorite foods in moderation, so I would eat them in addition to my regular meals, instead of as part of them. (Again, health and healthy habits are not barometers of worthiness. I’m not trying to imply any kind of moral deficiency. I’m just trying to paint a clear picture of my habits before. )
And, so, while I was very health CONSCIOUS, my overall lifestyle was not actually as healthy as I thought it was.
Today, I eat a lot of the foods I was scared of before. I no longer fear them. Some may say I am less “health conscious” than I was before.
And yet, my overall lifestyle is actually healthier, and I FEEL much better.
I have at least 20 healthy habits that I didn’t have two years ago. Or even 15 months ago. And I keep moving forward with them, because they fit into my life.
This would not make for a sexy clickbait headline:
“Woman improves health and happiness by doing 10-15 of these things on any given day: lifting weights, going for walks, using the evidence-based medical treatment for her medical condition, supplementing for an actual vitamin deficiency (one demonstrated by bloodwork ordered by a doctor, not guessing based on internet advice), adding vegetables and protein foods to her meals, not starting TV shows after 9pm, going to bed by 10pm, finishing food for the day by 8pm, naming something she loves or appreciates about herself, naming something she feels grateful for, saying or doing something nice for her husband, depositing $10 or more into her emergency fund, doing some cleaning, paying attention to her satiety signals, and/or parking at the far end of the parking lot.”
Nope. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
But it’s a much easier, healthier, and calmer way to live….because I adopted these changes all slowly. Just one at a time or occasionally two. Some of these habits evolved naturally as a result of other ones. It definitely beats fearing #allthethings in the name of “health,” while not actually feeling any better. (Mental health is health, too!)
If you think of yourself as being “health conscious,” and your health consciousness isn’t making you feel any better or happier, it may be time to focus on actual habits, instead of just what you do and do not eat. (And, if you have other priorities and interests, that’s cool too!)
Wondering how I figured out which habits to work on? I wrote a series of posts about my process. You can start here.
Wondering how I track my goals? That’s covered in the third post of the series, and also in this post.
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