Are you confused by the world of nutrition and fitness? Overwhelmed by the choices and voices screaming for our attention? Ever wondered why it’s so hard to get healthy? Me too… and I’m a health coach.
We aren’t lacking expert advice or celebrities promising a once-and-for-all weight-loss solution. A quick scroll through your social media accounts is proof.
Our friends proudly share the program that helped get healthy. Nutritionists sing the praises of the latest “superfood,” while telling you which foods to avoid at all costs. Celebrities like Tom Brady and Gwenyth Paltrow claim they’ve found “the best way” to get healthy and sell books, programs, and supplements to help you find it, too.
TOO OVERWHELMED TO GET HEALTHY?
What do we do? Who do we believe? Do we listen to our friends who have lost “x” pounds with this diet or that shake? The doctors who tell us to “eat less, move more and count calories?” Or the beautiful people we secretly hope to look like one day?
The side effect of all this noise about the best way to get healthy is confusion. Paralysis.
We do nothing. Or we take a deep breath, and a risk, and fail… again… to get healthy. The vicious weight loss diet cycle continues. We blame ourselves for our lack of willpower or self-control.
I understand your desire for a once-and-for-all solution. I’ve searched for it myself. I fight body image issues. Depression and anxiety get the best of me sometimes. And I’ve battled the weight-loss monster.
For a while, quick fixes were my specialty. I pedaled 7-day workout challenges, 3-day shake plans, 14-day detoxes, vitamins, meal plans, and workout programs. Sometimes they “worked.” But then they didn’t. They’re never a permanent path to get healthy.
Fast fixes lead to one thing– fast failure. A roller coaster of weight loss and gain, elation and discouragement, and another search for the next shake, product, or program that will help us get healthy once and for all. The quest is relentless. It’s exhausting. Eventually, I got off the hamster wheel and now I help others do the same.
As a master’s level counselor, nutrition coach, and personal trainer, I’ve helped hundreds of women make healthy changes. The changes never happen overnight. They take patience (lots of it!) and practice. It takes a focused effort on replacing the habits that got them stuck with new ones that set them free.
GET HEALTHY WITH HABITS
Did you know it takes longer than 21 days to build a habit? Difficult habits, like the ones that are required to get healthy, can take up to a year… or more. That may sound discouraging, but the truth is that this kind of change has amazing staying power. Habit change works and lasts.
Habits help us lose weight.
Habits help us eat better.
Habits help us work out smarter.
Habits help us sleep better.
Habits help us relieve stress.
Habits help us save time.
Habits help us believe in our ability to change. For good.
Habit change requires a willingness to think differently. To do something differently. According to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If your past attempts to get healthy didn’t stick and it’s not working today, wouldn’t it make sense to do something different for a healthier future?
Here are three ways to get healthy using the power of habit:
1. Use the addition principle. Choose one thing to add to your life today rather than taking something away from it. Add a good-for-you food into your day rather than eliminating something you enjoy. For example, add a glass of water, a vegetable, or a piece of fruit each day rather than taking away dessert, soda, or bread.
Taking things away feels like just another diet. Let’s approach this from the perspective of healthy additions rather than restrictions. You are much more likely to see long-term success this way. The residual choice of adding things in is watching the other things naturally take a back seat in your day-to-day diet.
2. Take it one choice at a time. Stick with one habit change. No more. Stick with it for at least two weeks before you add something new. I know some of you want to do more. I get it! I’m a recovering perfectionist and overachiever. But think about the last time you decided to “get healthy.” More than likely, you tried to change a lot of things at once. And it probably didn’t go so well.
A popular personal experiment showed that when making life changes, your success rate is 80 percent when you change only one thing at a time. Add two changes, and success drops to under percent. Three changes result in a measly 5 percent success rate. I want you to succeed! Even if it’s slower than you’d like, the results will be far more sustainable and rewarding. Be a tortoise, not a hare.
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3. Shape the path. Set up your environment for success. Ideally, keep tempting foods out of your home. I know this can be a tough battle to fight when you have kids, but establishing healthy eating choices early is the best way you can shape their future relationship with food.
Put more fruits and veggies at eye level in the fridge so they’re the first thing everyone sees when opening the doors.
If you do have “kid snacks” in the house and they’re the first thing you see when you open the pantry, shove them to the back if you can’t get rid of them.
Similarly, shape your path to exercise by removing temptations to skip it. If the sofa or favorite chair calls to you when you walk in the door, put some hand weights on your favorite cushion so you’ll be reminded to use them!
Habits are great tools in our pursuit to get healthy for life. It’s not a quick fix, but developing good habits around food, exercise, sleep, and stress will provide a longer lasting solution.
But have you wondered why we struggle so much to get healthy?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered why it’s so hard to exercise consistently or eat better. Maybe you’ve wanted to build better habits, but have a hard time practicing them. Maybe you’ve blamed others. Or hidden in shame. Maybe you’ve battled perfectionism. Or struggled with your self-esteem.
You’re not alone. We’ve struggled to get healthy for a long, long time. We were destined for this fight.
IT BEGAN IN THE GARDEN
Our struggle began in the Garden of Eden, a long time ago. Adam and Eve had a choice to make about living life their way or God’s way. Their decision left us struggling for physical, emotional and spiritual health ever since. We inherited the consequences of that singular choice.
Though we can’t undo that fateful decision in the Garden or escape the consequences, we can learn from it and move toward a healthier future. Be forewarned that the whisper of the serpent is still very real (I tend to hear him in apple pies…) We make a choice to respond to or ignore the hiss in favor of God’s voice of truth every day. One decision at a time.
I talk in depth about how to do this in my new book, It Began in the Garden. The habit tips I outlined above are just a few of the many practical strategies I share while weaving the biblical story of Adam and Eve throughout the chapters.
We explore together how one choice about a piece of fruit impacted the health battle we have today. We look at what went wrong, how it impacts us, and more importantly how to overcome our not-so-great beginning.
We take a closer look at desire, temptation, choices, shame, and blame and how each impacts our choices about food and exercise. You will be encouraged with small, practical steps to make better choices than our garden-dwelling, fig-leaf-wearing ancestors did. You will have takeaway principles and clear guidance to get healthy, even in the busyness of your everyday life.
I’ve written the book to be read independently or as a small group study. I’ve loved hearing that women have chosen to latter option and gathered to walk through this book together!
Whichever option you choose, when you are finished reading, you will be equipped with tools for change. The small, incremental decisions and daily choices you start practicing create a ripple that, over time, becomes a gigantic tidal wave of change. What you do today impacts your tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.
It’s hard to get healthy. But when you understand your past and harness the power of habits, you can write a healthier tomorrow!
Pick up your copy of It Began in the Garden and start creating habits that will change your life today.
Heidi Zwart is a health & wellness coach who has undergraduate degrees in Bible and psychology, a master’s degree in counseling, and certifications in nutrition & personal training.This unique blend has allowed her to help hundreds of men and women, as well as churches, move in a healthier direction as a coach, consultant, and writer. Her own struggle with body image, depression, and anxiety give her personal insight into the health struggle we share.
She integrates these life experiences with her professional training in her first full-length book “It Began in the Garden”, an inside look at our health struggle through the lens of the Biblical story of Adam & Eve.She currently lives south of Boston but is a Minnesotan at heart. She’s been married to Kevin for 25 years and is a mom to three boys, Andrew, Alex, & Kyle.