Making healthy changes can sometimes mean step at a time

Cathryn Arndt

It’s never too late to get it together when it comes it eating healthy!

The year 2020 has been unprecedented for most of us in the amount (and rate) of change, controversy, lack of control and overall “uncertainties” we’ve experienced. For many adults, changes in employment, work stress, finances and their children‘s education has affected their health in significant ways – many times adversely.

The year 2020 could become the year of excuses when it comes to our health. If you find yourself encumbered with more guilt, regret, weight, inflammation and health conditions than you started the year with, be encouraged to know that there are always ways to regroup and move forward as we close the calendar on 2020. If you are feeling stuck, you should know that you don’t have to stay there. There are some steps you can take to reclaim the crazy of 2020 (in regards to your health).

It Is Never Too Late

The first step toward moving forward and not getting stuck with negative health conditions has to do with a mindset change. While there are likely a host of legitimate reasons why your health has declined in 2020, refuse to let those excuses have the last word. Here is the reality that gets buried beneath excuses: It is NEVER too late to make positive changes and improvements to your health. Never.

Excuses will whisper: “It’s too late or complex for you.” “You are stuck.” “You don’t have what it takes or what you need to move past this.”

I actually don’t care how bad your weight gain has been or whatever other thing it is that needs to change in your health. I truly don’t believe any of us ever get to a place in our health where we can’t change for the better. Even if it is one lone positive change.

We don’t have to stay stuck. The only way you will stay stuck and never make needed change is by letting those excuses get in your mindset. Understanding this will free you to seek solutions, find answers, take advantage of resources, and make progress. Don’t let an “It’s too late for me” excuse mindset stop you from moving forward in 2021.

Asking Questions and Paying Attention

The next step in making significant changes in your health is to ask the right questions and start paying better attention. Ask yourself, “What do I need MORE of (sleep, movement, accountability, action, vegetables, nutrition knowledge, etc)? Then ask yourself “What do I need LESS of (excuses, negative media inputs, alcohol, eating out, sugary beverages, etc). Pick one thing from each of the categories (one from the “more of” category and one from the “less of” category). Pick one that you either feel will (1) have the greatest impact on your health overall or (2) what you feel is the most achievable for you right now.

The reason I phrase it this way is because everyone is motivated differently. Some people are motivated by how impactful and effective an action might be overall (even if it is really difficult for them). Other people are motivated by how easy or immediately achievable a change seems. This is why I suggest picking one or the other. These questions are targeted at helping you cut out the overwhelm of all the changes you need to make and settle on one or two you can and want to make.

In order to ask and answer these questions, you might need to first start paying more attention in general to your habits and mindset or excuses. How often do you really go out with friends (or hide away at home and binge in front of the TV)? How active are you, really?

You have to pay attention to get honest and make changes. You may also want to pay attention to what has helped you in the past. Was daily walking a way you used to deal with stress and manage pain?

Perhaps you can do the necessary things to make that a helpful habit again. Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you just have to remember where you put it last!

Asking the right questions cuts out unnecessary noise and the overwhelm of making changes, and paying attention can steer you in the direction you really want to go.

Take Action, Imperfectly

You know I would get here eventually didn’t you? You knew I would say “take action!”

The truth is, if you don’t make changes, then, well, don’t be surprised when nothing changes! Action is required to make the improvements you want and of course, action is hard! Here’s an important pitfall to avoid as you alter your lifestyle: falsely thinking that change requires 100% perfection.

Here’s a news flash for you: It doesn’t. Seeing benefit from change doesn’t require perfection as much as consistency – however imperfect and sometimes clumsy. It is not all or nothing. You can still witness positive benefits. So focus on the consistency and not the “perfection” of your action. Just take the action.

I like to think of this in terms of gardening. When you initially plant a seed, you don’t just poke it into the ground, cover it up, walk away and anticipate a vibrant, abundant harvest (well if you do, no doubt your gardening efforts have been frustrated and short-lived!). After nestling the seed into its earthy bed, you must continue to cultivate it by watering, nourishing and protecting it. True harvests require cultivation.

The same, I believe is true of all of life, including making healthy changes. You cannot “plant” a seed of change with one action, neglect the consistency required to cultivate that change and expect to harvest the desired benefit.

Yet remember how cultivation doesn’t equate perfection? When gardening, the weather will be unpredictable and less-than-ideal at times, weeds will grow and not always be picked as soon as they ought, and new pests may launch an onslaught to leaves, buds and fruit. But when gardening, you still press on and tend the garden. Consistency, not 100% perfection and ideal circumstances, will make the garden grow.

When making changes to your health, life will be unpredictable and less-than-ideal (hello, Year 2020!). You won’t always take care of things as soon as you ought and new barriers will arise. Yet keep pursuing that change. Be consistent, albeit imperfect. In time, you will yield a harvest!

The year 2021 doesn’t have to begin as 2020 ended. Adopt a realistic and positive mindset, knowing you can change. Ask yourself questions and pay attention to your current habits in order to guide that change. Lastly, aim for consistency, however imperfect. Have a happy and healthy New Year!

– Cathryn Arndt is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and owns a nutrition counseling business called The Pantry Lab LLC. She lives in the McDowell Creek area with her husband and two daughters. Find her at thepantrylab.com or visit her Facebook page by searching under “Dietitian Cathryn.”

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