My SEVEN top tips to help you begin your journey…
My journey to a “Healthier Me” began in 2013 when I moved from the big city of Kansas City, Missouri to the small town of Montrose, Colorado. Life in Kansas City was difficult at best. There were times where our cabinets were filled with food pantry donations and having to choose between paying the electric bill over the gas bill meant adding boiling water into the cold bathtub water to give my babies a warm bath. During these years, focusing on a “Healthier Me” was totally out of the question. I was just trying to survive one day at a time to fill my kids bellies one meal at a time. Working multiple jobs to barely scrape by for a solid 8 years in a city that felt like it was swallowing me whole.
And then, just like that, I decided to leave. Twelve years proir to this decision, my parents had moved to a small mountain community just outside of Montrose, Colorado with a population just under 20,000. So with yet another broken heart from yet another failed relationship, I made the call that transformed my life. “Mom, I’m ready to move to Colorado.” Six weeks later I had my two children and my entire life’s possessions packed into a 5×9-foot trailer and my minivan, driving down Interstate-70, heading towards our new future. Fourteen months after my move, and with TONS of sacrifices and frugal living, I had all of my collections paid off and was actually putting money into savings. It was then, when I was able to breathe above the drownding debt and dispair of city life, that investing more money and time into our health and nutrition finally began. Also moving from the city skyline to the big open skies and majestic mountains of Colorado practically demanded a healthier way of living.
It’s taken me five years to get to the point where I finally feel like I’m accomplishing a healtheir lifestyle on a DAILY basis. Here are the SEVEN TIPS that I’ve learned over the past 5 years. I hope they will help you on your journey to discovering healthier habits that work for you and your family.
- Expect to epically fail. Lots.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve epically failed at cooking with new ingredients, trying to make home-made anything, or trying a new exercise approach. But just like someone learning to play the piano or attempting to learn gymnastics – it takes lots of time and lots of practice before you are a Master at any craft. Start simple. Start slow. Instead of trying to completely overhaul your entire routine or eating regime, just pick one or two areas to focus on. Then add more habits to change as you go on. Crawl before you walk. My first four loaves of bread were failures until I realized it was my yeast. I’ve tried to make a sourdough starter three times now without success and my first batch of sauerkraut got black mold on it and I had to throw it out. But I keep trying. Because eventually I’ll get it right. And then I’ll know how to do it myself. And that’s how it works. Fall down seven times, get back up eight.
- Learn to read labels!!!
I’ll admit it, I’m WAY too gullible. Fancy packages, flashy wording and boastful claims can be deceiving. A label can boast one small claim on the front like “made with whole grains” but could also be loaded with preservatives, sodium, sugar, artificial colors, or other cancer-causing agents. You’d be SHOCKED at how deceiving packaging can be. But the ingredients speak for themselves. Pick up a generic pasta package that costs $1.00 and look at the ingredients; durum wheat. Then pick up a $2.50 package of pasta with the fancy packaging and read the ingredients; durum wheat. Surprisingly enough, some of these competing products are actually manufactured in the SAME FACILITY with the SAME INGREDIENTS and are then packaged differently depending on the manufacture’s clientele. Check out the photo below of two different brand comparisons. I used to buy the fancy wraps in the brightly colored wrapping with all of the catchy wording and fonts until I read the ingredients and compared them to a lesser priced product with a much simpler and plainer package. The photo of the digestive biscuits is a classic example of two products made by the same manufacturer who have completely different ingredient contents. I was SHOCKED when I discovered that the dark chocolate variety are actually LESS HEALTHY than the milk chocolate variety. Read your labels on everything. For every purchase. And don’t make assumptions that one product will be better than another based off the front of the package. The ingredients list will tell you everything you need to know.
- You do you.
Not every diet will work for every body type or every person. Food allergies and religious/ethical beliefs vary and what one person does in their own home may not work for yours. If you try something new, give yourself THREE FULL WEEKS before you compare how you feel before and after. Adjust your approach or technique if you aren’t achieving the results you desire. If you eliminated dairy to try to alleviate bloating and constipation and you don’t feel relief after a 3-week elimination, move on to another “trigger food” like gluten, corn, or soy. After 3 weeks, reassess and readjust. You’ll also be surprised to discover that not everything in every category is off limits to everyone. Maybe you can tolerate goat milk and goat cheese but not cow milk and cheese. Every body digests differently. Figure out what works for you and your family and “You do you”.
- Try, try, and try again.
Along the same lines as expecting to epically fail, lots, you need to remain resilient and persevere. It takes a LONG TIME to establish a new habit; anywhere from 18 to 254 days. Maybe you want to add an exercise routine to your day. You’re going to forget. You’re going to get sore. You are going to have days where you “just don’t want to do it”. Push on, pick yourself up, get back on track, and keep going. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are your healthy habits. By expecting to have slips and trips along the way, you’ve already convinced yourself that it’s going to take yourself multiple tries to get it right. It’s a more realistic approach and better prepares you for when you do need to give another attempt at making a recipe from scratch or recover from an injury because of improper technique. The moment you stop trying is the moment you stop learning.
- Create obvious reminders that you can’t ignore.
Maybe you are trying to floss more. Write a note to stick on your mirror in bright colors, “Remember to floss!”. Maybe you’re trying to increase your running distances. Set a timer on your phone to chime 10 minutes later at each run. When I was trying to drink more water, I’d prefill my water bottles every day and place them strategically around everywhere I spend most of my time. I put a full water bottle in my car, one in my bathroom, one in my laundry room, one in my kitchen and one in my day bag. Wherever I went, I had my brightly colored water bottles available at my fingertips. Every time I transitioned into a different room to tackle a different household chore, or every time I’d hop into the car to run errands, or even while walking through the store, I always had a water bottle to guzzle on because they were everywhere I turned. Find what works for you and stick with it.
- Read, read, read some more, and then Journal.
There are endless amounts of material to read on every health topic imaginable. No matter what healthy habit you are trying to establish, there will be hundreds of books and articles for you to reference. Personally, I retain very little when I read unless I take notes. I have tons of notebooks and journals laying around with pages and pages of notes. I find these notes valuable because I have a readily accessible reference when I need to brush up on some past readings without having to dig out the book. Journaling also allows you to forecast your goals and ambitions with your healthy habits and holds you accountable. Set yourself up for success by planning your strategies, plotting out your approaches, and writing down your lists. It’s also really great to read through your past journal entries to see where you’ve started and where you’ve come. My personal journal style is in a calendar book that has pages with goal setting prompts. It comes with thousands of stickers that I love to use and makes my calendar fun and enjoyable. Check out my blog, “What Gets Writ, Gets Done” for more on starting a calendar-style journal.
- Finally, BE KIND TO YOURSELF!
No one can know everything, and you can never know too much. You are going to be wrong just as much as you are going to be right. This is a learning process and in order to learn lessons you have to make mistakes. Turn your attitude into one of a “learning mindset” and be gracious to yourself if you slip up. Chances are, someone who knows more than you will impart their words of wisdom and it’s up to you to take these moments as “constructive criticism” or “destructive insults”. Hopefully, when you share with others what your goals are, you receive positive encouragement and support. But sometimes your new Healthy Habit Goal is completely opposite to others and it can be hard for them to understand why you would want to go completely sober, or totally plant-based, or suddenly why you’d want to run a 5k instead of going on a pub crawl. If you receive snarky or snide remarks, or you have to suddenly “defend” yourself, just remember that change is scary for some people. You do not have to convince anyone else to live your lifestyle. This is your journey and it’s not always something you have to discuss in full detail with every single person you know or meet. Maybe your desire to run a 5k makes someone else feel inferior in ability or left out. Maybe your goal of wanting to Intermittent Fast for one or two (or more) days at a time terrifies your parents who have never skipped a meal their entire lives. Just as with politics, some healthy habits need not be discussed with certain individuals ALL the time or in COMPLETE detail. Sometimes you just need to bring your own vegan burger to your hunting-friend’s bbq, or drink non-alcoholic beer and “mock”tails on a girl’s night out so that you can still be a “normal”, social individual. -OR- your healthy habit forces you to cut ties completely because of enabling behaviors. This happens too. You don’t have to feel obligated to continue unhealthy relationships. Whatever the scenario, whatever you decide in your own journey – be confident in yourself, be kind to yourself, and be resilient in your attempts. If you’re trying your best to do better every day, you’re doing good enough. I believe in you.
What are some lessons you’ve learned along your journey to a “Healthier You”? I’d love to read them in the comments!