- Talk to your doctor as you are working out your lifestyle routine, especially if you have any conditions, are aging, or are doing what you think you should be doing but it's not working for you. Sometimes a health condition can mess you up. For example, I recently read that if you have hypothyroidism, raw spinach, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli can interfere with the functioning of your thyroid – that was pretty shocking! Or you may have insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, an endocrine imbalance, celiac disease or even food allergy. Many people crave bread and cheese because they're allergic to wheat and dairy.
- Totally love yourself, all the time. You may be fat and feel lousy. You may find yourself horrendous to look at. You may have tried, and failed, many times before. Forget all that and give yourself a big hug. Think about it this way: If you do anything in life as a way to punish yourself for "not being good enough," you can count on failing big time.
- Focus on action rather than deprivation. Exercise is action #1: Walk, run, bike, or climb stairs briskly ½ hour a day. "Briskly" means you're out of breath. You can cut the 30 minutes into chunks of 10 minutes each.
- If you normally hate exercise, that's probably because you think of it as something you're forced to do. Change that. Really it is a gift you are giving to yourself as a way to feel good, prevent illness, recover, lose weight, or simply to have a few minutes of downtime. If you are not convinced by this, visit any nursing home.
- Substitute better habits for worse ones rather than depriving yourself out of "willpower." I read an article in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago about how willpower isn't really effective for keeping New Year's Resolutions. (In contrast, immediate rewards for good behavior work very well – and every single thing you do to help yourself is an instance of good behavior.) Most important: If you are hungry, eat – just make better choices.
- Make a routine out of exercise and healthier eating. This will protect you from the "I don't feel like it" failure spiral and the "I messed up , now I'm a failure and may as well never try again" syndrome that happens to all of us.
- Prepare yourself for the inevitable cravings, headaches, irritability and other problems that will inevitably beset you when you change your lifestyle from unhealthy to healthy. The fact of the matter is that you are addicted to the very things that are harming you. These symptoms will pass.
- Don't believe anyone who says they have the "only answer." Everybody is different. That is why it's important to work with your doctor as well as to put up with a certain amount of experimenting till you find what's right for you.
- Accept that there are certain things you will have to give up because they truly will send you down a bad path. #1 on that list is sugar. Bury it.
- Visualize yourself eating healthy food and avoid looking at unhealthy food. That means: Don't watch the Taco Bell commercials on TV at night, don't stare at supermarket displays of Betty Crocker brownies on sale for 2 for $5, don't stand around the bagel platter at the office breakfast meeting, etc.
- If the idea of eating healthy food makes you feel deprived, consider that fancy restaurants routinely charge a lot of money for a plateful of greens & vegetables, topped with a protein of some kind, drizzled with healthy oil. If you eat like that, you are eating like a power player or a celebrity. In contrast, the dollar menu at any fast-food place is full of processed food and white carbs – the kind you are craving right now.
- If you don't like being hungry all the time, stop eating simple carbohydrates completely. This doesn't mean that you have to do the Atkins diet, but it does mean that you have to learn where the simple sugars are and stay away from them. Believe it or not, even fruit is not necessarily "safe."
- Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This is easier if you eat healthy, impossible if you eat junk.
- Eat actual food as opposed to manufactured food. For too many reasons to list here, but prime among them that you don't really know what's in them.
- Don't laugh at nutritional supplements just because they are sometimes sold by hucksters. These could be of help to you. Your doctor can provide you with information, you can consult with a natural health professional, and you can do your own research online. We live in a very odd world where the first course of action when there is a problem is routinely manufactured solutions, drugs and surgery when sometimes the natural solution is staring us right in the face
Take one step forward and have faith. G-d will guide you the rest of the way. As Martin Luther King once said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
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