Health Comes First
We all have goals - life goals, job goals, health goals. The list can go on and on. We pick the ones that seem most important or pressing and focus on those, pushing the others to the back of our mind until "later".
The goals most often pushed aside or ignored are those to do with our own health. Losing weight or exercising can be done "later". Shopping for and preparing healthy foods can be pushed off until "later". Until later is this phantom time that never seems to come around.
The problem with that, of course, is that our health is the key to accomplishing everything else. You can work more hours at your job, until suddenly you can't - because your body burns out or gets sick. You can keep giving more time to your family or your church or whatever other organization you belong to - until you don't have anything more to give.
You can ignore pain, tiredness or other symptoms and keep pushing until you can't get anymore out of yourself. What happens to all those pressing tasks, goals, jobs and other people when you are down for the count?
There is a saying: You can't pour from an empty cup.
It's used a lot when we talk about taking time for ourselves - relaxation time, entertainment, spiritual pursuits.
It's not usually translated into doing the things you need to do to keep your BODY healthy so that it can keep serving you.
If you focus on YOUR health as your TOP priority - how would your life look different? Would you feel better? Have more energy? Accomplish more? Be more available to your family? Would you have the confidence of knowing you could put something important like the health of your body first and the world around you would keep turning? After all - if you don't care for the only body you have been given - where are you going to live when it fails you?
So the first rule - health first. Take the time, take the resources, take the energy required and take care of your body. The other things will fall into place after.
The second rule - focus - narrowly.
If you could narrow what you want to accomplish for your health down to one simple action that you could take every day - what would that look like?
Say you have an overall goal of weight loss. This is an awesome goal. It addresses lots of troublesome issues: fatigue, joint pain, mobility, heart health and more.
Lots of people want to lose a few (or more) pounds, but don't know how to start. They try too many things at once, or go after every shiny object they see (new diets, work out programs, pills, etc) thinking that each one will be a magic bullet and take the effort out of the process. Very few who do things this way succeed in the long term.
So what if you take the bigger or more general goal, like losing weight,and break it? Narrow it down into it's most simple parts - then focus on the one that will make all the others come easier.
To lose weight, the general wisdom is move your body, and feed it less food or (hopefully) more healthy foods. Regardless of your diet choice (keto, paleo, whole food vegan, calorie controlled, etc) if you follow this simple formula (barring other underlying health issues - always work with your doctor!) you will generally get there.
Except exercise is HARD! And if you are haphazardly reducing your calories at the same time it can be even harder. You might make it a few days or weeks at the gym - running on fumes and extra caffeine, but burnout will be looming. So narrow it down.
It's much easier to find the energy to move if you are already fueling your body properly. Before you start an exercise program - get your fuel supply in order!
Remember - what diet you choose rarely matters as long as it contains REAL food. Some people do great on Keto, others need more carbs. Working in lots of veggies is usually a great idea. Some of us have food allergies or sensitivities. Work with your body and figure out how it functions best. Then once you have that down pat - regular exercise won't seem like such a big mountain to climb.
But what if we narrow it down further? You know if healthy food is readily available you are more likely to choose it. So make it available.
For some of us this means we will go grocery shopping with our list in hand and stick to it. If the healthy food is in our fridge we will eat it. But at the end of a hard day some of us will still order pizza as we stare at that fridge full of healthy food.
So narrow down more - what if your food for the day was already planned out, all decision making done already? Lots of prepackaged diet plans use this concept. You can do it yourself. In the evening, sit down and plan what you will eat the next day. This takes away the stress of deciding what to eat when you are tired and hungry. Write it down, use an app, text it to your spouse. It doesn't matter how - just get your intentions out of your head and into the world in a concrete and detailed way.
Don't want to plan the whole day? Narrow down even further. Plan breakfast. Starting the day with healthy food sets you up to succeed later on in the day.
Still feel overwhelming? Keep narrowing down. Planning breakfast too hard? Make your goal to make coffee at home instead of hitting the drive through. Or that you will eat one piece of fruit before you leave for work. One step in the right direction can be a trigger for the rest of the day.
It works for other things to - like exercise. Can't find the time or energy for an hour a day at the gym? Make your goal simply arriving there - even if all you do is walk on the treadmill for five minutes and leave. You still achieved your simple goal of walking through that door.
Or you want to get more sleep? Try going to bed five or ten minutes earlier or even just create a bed time for yourself even if it's still later than it should be. Or do the simple thing of limiting or eliminating television in the evening. If whatever you decide seems to hard - narrow it down further until the task seems so easy you can do it every day.
Why does this work? Why not just jump right in to all the healthy things at once and feel the full effect? Overwhelm, burnout, spreading our focus too thin - whatever you want to call it. One small focused step at a time will get you there eventually - usually faster then if you try it all and give up halfway through.
Kind of like that childhood story about the Tortoise and the Hare. Slow, small steps will win the race.