I think many people secretly pity us poor, healthy fools. They think of the things we “can’t” eat or the workouts we “have” to do and sadly shake their head. Such a shame we’re letting the good things in life pass us by.
And if you think like that — that getting healthy is all about sacrifice and suffering and not being able to do the things you want to do — I suggest you will have a difficult time of adopting healthier habits.
Health is wealth.
When you improve your health you are increasing the odds that you’ll be around in the future. More importantly, you’re increasing the odds that you’ll enjoy your old age. Monetary wealth allows us to experience the good things in life like travel, comfortable homes, nice clothes and entertainment. Health is a form of wealth in that it allows us to fully engage in life — to play in the ocean with our children or climb the bleachers to watch them play on their soccer team. You can’t purchase the ability to fully live your life — you can only earn it by taking care of your body now so it’s useable later.
One thing to focus on when you’re getting healthy is what you gain. You won’t have to sit panting on a bench at an amusement park. You won’t have to worry whether you’ll find a nice dress to wear to your child’s wedding. Health ensures you can do these things effortlessly.
Immediate gratification vs. immediate consequences.
The trouble with building a foundation of health is that, like building a 401k portfolio, it doesn’t happen overnight. When you workout every day for a month you might not necessarily see dramatic improvements in your health so it’s easy to lose heart.
Similarly, you don’t always experience dramatic consequences to a skipped workout here or a fast-food dinner there. You don’t see the consequences to unhealthy actions right away. Eating too many desserts in your 20s doesn’t affect you negatively right away, but the actions lead to habits that lead to poor health in our 30s, 40s and beyond.
Another aggravating aspect of banking health is that the gratification of a cookie (or brownie sundae if you prefer. Or large pepperoni and pineapple pizza) is instantaneous. You want, you buy, you eat, you are happy. But keeping yourself fit and healthy doesn’t always have obvious gratification unless you look for it. You may just feel like you’re living your life unless you stop to appreciate the fact that you can hop on a bike and ride for miles without gasping for air. Or perhaps you’ve grown accustomed to shopping in fashionable stores so you don’t realize how gratifying it is to have limitless clothing opportunities. If you want to keep yourself healthy so that you can enjoy your golden years without burdening your adult children with your health care needs, it will take decades before you receive gratification from that.
Focus on what you gain, not what you give up. Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t.
The trick to staying on track with a health program is to train your mind to see healthy actions as a positive. You get to work out ; you are privileged to make healthy food. You can enjoy succulent strawberries in the late spring or watermelon in the summer. When your mind focuses on something, your brain obediently filters conflicting data out. This helps you to bring extra focus to goals and ideas. But if you focus on not being able to watch as much TV because you have to go to the gym or on the donuts you don’t get to eat, those things will monopolize your attention. Turning your focus to the positives of fitness and the things you gain by pursuing health will motivate you to stick to your plan.
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