The Most Important Thing You Need in Order to Get Healthy

The Most Important Thing You Need in Order to Get Healthy

I've been on this bandwagon for years: trying to get healthy, amping up my exercise, clean eating, Weight Watchers, cleanses, fasts, even the Cabbage Soup Diet of the '90s.

Yet, all of my attempts have always been somewhat short-lived.

When we think about getting healthy, we think, "Eat better, eat less, count points, exercise more, clock your steps, etc., etc., etc."

It's all sage advice. No criticism there. But if you are doing all of that but are missing one critical thing, chances are that those attempts at 'getting healthy' are going to be short-lived at best. You are missing the most crucial ingredient.

And what's that?

Your mind.

brain

Image: Hey Paul Studios via Flickr

All of the above are great changes to make, but if your mind isn't fully engaged, it is inevitable that you will fall off the wagon. [Don't ask me how I know this.]

So, what do I mean by this? Why is having your mind committed is so important?

Getting Motivated: Why are you doing all of this? Why is being healthy so important to you? Why do you want to lose 10 lbs? Or run a half-marathon? Or give up sugar? If you aren't clear about your reasons, it's too easy to quit when the initial motivation wears off. Before you even sign up for Weight Watchers or buy a new elliptical, ask yourself, 'Why?' I would even suggest writing it down. Or even better, post it someplace you will see often, such as the refrigerator door.

Identify Your Downfalls: Where is it exactly that you cave in? Where do all of your good intentions go up in flames? Where is the hole in your armor? At parties? Nighttime? For me, it's right when I get home from work. Left to my own devices, I would eat every snack in the house from 4-6 pm. It's important to know where your best-laid plans go awry so you can be pro-active. What will you specifically do to shore up those weak spots? For me, I need to go to the gym right after work, so I'm not even in the house before it's time to make dinner. Or, if I am home, I need to plan a pre-dinner snack. Maybe a cup of coffee to curb my appetite or a granola bar on the drive home. But you have to know where you are weak and what you need to do about it.

Do Your Homework: You have to engage your brain in this tantamount task. Read articles about healthy foods you should eat. Research 'clean eating' and 'green smoothies.' Search for tips and motivation. Look for workouts that fit with your schedule, goals, and body type. Sign up for emails from healthy websites. Create a Pinterest board with healthy recipes, workout plans, and other motivation. Get 'healthiness' in front of your face. All the time. It needs to be something that is never far from your thoughts. Learning isn't just for school kids; 'Knowledge is power' isn't just a cute slogan from Schoolhouse Rock. There is so much solid, easily-accessible information out there. Get your hands on it.

Make a Plan: OK. So you want to make some changes. To get healthy. How exactly are you going to make this happen? Exactly what changes are you going to make? Specifically? Maybe the first step is cleaning out your cabinets and not even having tempting food in the house (a great start, by the way). Or maybe you need to buy some new workout clothes. Or create an exercise schedule. Before you jump in, think it through first. List the changes that have to be made, and then create an action-plan for each one. As always, write it down.

Crack the Whip: We all know that the 'spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.' You started out ready to take on every enemy of healthiness, and now you have hit your first snag. The cookies in aisle 5 are calling your name. The couch is begging you not to leave. What will you do in those times that you don't 'feel' like it? The times when you would rather watch Seinfeld re-runs or stay inside because it is too cold (or hot) to go to the gym? What about when you want to bail on your workout after the first 10 minutes? What then?

You have to be your own disciplinarian. No one is going to force you to do this. Do you have the mental toughness to be hard yourself when you need to be? Setting up some rewards for milestones reached or reminding yourself of your initial goals can get you over those humps. Prepare some motivating phrases that you will say to yourself when you want to wimp out. Plan ahead and work out with a friend. Ask friends and family members to hold you accountable. This is a marathon -- not a sprint. Do what you need to do to see this action plan through to the finish.

Being healthy is not or the faint of heart or mind. It is going to take a body, mind, and soul commitment. Having a healthy body is an achievable goal. Just don't leave your brain behind.

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