None of us wants to be in poor health, overweight and unfit. We all want to have good energy, be trim and feel good. I have yet to come across anyone who doesn’t care about their health, at least on some level. But, as previously mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we all too often short change our long term health for short term pleasure.
Often the people who set goals to eat better or exercise more are motivated by pain avoidance–out of fear of disease or weight gain. Heart attack patients are very motivated in the first months to make changes. Yet two years later, ninety percent have reverted back to their old lifestyles that caused the problem in the first place. The long term secret is to make changes that result in increased enjoyment, pleasure and ultimately feeling better.
The motivation to avoid pain can often be the starting point; it just doesn’t work alone.
- Knowledge is Power. As with not exercising, eating poorly is a high risk behavior. In fact, I would go so far as to say that eating poorly is an even higher risk behavior than not exercising. Good nutrition trumps exercising; albeit, both are important. In fact they can augment each other.
An article by Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla on the benefits of exercise and diet for brain health stated,
“The effects of the combined application of a healthy diet and exercise can promote enhanced beneficial effects on brain healing and plasticity than when either option is implemented separately.”
But what tends to muddy the water on nutrition are the plethora of diet books and nutrition advice. Even the medical profession is sorely misinformed about nutrition. One study asked doctors and patients 10 basic nutrition questions. The patients, on average, did better! The media isn’t much better. Another study found that much of the nutrition recommendations provided by the media are not only dead wrong, but could be harmful. This has led to the impression that the science is confusing. I have actually found the opposite to be true. It is surprisingly consistent. But what is the lay person to do?
Fortunately, there are some reliable resources one can turn to. One site I recommend is www.nutritionfacts.org. It is a nonprofit, neutrally funded site (i.e. no pharma or agribusiness) by a physician who spends his days reviewing the research. In fact he reviews every English peer reviewed article on nutrition every year (about 4,000 in total). He then posts almost daily video clips on the site where he reviews the interesting and relevant articles. You can also purchase his yearly DVDs entitled The Latest in Clinical Nutrition (which cover each year’s research) for a minimal fee (all proceeds to go to support the site). They are also available from Amazon. Trust me, getting the information from the horse’s mouth (i.e. the research), is powerful and priceless. Knowing why certain foods are harmful and how others serve our health is motivating as long as we have good and valid information.
- Get in touch with what it means to be really healthy. I think many people don’t really know what it feels like to be really healthy. Similar to exercise, once you get used to how much better it makes you feel, you really notice how bad you feel when you don’t exercise. The same holds true for eating well. I used to be addicted to chips, cheese, and chocolate (the three C’s). But now that I eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, I feel better, I sleep better, my allergies have improved and my exercise induced asthma is 90% resolved (i.e. no more inhalers). Because I am so in tune with feeling good, I really notice how unhealthy food negatively affects me. I don’t like to not feel great. This is pain avoidance at its best.
- Strive for dietary excellence, not perfection. When you mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge it, learn from it and remember that tomorrow is another day.
What motivates YOU to eat healthier?