This month marks the fifth anniversary of the very first article I ever published in this blog. Where does the time go? I ended that first article with these words:
“I started this blog to share my current journey of seeking to find my way toward the healthiest me I can be, for the rest of my life. I desire that not only for myself but for those of you who choose to come along. I will seek to share healthy lifestyle tips not only about achieving a healthy weight but about all of the aspects of healthy living. In this blog I am not offering medical advice so much as offering information, encouragement and coaching to those of you are seeking to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. I am looking for partners in the struggle.”
So here we are 5 years later which is a good time to check in with you all and see what we have learned. A lot has happened in our lives both individually and collectively since 2018. My own life was marked with the illnesses and then loss of my mother, my husband and two very close friends just before and during the pandemic that threw all of our lives into a tailspin. It has been a time unlike any that I have known in my 68 years of life. And yet those of us who have survived this strangest of times are still left with the challenge of being the healthiest people we can be. For those of us who are believers, it is not only our desire but our responsibility! We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that “our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit” and that we are to “honor God with our bodies.”
During this 5 year journey that I have taken you on we have learned that getting healthy and staying healthy are two different things. Most of us have health issues because of a combination of factors such as genetics, a lack of resources and bad habits that we have developed in the name of “enjoying life.” Far too often we give in to that two year old inside of us who wants what she wants in the moment without regard to the long term consequences. All of us need to grow up and give these bodies the care that they need to function as they were intended to function. Just like we have developed unhealthy habits, we can also develop healthy ones.
Most of us, myself included, start each new year with good intentions to live a healthy life. We resolve to move more, sleep better and to stay away from unhealthy foods and alcohol. After achieving some success, we gradually return to the bad habits that got us unhealthy in the first place. The diet and fitness industries know this about us which is why every January we are bombarded with advertisements from weight loss plans, gyms and personal trainers. Year in and year out the story never seems to change.
5 years ago I decided to get off that roller coaster ride for good by educating myself as well as all of you about what it takes to obtain and then sustain a healthy lifestyle over the long haul. What follows are the some of the main take-aways from my journey so far that may help you in yours.
1. How we think determines what we do. In order to be successful at anything you must have a made up mind. I am not talking about a temporary resolution but a transformation in how you think about your life and how you want to live it. If we think that a healthy lifestyle is a temporary fix to a permanent problem, we are destined to fail. If your commitment is temporary, your good health will be temporary. Every action begins with a thought. However, just thinking about making lifestyle changes will not make you healthy. You have to put those thoughts into action.
2. It is important to set yourself up for success. Your decision making starts in the grocery store, the drive thru and when you are eating out. All of these are opportunities to make good choices. Just as we would not dream of purchasing a pack of cigarettes, we should have the same attitude toward calorie dense and sugar laden processed foods. Those products are intentionally designed to get us hooked on them like the drugs that they are. We all know what our trigger foods are (Peanut M and M’s for me) and the smartest strategy is to just stay away from them. If you know that you cannot, “eat just one,” do yourself a favor and leave those fake foods in the store! Trust me, there are delicious healthy alternatives among ‘real’ foods.
3. The tallest building is built one brick at a time. Making good choices over bad ones every single day will become a habit over time. For example, physical fitness is less about gym membership and more about intentionally moving our bodies in ways that make us feel good both physically and mentally. If you do not enjoy what you do it will not be sustainable. Find something that you are happy that you GET to do rather than something you HAVE to do. Personally, I have become addicted to brisk walking and Youtube dance workouts. I have said in a previous blog that exercise is not essential to weight loss but it is a great alternative to binge eating and makes us feel just as good, if not better. The possibilities are endless! We need to stop deceiving ourselves that we can sit on the couch binge watching Netflix night after night and be healthy. It is true that sitting is the new smoking and that movement really is medicine.
4. Emotional and mindless eating are not just buzzwords. They are major troublemakers in our lives. We develop the tendency to use foods to soothe us as babies so it is deeply engrained in all of us. We have become so disconnected from physical hunger that we do not even recognize it any more. Pausing to ask ourselves if we are really hungry before we eat goes a long way in reconnecting food with physical hunger rather than recreation. If the answer is NO, find something else to do!
5. Be honest with yourself and set realistic goals. You do not have to be a size two to be healthy, nor do you have to get back to what you weighed in college. Unrealistic goals can be a major source of disappointment that can derail the best of intentions. A weight loss of just 10% of your current weight can make a significant decrease in your risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and strokes. Far more important numbers than the one on the scale are your blood pressure, blood sugar and the size of your waistline. Increased abdominal fat brought on by consuming too much sugar and simple starches is particularly dangerous to your overall health. Once you adopt a lifestyle that helps to improve those numbers, you are well on your way to improving your overall health and quality of life.
6. There is safety in numbers. Accountability and ongoing support are important to long term success. Once you develop your own healthy lifestyle, why not pay it forward by offering to help a friend or family member reach their own health goals. Instead of going to happy hour with girlfriends suggest a group walk or bike ride instead. Setting up regularly scheduled healthy group activities encourages you to stick to your resolve to be healthier, even when you do not feel like it! You do not have to hire a trainer or join a gym to become a healthier you but you do need to spend time with people who have similar goals and will hold you accountable to each other.
7. Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays are but single days. If you choose to allow yourself to deviate from your healthy lifestyle for a special occasion, get back on track the very next day! No one ever became unhealthy due to a single day of overindulgence. Do not fall into the popular trap of celebrating all month long! Give yourself some grace but not an excuse to return to your former bad habits!
8. Do not underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep and of periods of relaxation. Our bodies were designed to need periods of rest and repair in order to perform at their best. Proper rest as well as periods of relaxation are important to reduce the stress than can be so hazardous to our physical, mental and emotional health. Remember that there is nothing selfish about self care!
9. As with every important thing our lives, we have to tap into the power source for the help we need. The Bible assures us that we can “do all things through Christ who gives us strength. (Philippians 4:13). Yet we do not submit the specifics of our wellness journey to the God who created our bodies. A patient recently told me that she would not ask God for help in forming healthy habits because she doesn’t believe in bothering God with small things! Because our body is the temple for the Holy Spirit, keeping a healthy body is not a small thing! We have a tendency to not pray about our unhealthy behaviors because we really do not want to give them up. “…ye have not because ye ask not.” (James 4:2).
10. “Dance with the one that brought you.” I am convinced that whatever you do to find your healthiest self will keep you at optimal health for as long as you continue to practice those habits for the rest of your life. What it takes to keep you healthy will be different for each one of us. It is not one size fits all and there are no quick fixes. Once you get it figured out, refuse to look back! To paraphrase scripture, we should be intent on “… forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” (Philippians 3:13). What is ahead is a lifetime of good health’
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit”
3 John 1:2 (NLT)