Thursday, June 25, 2009

Healthy living can be easy

Have you ever bought a magazine because it promised that just overleaf lay a diet and exercise program that would give you the body of your dreams? Each spring just as the days start to get warmer in September and the cold Westerlies have stopped blowing the magazine racks beckon with these promises. Spring brings that feeling of anticipation and the excitement that summer is just ahead. Day dreams are filled with picnics under the shade of cool trees, summer storms and hot days at the beach. Anything seems possible when the lull of winter is almost past.

I've bought into the dream almost every spring, believing that if I can just manage to stay on the program for the three months, I would have the body of my dreams. Just three short months and I would achieve my goal right? Of course the plan would need to become a lifestyle but by working hard anything was possible.

Healthy living is a matter of following a few simple principles - exercise regularly, eat clean, relax. But that can seem really hard when the starting point is at the polar opposite. Two of those principles disagreed with me and it wasn't the last one. I was scared of having to work really hard to reach my goals by turning down food that I loved simply because 'it wasn't good for me' or having to run regularly even though I hated running (yeah, I know). I could never willingly embrace what I saw as depriving myself of the joys of living for supposed health benefits or even a bikini ready body.

I doubt that I was alone in my unwillingness to change, because people tend to create an identity for themselves based on habits. We then describe ourselves as being the person with the insatiable appetite or the gym junkie. I for example am feeling very comfortable identifying myself as 'a runner' whereas in the past I was the one with the huge appetite and that is what I was proud of being. Healthy living threatened that identity which left me wondering who I would be; perhaps the sprouted greens and salad girl? I fought against becoming that person by not trying because being healthy seemed so hard. I chose to believe that if I found the right plan I could avoid becoming salad girl and still have the body of my dreams.

But what no generically written diet and exercise programme can do in all it's black and white glory is reflect real life. Reality is full of shades of grey and nuances where things change with time. Life is about stages and being ready to take the next step at the right time whether it's ramping up a fitness routine or enjoying eating sprouted greens and salad. By slowly adjusting your lifestyle over time you can grow into it so that it's more unpleasant to go back to old habits than continue with new ones. By tackling it in stages without surrendering an essential part of oneself it is possible to evolve a healthy lifestyle. When you are at the centre of the process, catering for your needs at each stage and adjusting when you are ready, then healthy living can be easy. Once you start, the evolution takes a course of it's own and all that is required is putting your feet, one in front of the other and things will change.

Except of course it's not as quick as a three month plan. But then, is it really possible to get an ideal body in three months? I read a blog by a body builder who had worked for years on his physic. That admission surprised me since I had always thought such a transformation would take many months perhaps, but not years. So maybe there is no express lane to a bikini ready body and it was never in our reach in the first place. What do you think?


  1. I think you've hit on something that is really true for me. As much as I'd like to say I really want to change and be "that" healthy person, even investing a chunk of money and 2 years to studying nutrition, I still really struggle with the identity shift.

    I like your idea of evolving a healthy lifestyle, adjusting when you are ready, I think this is what I'm trying to do now, and it seems to be working.

    Thanks for a great thought provoking post as always x

  2. So true! It's all about the lifestyle. And interesting what you've noted about identification; we always want to identify with SOMETHING.

    - Sagan

  3. This is great.

    You know, if those silly programs worked they wouldn't have to keep printing them over and over. And we'd all have killer bodies if it were so easy and quick.

    But you're right. Life is not black and white. Perhaps a handful of people can follow a plan, but for most people, life throws you curves and no set plan ever is going to work. You need to learn how to have a new lifestyle, because those plans just aren't going to always work.

    And yes, it is so insane to expect your body to totally transform in three months. It can change, sure. But we aren't going to seeing any miracles - not like we are led to believe.

    True change requires lots of time and long term consistent effort. And it's about baby steps - those which are manageable and maintainable.

    I also read an article not too long ago (can't remember where it was) that dealt with this topic - the whole point was that you are not going to undergo a dramatic change quickly. To really alter your physique takes considerably time - not 3 months!

  4. Even at my age, I was still buying into the "just work really hard for a few months" concept. But I quickly realized, with the help of a lot of bloggeres, it just isn't going to work that way for me. I am very happy with my new plan of just keep moving toward my goal most days...even if it is at a snail's pace.

  5. So true!

    And yet so many are lured by the false promise of quick results. Then they get disappointed by the amount of time and effort that's required.

    Good for you for having realistic expectations, I think that's the best way to achieve lasting success!

  6. You won my giveaway for tea! Email me your address and I'll send it to you :)

    - Sagan



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