5 Steps to Avoid When Choosing to Change Your Health

January 29, 2018

Every once in a while there comes a time when we decide to kick ourselves in the butt a little and resolve to improve our health and lifestyle. But sometimes knowing what and how to do so can be overwhelming and confusing with all the propaganda, fads, controversy and plain old nonsense around. Low-fat, low-carb, juicing, the zillion different diet books and articles out there written by a myriad of conflicting "experts" can make becoming healthy seem like politics and choosing a side. Here are some tips on how to avoid making some common lifestyle-change mistakes, in order to save yourself from the stress and confusion that comes from something that should really be a lot more simple!



1. The All-or-Nothing Approach

We've all been there: suddenly something inspires us to lose those excess 20lbs, or sign up for the marathon next month, and before you know it the idea of reaching that goal consumes our thoughts during every waking moment. Maybe an important milestone is coming up or an unexpected date with your dream person popped up, and suddenly you go from being completely uninterested in your health to working out 3 hours a day, counting every single calorie and following a strict regime that up until now, you would have rolled your eyes at. Enthusiasm and passion for reaching a goal is great, however it is important to remember that all big journeys are a series of small steps. Just like it would not be a good idea to go from never lifting weights to suddenly benching 240lbs, you need to slowly ease into things to keep from burning out. Excitement is one thing and definitely needed to keep the motivation there, however the last thing someone with a health goal needs is to tear a muscle or fracture a bone because of overdoing things on account of a sudden lifestyle change. Best advice: if you're going to make a change in your diet or up your workout routine, be sure to work up to it, take rest days, and remember that slow and steady wins the race!


2. Unrealistic Expectations

Ever seen those ads that promise "lose 10lbs overnight", or "turn your fat into muscle", etc etc..? Guess what-- if it sounds too good to be true, IT IS! Of course one of the best ways to reach any health goal is to visualize yourself there, however keep in mind that anything drastic and promises made by companies trying to sell you something are usually not healthy nor realistic. If you have a certain goal weight ask yourself how you came up with that number-- is it the actual number on the scale that matters to you or rather the way you picture yourself feeling when you see it? What is it specifically about your expectation that means so much to you: is it the way clothes will fit on you, the increased confidence you will have to attract others, increased strength or stamina to be active, or is it to truly improve your overall health? Remember that in order for any of these things to happen and last, it truly takes a holistic lifestyle change approach rather than a one-week cleanse or a bottle of pills that promise a 6 pack overnight. Also keep in mind that every body is different-- not to say that some expectations are unattainable, however it is important to remember that some metabolisms and body types behave differently from one another, so what is achievable for one person may take a lot more work for another. But the key is to keep your focus on the overall positive reasons of wanting to change your health, and letting everything else that comes from these changes act as a bonus!


3. Blindly following Fads and Trends

It seems that almost everywhere you turn there is a new article, book, blog or video popping up with the latest fad or trend on how to solve all your health problems. Not too long ago everyone was avoiding fat, or encouraging 12 servings of grains a day, or telling you to cut out coffee and any food that starts with the letter S, but then before you know it carbs have become public enemy #1, but you can eat all the junk food you want on your "cheat" day,  etc etc... Choosing how and what to eat has become more confusing than ever, with trends popping up more frequently than new fashions on the runway. Although these fads and trends in diets will most likely never go away due to the insane amount of money it generates by people who are on the lookout for the next quick-fix, always ask yourself a list of critical questions when and if deciding to go a certain route. Does it actually, scientifically make sense in peer-reviewed, empirically based studies? Is this realistic for your lifestyle and something you can maintain so that you're not yo-yo-ing? Is it asking you to cut out any certain food groups that are beneficial to you? What are the long term implications on your health if you keep doing it? (for example, your mental well-being on low-carb diets). It's definitely ok to be curious and test out different methods to see what works best for you, but the caveat is to never follow blindly and be sure that you're making the best informed decision before possibly doing some irreversible damage.


4. Throwing Away Your Money

Weight loss and supplements are a $44 BILLION industry in the US and Canada. And yet, more then 2/3rds of the population are overweight and obese. Clearly, they are not working! Rather than spending money on supplements, pills, books, and everything else promising to give you that quick-fix, truly take a moment to realize that becoming healthy and reaching your goals does not need to cost a fortune. By pre-planning and organizing, it is very much possible to reach the best level of health by simply making the best food choices you can, having a consistent exercise routine, and knowing how to de-stress. Pills, potions, and anything else that costs more than a bottle of organic, virgin coconut oil is going to be a waste of your time and money and probably won't get you to the same result. Paying for someone to help you reach your goals is one thing, but paying for a bottle of pills and powders or laser treatments is really taking things too far... save that money instead on a new wardrobe or vacation so you can enjoy your new body that you've achieved by following a common-sense, holistic approach.


5. "Time-Based" Cleanses

We've all got that one friend who is doing a 5-day alcohol detox, or isn't eating anything for the next 2 weeks because is on a juice cleanse... Guess what: There is NO scientific evidence that juice cleansing is a sensible approach to better health. This is similar to the all-or-nothing approach, in thinking that making a drastic change will somehow benefit you in the long run. Detoxing can be done with real, solid foods, rather than relying on a liquid diet that will not provide you with all the balanced nutrients necessary for overall well-being. Not only that, but this "re-set" mentality can be quite harmful because it could encourage over indulgence with the thought in mind that you can just erase all the negative effects by "cleansing" the next day. This is actually very stressful and taxing on the body and the metabolism, and rather than learning healthy, sustainable habits that encourage a realistic approach to overall health,  these cleanses can contribute to hormonal imbalances or even psychological despair (feeling down on yourself if can't stick to the cleanse, or even developing eating disorders from the quick-fix and starvation mentality)


In summary, it is a great and wonderful thing to actively be looking for ways to change and improve your health. But before jumping on the next bandwagon, ask yourself if it is a) realistic b) drastic c) maintainable d) costly, and then make the choice that is best for you!

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