In my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan, H = Health Habits encompass all the other targets of keeping myself Headstrong (mindful), Eating right, remaining Active, adapting my Lifestyle, and keeping myself on Track. It became easier when all these became Habits. This is the hardest step in the whole process as it meant forming healthy rituals, sometimes against a prevailing wind of less-healthy rituals that only serve to drag me down.
Many of my winning habits have involved getting the food issues correct. I have done this from a very early age by giving up confectionery and chocolate at the age of twelve, switching from frying foods to grilling foods after my father had a heart attack when I was 15, cutting out deep fried foods and high fat foods in my early twenties, and cutting out most added fats and refined foods in my thirties.
The Crumbling Walls
In the busy years of caring for young children, working almost full-time, maintaining the house and managing the business, everything took priority over me and my health. The flimsy walls laid on top of what could be regarded as strong foundations began to crumble. This happened ever-so-slowly resulting in a gradual weight gain of about 1 kilogram (two pounds) every three years. That is not very much and indeed almost unnoticeable but over forty years it added up.
On reaching that point, of being unhappy with my weight, I began blaming myself and thinking there must be some food I was eating that was ‘bad’ (there wasn’t) and should be avoided. I will make a point here that I do feel excess fats, sugars and refined foods can contribute to weight gain. However, in my case, I wasn’t eating many of those because of the strong foundations I had laid. That wasn’t the problem. Nevertheless, because of all those diet-scare books and blogs proclaiming on one hand that all poultry, eggs and fish should be avoided (vegan diets) or all potatoes, pasta and bread should be avoided (low-carb diets), I found myself in this culture of a sacrificial approach to weight control. Any attempt by ‘dieting’ made me miserable (giving up foods I enjoy), guilty (if I broke the diet) or stupid (if I regained weight) which simply fueled me feeling bad about myself.
Like an epiphany in January 2015, instead of focussing on avoidance I began thinking about what I was doing right (the strong foundations) and what had led me to sometimes eat more than I should or eat in an unhealthful way or not move as much as I could.
It comes down to four basic reasons –
- comfort (using food when I was feeling distressed, depressed or anxious)
- convenience (grabbing something quickly rather than taking my time to prepare a balanced healthy meal)
- celebrations (being sucked into the cultural shift of a need to celebrate four times a week, 52 weeks a year)
- culinary delights (dining in style – with all the trimmings – four times a day).
It took much self-therapy to get over the distress of my marital break-up before I stopped turning to food as a comfort and taking the time to get back into the routine of having healthy foods and regular exercise. These are not to be understated as important contributory factors of taking me back to the road of good health. It is, however, the last two reasons that are for me the deal-breaker. Celebrations and culinary delights.
Traditions have slipped into our culture that I incorporated in my own lifestyle that did not serve me well – daily cafe lattes, regular meals out (where the meals tended to be higher in fat, sugar and alcohol), any excuse to celebrate, and indulging in culinary delights every day of the year. Some foods and meal-types I had been having regularly over the past two decades were in my younger days special treats for me indulged only about four times a year. It wasn’t that any of these foods or meals or celebrations were “bad” or needed to be avoided … it was just that they had become too frequent.
Nevertheless, wanting to remain healthy and see my grand-children grow up has been a major driving force for me to form new habits to counteract this societal pressure to celebrate four times a day 365 days a year. It has not been easy (yet thoroughly worthwhile) to develop the habit of a hierarchy of indulgences. There is much merit in same-old basic foods every day, saving some special foods to have with my social contacts twice weekly (for me, cafe lattes and / or alcohol), and reserve meals with “all the trimmings” only for tribal celebrations once or twice a month.
I believe this has been the main reason for success of my H.E.A.L.T.H.plan that I am winning and yet incorporating my social encounters into my plan and thoroughly enjoying those times.
Bringng mindful awareness to what we eat is powerful Elizabeth! A wise man told me how important it was to enjoy gatherings around food with family and friends, and then fast the following day to get our system back in balance. Everything is about balance.
Just as health is more than diet 💛
Agreed! It amazing how much more ‘delicious’ my celebrations have seemed to me since I have chosen to pick my celebrations (food-wise) but focussed and savoured every mouthful at those times. Thanks Val, mindfulness and living by that middle ground works wonders 🙂
Mindfulness around eating is the answer. Your health plan is great Elizabeth and has practical ideas for us all to be conscious of our mind and body. 💚❤️💛
I did not call it that at the start yet I realize now that is exactly what I have been doing. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂
You are so gifted in finding balance in everything Elizabeth! ❤
I think I write pep talks to myself and then make them into a blog-post and then once I get that far I have to live by what I say! It all helps to cement the habit. Thanks for your positive comment 🙂
So it is written. So shall it be!
Awesome post I look forward to reading more from you!
Thanks for stopping by and for your support.
It’s a great way to understand how and what and why you eat – and nicely expressed. I think a huge part of our culture-wide obesity problem has come with the idea that every meal can be a celebration and therefore an indulgence, and so many of them are enjoyed outside the home. And I too used to love those yummy drinks that were so little about coffee, and so much about caramel sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles… they had to go!
Agreed … that the drinks (and snacks) have become part of our culture and are just simply adding to our population’s waistline.
Balance is important in so many areas of our lives, especially when it comes to our appetites. And it is human to feel the need to reward ourselves when we think we deserve it and yet it doesn’t do us any favours when we overindulge. I’ve been there!
Mindfulness is the key for sure.
yes, I think that there is a trend in this of continual ‘celebrations’ of one form or another and this is upsetting the balance for a lot of people.
it’s so important to be thoughtful about what we eat. There’s something to be said for eating simple, basic food most of the time. 🙂