Removing Barriers to Health: How to Make Healthy Easy
Today I want to discuss breaking down the barrier between you and your healthiest self.
I want to make being healthy the easy option.
I want to make the healthy choice an appealing and effortless choice.
I want to make the healthy choice accessible.
It's often not that people don't want to be healthy, but their lives aren't set up so that they're supporting the healthy choices. Of course it's often more difficult to be healthy than not, but if your lives are set up in support of that route, the payout far outweighs the difficulty. Also, once your lives are set up that way, long-term healthy habits follow easily, since the whole trajectory is now directed at healthy. You have foreseen the obstacles to your healthiest path, and you've removed them before they can affect you.
We're lazy mammals. Our brains like familiar neural pathways, and it's hard to break free of that, but if you can consciously choose a new pathway, and practice that pathway with intention, you're golden! You do have control over your habits. Upon returning home after work, if eating crackers is easier than cutting up and eating carrots, it's more likely we'll opt for the former.
My point is: let's make it easier to eat carrots. Set yourself up for success: buy the carrots weekly, devote time to cutting carrots ahead of time, then you can eat carrots with ease, and BOOM: healthy habit now complete and maintained!
There are many aspects of our lives that contribute to health: our nutrition, our physical activity, our mental and emotional states, our financial state, our social life. Think about what you need to improve on, but then: what stands in the way of you getting there. Then consciously minimize or remove that barrier.
Do you not buy groceries each week, and that's therefore a barrier to making your own, healthy food?
Do you buy the groceries, but then you don't make the time to cut up the veggies so they rot away in the fridge while you eat McDonald's?
Do you not exercise because you bought a membership to a gym half an hour away, which feels like an excessive time investment?
Do you not take your supplements because you don't keep them out in a visible spot?
Do you not do yoga because the mat isn't rolled out and your yoga clothes are buried?
How do we do this? The process:
What are your health goals? ex. Eat 8 servings of vegetables per day.
What are the habits needed to attain the goals? Buying vegetables weekly, preparing the vegetables, having hummus to accompany the snack vegetables, roasting the other vegetables, choosing vegetables over potato chips.
Which habits need to be made more accessible in order to meet said goals? In other words, which ones have a barrier to their initiation/completion, and what is that barrier? Preparing vegetables- the vegs usually sit in the fridge whole. The potato chips always catch my eye before the vegetables.
What do you need to do to remove that barrier to make the habit more effortless? Ask yourself "I know I would [insert habit here] if __________". I know I would roast the vegetables if they were all ready to be roasted (washed and cut). I know I would prepare the vegetables if I set aside an hour every Sunday. I know I would choose vegetables over potato chips if I didn’t buy the potato chips in the first place, and if I had them in the house I hid them from my sight, and if the vegetables were visible and ready to consume with hummus.
Summarize the actions as a simple list of goals to which you can refer.
Devote an hour every Sunday to preparing vegetables.
Don’t buy potato chips (if they make it into the house for any reason, put them out of sight!).
Keep cut vegetables visible and accessible in fridge
Notes regarding the process:
- Do not underestimate the power of visual cues! Prioritize health-promoting objects in your visual space: nuts and seeds versus candies, the water dispenser versus cans of pop, the hand weights versus the tv remote. EXPOSURE is crucial.
- A very common excuse I hear is that one does not have time to make healthy habits. It may take some time to start the habits, but they will become easier and more second nature eventually. But also, you can always find time, if that goal is a priority, and if you have made a plan to attain it. Is there any endeavour more worthy of your time than creating your healthiest self? Is your health important enough to you that you'll devote time to its betterment? The time spent is actually an investment, so that you can make all your time more productive and enjoyable as you live your healthiest life!
- On that note, this process also may bring to light the fact that you're making excuses to yourself, beyond "I don't have time". Allow those excuses to be exposed as such, acknowledge that, and take responsibility for your life. Commit yourself to the goal you want to achieve.
- This list is not just about food and exercise, think about your creative life, your social life, any part of your life that contributes to your ultimate fulfilment and contentment. That's holistic wellness, accounting for each aspect of your being. It is not uncommon for me to prescribe to patients an hour of drawing, weekly alone time, or biweekly socializing, if that's what they need to feel in balance! Think of all aspects of self-care.
So I hope this helped you make healthy easy, by discovering and removing the obstacles to your healthiest self. If you need help identifying your health goals, the barriers, or what you need to do to overcome those barriers, this is my specialty and I would love to help. If not, you've got this, and let me know below if you run into any roadblocks!
Best of luck :)