Do you find it hard to get started on a healthy lifestyle, even though you know it’s what you need?
Changing your lifestyle to a healthy one has many benefits. It can improve your mood, manage your weight, increase your energy and prevent you from getting sick. In general, it can make you enjoy life more!
Living a healthy lifestyle is hard for many people — especially to start. In this article, we’ll look at 6 key barriers people have for living a healthy lifestyle — and how to bust through them.
What is a Healthy Lifestyle?
The main pillars of healthy living are:
Eating Well – this means eating foods with lots of nutrients – vitamins and minerals, good fats, protein, complex carbohydrates. Stay away from processed foods, and foods with added sugar. Avoid eating too much salty food. Drink plenty of water.
Exercise – exercise moderately to intensely 3-5 times a week. Also, you should do at least some light exercise like walking every day if you can. Get the heart rate up with jogging, cycling, swimming, sports, brisk walking, etc. Mix in some strength training as well several times a week.
Rest -to stay healthy you should avoid intense and constant stress. Eating good and exercising helps this a lot, but also you should put in a special effort to deeply relax regularly. Take up meditation, or research various other things to deeply relax your body and mind.
Also, follow good and consistent sleep hygiene so that you mostly get 7-8 hours a sleep a night. Don’t panic though if you are sleeping less, but definitely do everything you can to get enough sleep.
Addressing Bad Habits – moderation in all things is good. This includes cutting down on alcohol and coffee for example, if you have too much of these. Cutting down or stopping smoking, as well as any other substances we know is not good for our bodies.
Barriers to Overcome
Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.
Here are the 6 barriers to overcome on your road to a happy and healthy life.
1. Thinking Now is Not the Time
“It’s just not the right time to change to a healthy lifestyle!” you say.
Many people fall into this trap. They feel there is no time to start eating right and exercising now. They cannot find the perfect time to psych themselves up and jump all in.
However, as in starting to reach any goal in life — there is never an ideal time. Nor does there have to be.
Tips to overcome:
The key to overcoming the above roadblock is gradual change. You do not need to completely overhaul your diet and do the ultimate exercise routines right away. The important thing is to start doing something in that direction — even if starting with just a little bit.
Start turning that big boat of your diet and exercise habits around even if in small degrees at first. Even if it slips back a foot, as long as you went 2 feet, overall you are progressing. Gradually you will be cruising in the right direction! Just be persistent.
2. Fearing You Will Feel Deprived and Not Enjoy Life
People tend to think that living a healthy lifestyle makes you deprived and makes you enjoy life less. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It can feel that way at first. But this is short term as you get off your addiction to food and a sedentary lifestyle.
Tips to overcome:
No doubt, the transition to eating good can be hard at first. To help, introduce your switch to healthier foods slowly. There will still be some pain, but it’s best to push through the feelings of being deprived. Know that the feeling is only temporary and you will get to the other side.
After getting used to eating lighter, and mostly nutritious foods, you look forward to eating these. They’ll start bringing you as much joy, and even more, than the less healthy comfort foods did. Also you’ll look forward to exercise and even find ways to do it on vacation and business trips.
Know that splurging every once in a while (say for one or two days) will not hurt you. This knowledge can help get you through the initial transition period. Later though, once your habit is entrenched, you will not want to go back to eating junk. And if you do eat unhealthy a bit, you look forward to getting back to your new normal diet.
3. I Cannot Deal With the Stress
Many people fight starting a healthy lifestyle, saying something like: “My life is too stressful now! I cannot start watching what I eat and forcing myself to exercise now!”.
It’s interesting that one of the main excuses to starting your healthier lifestyle is your current stress level. You feel you need the comfort of less healthy foods, and the relaxation of sitting on the couch rather than exercising to deal with it.
The real truth is that a healthy lifestyle greatly helps lower your stress levels — and makes you less likely to get really stressed in the future.
Tips to overcome:
First of all realize you are likely viewing the unhealthy foods as a quick fix for stress. They call it comfort food for a reason. It’s when your body is searching for short term fixes to control the cortisol in your body. This primitive drive causes you to seek foods loaded with fats, salt and sugars.
It’s true that these unhealthy junk foods can provide some brief relief, but overall it’s a vicious cycle. These types of food ultimately lead to more and more stress.
To help beat this cycle, start substituting some healthy yet tasty food known for fighting stress. For example you can start with dark chocolate since it fights stress, tastes good, and is healthy in small amounts. Then proceed to other known stress fighting healthier foods like avocado, nuts, salmon, oatmeal and yogurt.
As far as exercise, you already know it’s a great way to handle stress. However, it’s hard to start a routine during stressful times. This is because exercise is perceived as something hard and painful — the last thing you want during stress.
However, it’s worth busting through this perception. The trouble is that many people starting an exercise program tend to do too much at once. They incorrectly think that if they are not miserable doing it, it’s not really exercise. This leads to them quitting exercise, or even injurying themselves.
The key here is to start introducing exercise slowly. To get started during times of stress, simply go take a walk. Walking is the greatest gateway to getting into a regular exercise program. In fact walking briskly for long periods of time can even serve to be your sole way of exercising — although you will probably want to branch out later into adding higher intensity exercise and at least some strength training.
4. My Social Life Would Suffer
Some fear that taking up a healthy lifestyle will kill their social life. Let’s face it, many of us associate getting together with friends with feasting on delicious but mostly unhealthy food, and probably drinking lots of alcohol. It’s too much of a temptation and you feel you need to avoid those gatherings to be successful. You just do not want that isolation!
Tips to overcome:
You do not need to give up your social life when living a healthy lifestyle. In fact, it can make your social life much better! Sure, during the transition, you will likely feel drawn to all the goodies your friends are eating and drinking, and it may at first put a damper on your good time as you try to resist. However, this situation is temporary, and occurs while you are still addicted to the unhealthy food.
Once you hit your groove, you’ll not crave those unhealthy foods at social events. You can eat just a little bit of it and feel fully satisfied. You can also gravitate to the healthier options available there. You really do not need to eat a bunch to connect with people and have a good time!
Also, people get inspired when you are living a healthy lifestyle. You will feel better, which makes you more social. You will look better, which never hurts in social situations. You will also feel more confident. In addition, you’ll find many people who are trying to do the same things you are, and it’s good for conversation.
5. Health Food is Not Exciting
Another barrier to starting a healthy diet is that people think that they no longer can eat the things they love.
You think that health food tastes like cardboard and you will lose the pleasure of eating tasty food. You fear losing out on all the good tasting stuff like pizza, big cheesy hamburgers, cookies and doughnuts.
The fact is that there is plenty of very delicious healthy food. In fact, I’ll wager that once you get into the habit of picking our and eating only healthy foods, you will find that you enjoy the taste of food just as much, or more than you did when you were eating unhealthily.
Tips to overcome
Your draw to unhealthy food has more to do with your addiction to sugar, high fat foods, processed carbs and salt, more than actual taste. At first during the transition, you will find yourself attracted more to these unhealthy foods.
The trick again is doing things gradually at first, but always moving forward.
Gradually reduce the bad stuff everyday, while increasing the healthy foods. Start with some tasty healthy foods — even if the portions have more calories than you want to eat long term. Like some dark chocolate, strawberries or almonds. Maybe some nicely seasoned salmon and quinoa.
Once you bring your unhealthy foods down to the minimum and are on a straight away eating only healthy foods, you will find yourself enjoying many of the healthy foods immensely. You may have to hunt around and discover your favorites — but you will not feel deprived. In fact, you will likely find that you get just as much pleasure from healthy foods as you did with your former unhealthier choices.
6. Exercise is So Boring
Some people are put off by exercise because they just think it’s boring. For example, running, especially on a treadmill, may make you feel like you are marking the minutes, or distance — just waiting for the end so you can get on with your life.
Tips to overcome
It takes time for any habit to kick in. It’s very common that during the transition, you’ll have to drag yourself kicking and screaming to do exercise.
But even the transition aside, when you are starting out exercising, you’ll need to find what type exercises are interesting and even fun for you.
For example, some hate jogging on a treadmill and are bored to tears about it. Those people should consider running outside where they have a more interesting view. On the other hand, you could find treadmill running interesting and more convenient — and use TV or headphones to listen to music or catch up on podcasts while running. Or maybe you find running itself not exciting, yet you find cycling or swimming much more interesting.
My point is, don’t assume that all exercise is boring. Try new things until you find exercise that you look forward to. Just make sure you do give each exercise a chance since you will mostly hate everything at first. One of these can very well grow to be your passion.
So, if you have given an exercise a good chance and you still just are not having any fun, try something else — but don’t quit exercising!
Commit to Healthier Living
These are just samples of the barriers encountered in trying to break the cycle of unhealthy living. I focused mainly on diet and exercise, but similar roadblocks exist in getting more rest and cutting out bad habits like excessive drinking and smoking.
Introduce the healthy habits gradually, but move relentlessly forward toward your goal. You will be healthier and happier as a result!