I’m going to be honest with you.
I’ve been struggling a lot with my health for the past few weeks. Actually, it’s been more like the past few months. I am a pretty type A person. I thrive when I'm in the flow of routine. I feel most calm and zen when I organize my life into bullet points or cross off tasks from my to-do list. Since July, I haven't had any sort of structure or routine due to various factors. For the first two weeks in July my husband and I were working from home together while 7-month old Eden stayed home from daycare to avoid the risk of quarantine before our flight. Then we traveled to America for five weeks, bouncing between my parents' and in-laws' houses. Then we got home and had to quarantine while trying to beat jet lag (it's a 7 hour time difference). And then came the chagim (Jewish holidays). We moved in with my parents in an air BNB in Tel Aviv for two weeks. I'm now writing this towards the at the end of Sukkot and I literally wake up with no clue where I am, what day it is, or if I can turn on the lights or check my phone. Every other day seems to switch from a regular day to a holiday to shabbat. I don't want to complain. I am so grateful and blessed to be able to have spent so much time with my family, especially given the travel restrictions during the pandemic. And there are so many beautiful spiritual aspects to the holidays. But I'd be lying if I said this lack of structure and routine for the past two months hasn't taken a toll on my physical and mental health.
Before all of this I had gotten to a point in my health journey where I truly craved healthy foods because I was so used to eating them. My fridge and freezer were pretty much always stocked with delicious healthy meals and ingredients. I consistently did yoga and strength training multiple times a week. I was even making time to do meditation practices regularly because I find them crucial for both my physical and mental health.
But not having my own kitchen or constantly jumping around to live in different places has made it really difficult to do a lot of the prep that makes a healthy lifestyle so much easier. I’ve been scrambling to figure out what to eat, spending so much time running to the supermarket for 1 or 2 ingredients because I never seem to have everything I need lying around, and feel exhausted from constantly having to decide of what to eat. The exhaustion results in me skipping workouts, which leads to worse sleep, setting off a downward spiral of feeling less than ideal. I knew something needed to change, but I wasn't making the time to sit and think about what structure and systems I needed to create in order to feel aligned with my health goals.
Then last week I got super sick. I’m not sure if it was a result of eating takeout food, a stomach virus, or a combination of both, but I was throwing up, had chills, aches, and could barely stay awake for an hour. I didn’t bounce back quickly and felt out of sorts for about a week. My stomach was in a lot of pain and even once I was able to eat regularly, I was not able to go to the bathroom regularly. I’ll spare you the details, but after an unpleasant experience with laxatives, I was doubling down on the coffee to keep me regular, which left me buzzing like a jitterbug and tossing and turning all night. In short, I felt like garbage and it sucked. I personally have a very low pain tolerance and my mental health and physical health are extremely closely tied. I find it really hard to stay positive when I’m not feeling well. It carries over into all of my relationships too because I feel so irritable and miserable when I don't feel my best. I don’t say this as an excuse, I totally own up to this being an area where I need to work on myself. But it’s a heck of a lot harder for me to be a good wife, mom, and friend when I feel so out of sorts.
Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom in order to get back up. This was not my rock bottom. I’ve definitely had worse. But this was the worst I’ve felt in a long time and it was enough to cause me to get serious about looking at my life and creating space to improve my health. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes while reading this- after all I am a health coach and it's my job to guide people on their health journey. But I can't tell you how many times I've come from a session where I'm talking to clients about how important it is to designate times for to eat their meals mindfully so they can feel satisfied while behind the scenes I grab a half a piece of chicken before our session and don't make time to have a proper dinner. Then when I’m starving at 9 or 10 pm, I have a full pot of popcorn. It’s a fine line between not feeling guilty towards eating behaviors and knowing when to say that certain behaviors are actually harmful to myself and need to stop. Instead of dwelling on all that I did wrong over the last months, I’m going to reset, reprioritize, and readjust my behaviors to get back on track and feel as good as possible.
Where to Begin: Step 1- Set Intentions
I like to start by setting intentions. It’s a little fluffy and the cynic in me is always hesitant to do things like this, but every time I’ve done it I’m blown away by how powerful it is. I use this with clients all the time and it WORKS. It’s an incredibly powerful motivator to imagine your life when you’ve met your health goals. It helps you get clear on the direction you’re headed in and helps you articulate what you’re actually looking to achieve. For example, so many people start their health journey looking to lose weight, but when they get clear on their intentions they realize that what they actually want is to feel more energetic or feel more love towards their body. It’s not to say that you can’t do all of those things and lose weight if you want to, but getting clear on what you actually want can help you refine your action steps to make sure you’re progressing in the right direction.
When you set intentions, I find it best to keep it simple and be as clear and specific as possible. Take 20 minutes to sit by yourself with a good cup of coffee or tea, some good background music, and either a pen and paper or your laptop with all other windows closed so there’s no distractions. Don’t be afraid to set lofty goals. It’s also really powerful to answer the questions in the present tense, so instead of writing “I want to feel amazing in my body,” write “I feel amazing in my body.”
The prompt I use is: “What are my health goals for the coming 6 months/year?”
Beneath this I have a category for physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, and career (that may not seem like it belongs here, but when you're an entrepreneur you know that healthy routines and boundaries around work life are imperative to your overall health.)
The emotional and spiritual ones are a little personal so I'm going to keep those private. But I'll share with you what I wrote about my physical health goals for the coming year:
"I am strong, full of energy, and feel that my body is a safe, comfortable, and wonderful place to be. I love movement and moving my body feels good to me. I feel so in touch with my body that all of my decisions are aligned with what my body needs. I am so deeply in tune with my body that it feels ridiculous to put something in my body that I know won't agree with me."
Step 2: Create Action Steps
Now that you have a clear idea of what you want your life to look like in terms of health, you need to figure out a small, practical action steps that you can take every day to help you get there. For example, if your intention is to feel stronger, an action step would be to do strength training exercises. For me personally, I don’t struggle so much with what to eat. Eating lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, protein, whole grains, and skipping the sugary, processed foods feels natural to me at this point. It’s the when and how to eat that is a struggle for me. I often overeat past the point of being comfortably full and I turn to food as a comfort from stress or as an activity when I feel bored. All of my action steps are daily practices that will help me work towards the intention of eating intuitively, feeling good in my body, and feeling secure that I have enough food.
For most people, they're still suck on how to get into the habit of eating nutrient dense foods. In that case, maybe your action step would be something such as "add at least one vegetable to my plate at every meal" or "start every day with a sugar free breakfast." Keep them small and realistic. These are the things you're going to focus on doing every single day. Doing an action step one time won't make a major change in your health. But repeated over time, it causes a significant shift.
If you know you want to get healthier but can't figure out what action steps are right for you, this is where a nutrition coach can really be of service to you. If that speaks to you, reach out to me for a free 15-minute consultation 😊
Step 3: Stay Accountable
I do this by keeping a record of how I’m doing by using a food journal. The food journal is not an evaluation of how well I’m doing. It's absolutely not a place where I count calories, macros, or any number except for my blood sugar levels. I don’t use it for judgment. I simply use it for data collection so I can look at a week’s worth of behaviors and see if I'm getting closer or father from my intentions. I record how hungry and full I feel before and after meals, my blood sugar numbers, and my mood around each meal. This can help me notice patterns and also track my progress. For example, if I see that every Sunday I’m not making time to eat a full dinner because I have a full schedule of client calls, which leads to a bad sleep and stomach ache on Monday morning, I might decide it’s really imperative to not schedule any calls during dinner time on Sundays so that I can make dinner a priority. Or I might decide that meal prep on Sunday morning is crucial so that I can eat a full dinner in 15 minutes during my window between clients. No matter the outcome, the food journal just helps me determine if there is a recurring pattern in my habits and helps me pinpoint where I can make a change in order to improve. Another place the food journal is helpful is that it’s objective. The story I have in my head is that I eat 3 meals a day and only snack occasionally. If I had been keeping a food journal for the past month, it would show that most days I’m eating multiple snacks when I’m not even hungry, and that means it’s turned into a habit.
Another way to stay accountable is to use an accountability partner. This is actually one of the main reasons people reach out to work with me. They know that they need to make a change and eat healthier. Sometimes they've already seen a nutritionist or a doctor who has told them what to eat but they find it difficult to stay accountable when no one is following up with them. This is where I come in- by regularly checking in and helping people take those little action steps that add up to huge changes over a long time period. This is also a really helpful temporary step to do while you're working on creating healthy habits. But after practicing this for 8-12 weeks with support, most people can go forward on their own because the habit becomes somewhat automatic.
Step 4: Reward Yourself
Give yourself a realistic timeframe to work with. I think it takes at least 30 days to truly make changes that will last, but sometimes people tell me that they already notice huge changes in their energy levels or digestive issues after a week of healthy meals. Choose a time frame and set a reminder on your phone to check in at the end of that time frame. Then go back to your intentions and re read them. Do any of them now reflect your reality? Do you feel like you're closer but still need some time to work towards them? Either way, if you've truly been sticking to practicing your action steps day in and day out, reward yourself with something that lights you up. Of course, the inherent reward of feeling good in your body is a reward in and of itself. But It could be a new piece of clothing, a massage, a manicure, new piece of workout equipment, shoes, or concert tickets.-whatever floats your boat. My go to self-reward is either a big order of new books from the book depository or sitting alone in a coffee shop to get a cappuccino. It doesn't have to be fancy. Just pick something that brings you joy because you deserve it and it will help keep you motivated to maintain your new healthy habits.
To make this easier for you, sign up for my mailing list to receive your FREE copy of my Kickstart Your Health Journey Guide. It contains prompts to help you set your intentions as well as my food journal tracking template to track your progress. If you found this helpful and you’re ready to start your health journey, let me know what your intentions and action steps are! I love hearing from you and love knowing where you’re at on your health journeys.
Remember- you’ve got this!
Wishing you health and happiness,