If there is one thing I've learned from being a health coach, is that I cannot give, make, provide, force, cajole, bribe, or fear base someone into making healthy lifestyle choices - even when they are my clients and paying me! This is tough because, in a perfect world, I would like everyone to
feel the weight and importance of living a healthy lifestyle, and to really value their health and well being. I worked in sick-care and with terminally ill patients long enough to understand just how precious life can be, and I learned the value of truly honoring our bodies - in all areas - physical, emotional, and spiritual. But today I wonder if this value of honoring our body can even be taught, or is it something that perhaps can only be realized with age and time, or through life changing experiences.
Choosing to live healthfully is a tricky concept and it is a choice we get to make every single day. There are many factors at play when we are trying to live our best life. Physical (strong, weak, energized, fatigued), mental (clear headed, foggy, focused, scattered), emotional (content, happy, sad, angry), time (crunched, relaxed, casual), location (work, home, vacation), and on and on it goes. Ultimately the choice is up to us. Whatever factors are at play, the responsibility is ours alone. No one person - be it a friend, family member, or coach, can make you make healthful choices. No particular diet, or stress management technique, or exercise program will do it. No less stress, no more time, no healthier environment, or more supportive workplace. No one is going to save you from you, but YOU. This may sound kind of harsh but let me explain.
"No one is going to save you from you, but YOU."
We all want quick fixes or the easy way out, and it is natural to have thoughts like, "This diet is going to jumpstart my health," or other similar ideas. The reality is, it might very well jumpstart our motivation...for a minute. But that's just it, it's for a minute! Not a long term behavior change. When it comes to choosing to live a vibrant and healthy lifestyle for the long run, one has to build a strong solid foundation, and that strong foundation is built upon your 'why.' Why are you wanting to get healthy, change your habits, improve your lifestyle? Your why has to have weight in order to make lasting change. Wanting to lose 10lbs for a wedding or upcoming vacation is soooo NOT a why. Or wanting to exercise so that you can eat whatever you want, again...not a strong why. These are superficial and low motivating whys, and let me tell you, even the higher, more serious, motivators oftentimes are not even enough. How many of us know someone who smokes? Someone who intellectually knows the health risks involved with smoking yet continues the habit? What about people with serious chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease who, even though they have been educated on the importance of making lifestyle changes, continue to eat poorly with lots of processed foods, sugar and salt? Most people have the 'it will not happen to me' mentality. Yes, they are aware of the risks, but they believe they are going to be the exception. They believe they are going to be the outlier . We have all heard these stories, and there seems to be at least one outlier in every family.
With this in mind, let me tell you about my mother. My mom will not mind me sharing her story because she herself has been nothing but open and honest in regard to her situation. In fact my mother encouraged me to share her story, hoping it might help someone else. Last year my mother was diagnosed with oral cancer. She had a tumor at the base of her tongue. Her cancer was directly related to smoking...period. I'm not mincing words here because we all knew it. My mother was told this directly by her oncologist, which I appreciated, and there was no sense in sugar coating the situation. We didn't judge my mom, sure we wished my mother would never have smoked but that was not the reality. There were a million reasons as to why she started, or shouldn't have started, smoking years earlier but that was not the point and there was no reason to look back. Cancer was what we were dealing with and figuring out the best course of action for my mother was the goal.
My mom quit smoking the day she was diagnosed. Just stopped. Cold turkey. I was shocked. In the past my mother had always said she would never quit smoking, that it was the 'quality' of life not the 'quantity.' So what made my mother quit so abruptly? What was her 'why'? You guessed it, cancer. Cancer put the fear of death in my mom, but...she was not ready to die. In talking with my mother about her smoking, and then quitting, she herself said she always thought she would be 'the one', the outlier! Here she had lived until age 84, smoking, and my mother truly thought she would be the one to (using her own words) "get away with it." Wow, my mother's honesty gave me great pause. I appreciated her willingness to talk candidly, and her courage to talk truthfully about her situation. The impact of her words however landed heavily on me. If my mother, knowing the huge life threatening risk of smoking, was still willing to risk her life for this habit, then how can I, just a health coach, convince anyone to make healthy lifestyle choices? What was it going to take? Well, for my mother, it was being faced with death head on. My mother's why kept her fighting and showing up for radiation therapy day in and day out. It also kept her from smoking ever again.
Today my mother is cancer free, thankfully, and she continues to not smoke. I asked her if she was considering smoking again, now that her cancer was gone. Her words inspired me. My mother said, "Oh honey no. How can I do that to the people I love? Everyone who has helped me through this ordeal? That would be so disrespectful." Ha...I found her reply telling. Now that my mother was no longer facing her own immediate mortality, her why had shifted. My mother's why became her family and loved ones. And this is big enough, weighty enough, to make a difference and to keep the smoking at bay. Is this enough for everyone? I can tell you an emphatic NO. Everyone's why is personal, for all kinds of reasons, and we each need to find it for ourselves individually.
As a lifestyle medicine practitioner and health coach, I am always learning and growing. This past year with my mom has helped me see how I can better serve my clients. It is not enough to teach about nutrition and other healthy lifestyle practices. It's important to help people determine their why - before we even begin to speak about nutrition and wellness. I am not able to be alongside my clients on every grocery store run, or in the evenings when they are trying to figure out dinner. I cannot be there everyday to motivate them to eat well, exercise and practice healthy lifestyle measures. Believe me, I have tried this with my own family and it absolutely does not work. But I can help them find and clarify their own motivating factors so they will be more willing to make the consistent lifestyle decisions that are important in building a flourishing wellness practice. I CAN help them find their why, so that any practicing wellness strategies they choose will be that much more successful.
Remember, only you can make the lifestyle changes you desire, and to do this it is imperative to find your 'weighty why.' What are your reasons for change? Once you figure that out the sky's the limit! And should you ever want, or prefer, support and guidance along the way, I will be here to help you.
"What are your reasons for change? Find your weighty WHY"
NOTE: If this post resonates with you, and you feel someone might benefit from reading it, please like, comment, and pass it along - I would love that. Until next time...xx