The Good Life Massage would like to commend you on trying to live a healthier lifestyle! Even simple things like reading this blog post are steps in the right direction. But is every step you take a step forward?
We’d like to point out a few things people commonly do in the interest of taking care of themselves that are actually counter-productive and even self-sabotaging. Do any of these describe what you’ve been doing?
“Diet” Soda and other pre-packaged “Health” Foods
To be sure, diet soda is not as bad for you as regular soda, but it isn’t doing you any favors, either. You’ll tend to drink more of it than you think you are, which can damage your teeth and marinate your nervous system in caffeine! Regular consumption can even increase appetite, especially if you’re used to drinking it with meals or snacks. Low fat/carb “treats” from companies like Weight Watchers also tend to deceive you into thinking you’re eating well, when in fact you’re eating very poorly. Read labels! They may have reduced the fat, but they also may have increased the sugar to balance it out.
Leave it to Western consumerism to create a cycle where what you consume (low fat, high sugar food products), creates a problem (weight gain), which in turn has to be solved by some other product. It’s a cycle of madness that stops the minute you stop thinking you can buy your way into eating better. The science is clear: a diet consisting mainly of whole foods–whole grains, nuts, lean meats, vegetables, and fruits–is the key to good nutrition. Don’t be seduced into thinking some magic product will remove your responsibility to make better choices.
Being your own trainer
Sorry, but you really can’t be your own trainer. It’s an appealing idea, especially in American culture, that you can bootstrap yourself into physical fitness and lifelong habits of activity and health. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually a realistic expectation.
You’re a more complicated, more social animal than that, whether you want to admit it or not. Don’t believe me? Those mostly-wasted gym memberships of years past and the lightly-used abdominizer which you bought from TV and that now languishes under your bed are all the evidence you need that I’m right. That’s not to say a more detailed explanation isn’t merited.
There are just some things you can’t do all on your own. Even if you have the athletic experience and history on your side, your own will power is a finite and unreliable resource. You just can’t depend on it alone. You’ll need several levels of redundancy to account for it’s inevitable failure. These can include sheer habit–a powerful tool–or building in some kind of accountability. If you can’t afford a trainer and can’t find a workout buddy, consider joining a team or taking a class, preferably in-person so someone will hold you to your commitment.
Sure, you’re motivated. You want to eat less, hoping that it might give your metabolism a kick in the butt. And besides, you’re busy! Who has time to eat anyway! So goes the logic. But skipping meals is a big mistake if better health is your goal. It actually slows your metabolism down! Regularly stressing your body like that signals your metabolism to store more calories as fat in the interest of long-term survival. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a famine and being busy. Don’t send it the wrong message by skipping meals!
Eating small meals high in protein and complex carbohydrates will keep your appetite at a moderate level, while reassuring your body that it will get all the fuel it needs to survive.
Going it alone
We get it: health is a personal thing, and not everyone wants to share their progress towards their health and fitness goals on social media. (And truthfully, most of your followers probably don’t want to follow you *that* closely!) But that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Invite those closest to you–those people you know in three dimensional meat space–to be your cheering section. And get your doctor, massage therapist, and other health professionals in your life in on it! They’ll be able to help you measure your progress, set realistic goals, and give you expert advice on diet and exercise tailored to your body’s needs.
But above all, having people support you feeds your progress! When you have people interested in your progress and in seeing your wellness improve, you won’t want to flake out and let them down. And when you succeed, it feels even bigger and more significant. Because it is big. It is significant. Your life matters, and we all want it to continue as long as possible.
Getting lost in the stats
Data can be helpful… to a point. Knowing whether or not it will rain today: helpful. Knowing exact rainfall stats for this day for every year in recorded history? Consuming all those numbers might be interesting, but ultimately doesn’t help you decide how to dress. All the information you get from your food scale, measuring tape, wearable fitness tracker, nutrition labels, and your bathroom scale–numbers, numbers, numbers–can create an unhealthy obsession.
Not convinced? Consider this possible scenario:
You’ve been good! Excellent, even. You’ve been pushing yourself hard on your workouts, and you’ve been eating well (which is more enjoyable than you ever could have expected). You rise one glorious morning feeling fantastic–healthier than you’ve been in years. You do your workout, and feel pretty good about it.
But your wearable fitness tracker gives you results far worse than you were expecting. Kind of frustrating, but no big deal, right? Surely the results will show on the scale. But no! Betrayed there, too! What was the point of all this? Why have you worked so hard, made so many big changes if this is the result you could expect?
Remember, you woke up feeling great, feeling healthy. But the only conclusion you can draw from all that scientific data is that you were wrong about that–that you aren’t as healthy as you felt. And while you may know logically that what you’re doing is fine, that the way you feel about your progress is valid, that you just have to keep at it, the emotional signal you’re giving yourself is the opposite: you’re defeated. You’ve been wasting your time. You should quit. You might not be committed to that defeatest way of thinking. No! you say to yourself defiantly. This is good. I will persist! And while that war is raging inside you, someone brings a big bag of candy bars to the office to share with everyone. It’s pouring rain and freezing cold for your jog the next morning. What do you do? Chances are, your efforts have just come to a quiet, ineffectual close. Why? Because the data psyched you out.
You’re always telling yourself a story about yourself. To persist as the hero of that story, you need to be able to trust your own gauge on how you’re doing in moving forward with it. Data can be very helpful! It can even be essential, not allowing you to fool yourself about what you’re doing or how well you’re doing. Just don’t forget to think long-term. The game isn’t won or lost with one days’ data. Take control of your narrative by taking that data with a grain of salt. Try working out a few times with the wearable left at home. The results you want will, in time, be fully measurable and satisfying, but don’t let those numbers stop you from moving towards that goal.
Ignoring your body, because “the program”
This is common early on, especially when you’re determined to make a change and you’re feeling zealous. If you’re too hard on yourself, you could actually injure yourself, sabotaging the whole project. Educate yourself on what kind of pain you should be feeling and when! If it’s the day after your first heavy activity in a long time, don’t be surprised if you feel sore. But don’t dismiss all pain!
Contrary to that meme, pain is not just weakness leaving your body–it can also be health leaving your body and being replaced with pain–terrible, agonizing pain. So be smart! Get in for a massage after your first few workouts, or after a particularly tough session. See a doctor if you have pain that persists for longer than a few minutes. Get your form down so you can up the intensity without hurting yourself. Yes, progress matters, but don’t damage your body in its name.
Don’t quit! We’re pulling for you.
Choose the good life.
Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to develop your brand and social media strategy by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org