Do your efforts to improve your health, diet and general wellbeing tend to end in failure? With an information overload and lack of time, Holly Ashby says it may be time to simplify wellbeing.
The wellbeing industry has really taken off in the last decade or so. Endless recipes, advice and aspirational #fitspo imagery clutter up our minds and you’d think with so much information out there, being healthy should be easier than ever. Yet somehow, it really isn’t. In my attempts to improve my health and fitness, I’ve been plagued by false starts, sky-high expectations and self-sabotage. So why is giving up bad habits and getting healthy so hard?
I may be about as likely to achieve rock-hard abs as I am to grow a few extra legs, but in terms of “normal person trying to be relatively healthy over many years” I think I have discovered a few things. Not the kind of things that will lead me to pull apart tins of tuna with the strength of my bare hands and consume the contents in a “pure protein” diet, but enough to make me think it’s time to simplify wellbeing. Here’s why.
Modern life isn’t set up for wellbeing
Even the best intentions can be defeated by the simple fact that most of us lack spare time and modern life can be absolutely exhausting.
We get home from work sleepy and jaded by the commute, and most of the time we just want to collapse on the sofa and hope no one asks us to do anything ever again.
Then there’s the demands of a social life, trying to keep up with hobbies, managing a seemingly infinite amount of life admin… It. Just. Never. Ends.
In this situation, of course we don’t want to go for a run and eat something home cooked and wholesome. We’re tired! We have things to do! We haven’t seen our family for weeks and we’re all ridiculously busy. Furthermore, pizza is delicious. Modern life does nothing for our willpower, and actively works against our energy levels.
The solution – We have to prioritise what’s actually important to us, and stop beating ourselves up about the stuff that’s not. Before embarking on any fitness regime or lifestyle change, getting used to spending twenty minutes a day meditating can make life easier by giving us more energy and reducing stress, and apart from anything else get us used to allocating time for a (relatively simple, but hugely effective) new habit.
Our standards are too high
I’m the sort of person who’s considered getting into bed in work clothes just so I can have an extra five minutes in bed in the morning, so it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise that repeatedly committing to an overnight transformation was somewhat unrealistic.
When it comes to wellbeing, it can be all too easy to set impossible standards for ourselves, and this is very much tied up in how we think a “healthy” person looks.
I spent many years confusing being healthy with being very thin, and “I will lose a stone” has been a part of my internal narrative for so long that I’m only just realising, at the grand old age of twenty-seven that… maybe I don’t need to? That stone hasn’t ever held me back before. My BMI is fine. I really like food. It’s just an irrational response to external pressures. Losing weight if it’s what best for your health makes sense, I guess, but feeling as though you aren’t allowed to enjoy life until you do so doesn’t at all.
The solution – Trying to be that little bit healthier isn’t necessarily going to result in looking like someone out of a fitness magazine. The promise of a huge physical transformation may get clicks for “Gets Abs in Six Weeks!” articles, but in reality, change takes time. Focus on what makes you feel better, rather than chasing an ideal – expecting too much too soon can be more demotivating than anything else.
We think fitness has to be complicated
I always assumed there was some kind of secret to being super fit. There’s so much advice, intricate workouts, and different kinds of training, that it seemed that getting fit requires an awful lot of time and energy. And it’s true that those carved-from-marble girls on Instagram are willing to do far more work for a hot bod than I am prepared to do, and at the higher levels fitness takes supreme effort. But as far as just being in good, healthy shape is concerned, the reality is far simpler.
I accidentally became the fittest I’d been since childhood at university, and it was because my flat was at the top of four flights of stairs. Walking up and down them a few times every day (sometimes carrying many bags filled with tins and sausage rolls) made me stronger and more energetic without even realising it. Essentially, I have to be tricked into doing more exercise with tiny changes – and if you’re the same, embracing this could be the first step.
The solution – If you like going to the gym or have an active hobby you enjoy, it’s a great idea to carry on with that. But if you’re pretty sedentary, you should start small. Just going for a half an hour walk every day can make all the difference. It’s far easier to commit to and will let you develop at your own pace, without a big outlay in cash or too much pressure to dive in head first.
These tips may not add up to the extreme lifestyle change espoused by our favourite wellbeing gurus, but small changes can be far more sustainable. Do you think, as far as health is concerned, baby steps are best? Let us know in the comments below!
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