Journey to Health – Overcoming Frustration

By Eli Follick

Imagine that you have expended great energy to change some bad habits and to be healthier. You’ve succeeded in some areas but not in others. You’ve probably learned about making healthful food choices, exercising regularly, improving your sleep, and making sure you keep up with doctor visits and your medicines. You may have taken classes, read books, and come up with remedies for many of the problems and challenges you had. It’s been a long haul – daily plans and regimens and routines that have been lifelong have been altered to accommodate new ideas and schedules.

It would not be unusual to get tired of it all. After all, what can lifelong health demand from me that requires I walk three days a week, give up fried foods, juicy steaks, and French fries. Enough is enough! We all need a reset from time to time, and it is at this moment of frustration when the reset needs to be made. If you had to be the person you are today for the rest of your life, would you be happy? What outcome do you want? Why did you want to change all those parts of your life that were causing you to sink deeper and deeper into insolvable health problems? Was it a diagnosis like potential cardiovascular issues? Perhaps a doctor mentioned prediabetes or high cholesterol? Maybe you just wanted to look better for yourself. What does success look like for you? What small things could you do today to help yourself be better? Now is the time to rethink what is important to you about making healthful changes.

Over the years, I have devised a set of steps that have worked for me. They may not be revelatory but could serve as a stepladder out of the frustration that you may feel occasionally.

First, identify and write down what needs changing or updating. In about 10-15 minutes, you could have a list a page long. Review the list and prioritize what’s most important. Pick a few habits, a few problems, and/or something that’s meaningful and important to you. For me, the item(s) selected usually involve health or longevity.

Describe in detail what the desired change is. What do you have to do to implement the change? Do you need some ingredients you don’t have? What could interfere with making it work, if anything? How long should the change reasonably take?

At this juncture, be sure you don’t try to accomplish the impossible (e.g., I want to lose 15 pounds in the next two weeks.). Help the selected change to become a habit. This means conscious repetition, tracking progress, and making modest alterations when it makes sense to do so.

Very important: When everything comes together and you judge yourself to be successful, remember to reward yourself. The reward should not involve eating some “forbidden” food but should be something that is meaningful to your happiness. I buy a book I would like to add to my home library or, maybe, plan a short trip somewhere.

However, let’s suppose you don’t hit your timetable or, maybe, you
failed altogether. First, don’t beat yourself up. Remember to have some self-compassion. It’s unrealistic to expect you can form new habits in a limited amount of time. Use the trial as a learning experience, and ask yourself, “What, specifically, got in the way of success? What can you do differently next time?”

This self-reflection process may take a few hours, but it can pay off in the end. It was well worth it for me when I think of the progress I’ve made. Certainly, I’ve failed a few times, but all-in-all, after five years of consistent effort (with some embarrassing to admit rides off the rails), I’ve done well enough to lose the weight I wanted to lose and stopped taking medications I wound up not needing.

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