I’m going to tell you something that you already know. It’s something that I’m sure you’ve all experienced first hand.
Change is hard.
And you know what changes are especially hard? Health changes. Doing something that may be unpleasant or unfavorable in the short term to benefit you in the long term. We all know that we’re supposed to eat healthy, but if given the choice, most people would still choose the dessert or chips over the steamed broccoli. Whether it’s losing weight, eating healthier, becoming more physically fit, quitting smoking, becoming a better self-manager of a condition, or any other positive health change, even getting to the point of change is hard, let alone taking action. But these changes are worth the struggle.
Making health changes and sticking with them require a certain amount of motivation and confidence. You have to have the desire to change, but also the confidence that you can stick with it. It helps to have not only an end goal, but also a deeper value that your change is helping you live up to.
If making a health change wasn’t hard enough, it’s likely you’re going to face obstacles that try to undermine your resolve and your progress. It could be in the form of tempting situations, circumstances that are out of your control, or even people who intentionally or unintentionally sabotage your best efforts.
Alright, I’m going to take this out of the abstract and get personal. About a week and a half ago I decided to start a new fitness and nutrition program. That decision was immediately met with skepticism and opposition, mostly by those close to me. What they thought was maybe supportive behavior could be seen as the opposite.
“You don’t need to lose weight, you’re beautiful just as you are.”
“You already know how to eat healthy, what’s that program going to tell you that you don’t already know?”
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the intent of these comments, they come from a very loving place, but in terms of the decision I already made, they weren’t quite the types of supportive statements I was looking for.
My motivation for joining the program was about more than purely losing weight. I joined the program because when I pulled on my fall clothes, I noticed that my pants were getting harder to button and my shirts weren’t fitting the way they were last year. I joined the program because I was getting a lot of stomach aches and wanted to feel better. I joined the program because I thought that changing my diet to be filled with more unprocessed, healthy foods with less carbs would help me stabilize my blood sugars and maybe be just the change I need to finally get my A1c out of the 7’s. And ultimately with more stabilized blood sugars, I can help reduce my risk for future complications, a worry that is always lingering in the back of my mind. For me, my decision is about way more than just losing weight, but you don’t always have 5 minutes to explain your motivations when you’re turning down a piece of birthday cake or a drink at the bar. But whatever your reason, recognize that you’re doing something great for yourself and that’s what really matters.
If someone is on a journey of personal growth or health, our job isn’t to test their discipline, or to make assumptions about their reasons for wanting to change. People’s reasons are often personal and complex. Instead, our job is to support them and be there for them however they see fit. And if you aren’t sure how to best support them, ask. Maybe they need someone to hold them accountable, maybe they need a person to vent to, or maybe the best way you can support them is by keeping quiet. But the only way to know is to ask. A simple conversation helped to turn my skeptics into strong supporters who now understand my deeper motivation and reasons for my health changes.
Change is hard. Let’s all be part of what makes change possible rather than what stands in its way.