When Should I Start My Health Transformation?
When contemplating a lifestyle change, we often get hung up on figuring out when is the best time to start. It seems that there’s never a “right time” to start. There’s always something coming up on our calendar that we perceive to be a barrier, so it seems like a good idea to wait until that event passes.
There isn’t a “right time”
Let’s be honest: There will always be a plethora of excuses not to start right away – I’m busy, I’m not in the right mindset, I don’t have support from my friends/family, I don’t have enough energy, etc. Those things are never going away. Even if you see a smooth stretch in your calendar that seems perfect for a new commitment, something will inevitably arise.
Our culture is obsessed with starting new behaviors on January 1, and the majority of New Year’s resolutions are related to health. Who hasn’t contemplated binging through the holidays followed by a last hurrah on New Year’s Eve, with a plan to get back on track in the New Year? According to a study in 2016, though, only 9% of those who make New Year’s resolutions felt that they were successful at the end of the year.
Making the change
It ultimately comes down to an issue of how badly you want to make a change. You are capable of moving mountains for the things that matter most to you. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Don’t wait for a crisis. The “perfect moment” doesn’t exist. You can either accept this reality now or learn this lesson the hard way . . . when you’re lying in a hospital bed. I have spent the past 2 decades taking care of thousands of patients in the hospital with life-altering events such as heart attacks or strokes – 99% of them associated with lifestyle and with plenty of warning signs such as obesity, pre-diabetes, etc. I can tell you with absolute certainty that every [reasonable] one of those individuals wishes that they had the opportunity to go back in time to fix their health to prevent such a potentially devastating event.
Stop thinking in terms of a quick fix. Adopt a new lifestyle…for good. Diets and exercise plans tend to be short-lived, because people rely too much on willpower to implement change. Developing new habits and lifestyles that don’t require motivation is the key to creating lasting changes.
Identify your “Why”. Clarify for yourself the reasons why you want to be healthy. What motivates you? Do you want to be able to travel? Do you want to remain independent and live in your own house for the rest of your life? Do you want to be physically active to play with your grandchildren? Do you want to walk your daughter down the aisle at her wedding?
Take care of your health today, in order that you may enjoy good health tomorrow. You have only one body, your one earthly vessel, and there’s only so much to do to slow the effects of aging. Every day you ignore your health is causing damage to your body – physical inactivity causes muscle loss, poor eating habits have potentially disastrous effects, etc. Invest in your long-term health now, and you will receive great dividends in the future.
Consistency is key. Skipping one meal won’t make you skinny; doing one workout won’t make you muscular. It took you years – decades, even – to get to where you are currently. It’s going to take some consistent effort for a reasonable period of time to bring you back to a healthy state.
Take advantage of a life event, such as a recent move. When habits are broken, a “window of opportunity” is created for behavior change. One may fortuitously discover a better way of doing things, or one may strategically use this situation to create behavior change. When there is a major habit disruption, such as a life event, these behavior interventions may be more effective. Thus, the best time for a behavioral change is when there is a big change in our lives, such as moving to a new home, rather than being based on the calendar. There appears to be a “window of opportunity” of 3 months from time of relocation to a new home in which behavior changes are more successful.
Surround yourself with good influences. They say you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Learn good habits from those who are already successful. Ultimately, become someone that others want around them.
Good health practices help everything else fall into place. For what it’s worth, I find the following to be true for myself: when I am in a habit of regular exercise, everything else in my life seems to go smoother. Even though I’m setting aside time to exercise, my busy schedule still gets more manageable. This benefit is likely a function of improved discipline and sharper focus.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy (quote). You have likely seen others document their amazing health transformations on social media, but that’s an n = 1. Your experience may, for many reasons, be quite different than for others.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Any effort is better than none at all. Being fixated on doing something perfectly may actually result in inaction. Avoid being too critical of yourself for not doing something “just right”. Writing these blog posts is a perfect example of this principle: I could beat myself up over making every sentence perfect, but results would be few and far between; instead, I aim to produce the highest quality material possible within the limited time available.
If you’re looking for the perfect time to start a transformation, you’re going about it all wrong.
Understand why you want to make a change and focus on the long game.