How to raise your health esteem
Amber spent most of her junior year losing weight and getting in shape by working out and watching her diet. She had been meaning to do it since sophomore year, but something always got in her way. Whether it was cramming for an exam or working her part-time job at Starbucks, she could never find the time to focus on her needs. When she could no longer button her used-to-be-too-big jeans, Amber knew this was her time—junior year was going to be her year! And it was, until her work schedule changed unexpectedly late in the year and schoolwork demanded all of her remaining waking hours. After all, she had to keep her grades up if she wanted to hold on to her scholarship. Amber slowly began to feel as if all of her efforts to live a healthier lifestyle were going down the drain. She could no longer exercise at her usual early morning time and by evening she was too exhausted to even see straight let alone step on the treadmill. Sitting down to a healthy breakfast seemed like a luxury she could no longer afford, so doughnuts became her new reality, if she ate breakfast at all! Amber quickly started feeling like she was back at square one as the pounds began to creep back on. Now, not only is she ten pounds heavier than she was a year ago, her self-esteem is lower than it’s ever been—and worse—her belief that she can actually achieve and maintain a healthier body, or her “Health Esteem”, has all but vanished.
Do you see yourself in Amber? Your intentions are pure—you really do want to make better choices for your health—but then this thing called “college” gets in the way.
Do you find yourself getting discouraged when you fall short of your weight loss goals? Or even worse, regain your lost weight? Ouch. How can you expect to be motivated to get back on that horse when you are still holding on to the false belief that you are a failure? Relax! Here are two simple steps you can take to pull yourself out of that downward spiral of dieting doom and raise your health esteem to new heights!
Step 1: BELIEVE
You must believe you can make better choices for your body, otherwise why would you even try? This “buy in” occurs when you see the change as doable. For example, challenging yourself to eat three cups of vegetables, two cups of fruit and three servings of whole grains each day is unrealistic if you don’t even know what a whole grain is and consider pickles, ketchup and French fries to be perfectly suitable vegetable choices.
Let’s turn this around and focus on one challenge per month! Consider that it takes approximately twenty-one days to build a habit. So tackle one at a time! For example, for the next three weeks, set a goal to eat one cup of vegetables each day. This can be in the form of salads, raw veggies with hummus dip, or vegetable soup!
Imagine the health impact over time as you start to replace your usual side order of French fries with baby carrots, broccoli and red pepper strips!
If you want some real measurable results, track your progress! Who doesn’t love placing a checkmark or star next to an accomplished goal? It just makes you feel good! You can track your goals using your Smartphone (I like GoalTracker), a spreadsheet on your computer or on a piece of paper.
Step 2: Think abundance vs. scarcity
This is a biggie! As humans, we do not like to be told we can’t have something (French fries, cookies, chocolate, etc.) or that we can only have so much of something (calories, ounces, servings, etc.) Funny, isn’t this exactly what we look for when choosing a diet? Give me limits! Forbid me of my favorite foods please! We ask for limits, however when we restrict calories or put the proverbial “Red X” on our favorite foods (or on any food for that matter), our natural reaction is to rebel and eat more! We even find ourselves dreaming of the forbidden “Red X” fruit. It becomes, well, sexy.
This might seem like such an inconsequential point, but it is the core of any life-long quest for wellness. Just like sex, food is power. But it doesn’t have to be. It becomes power when we see it as bad or forbidden. Be careful of your food language. Do you speak in terms of scarcity or abundance? As soon as you utter any of these words you automatically place food on a pedestal and assign it power:
- “Don’t eat ___________”
- “Eat only ___________”
- “Limit yourself to ______________”
Your brain processes these statements as negative and when that happens…watch out! You will soon transition to rebel-mode and find yourself obsessing over the food like a sexed up stalker. You don’t mean to; you can’t help it!
When you focus on abundance, a whole new world unfolds:
- “Eat at least 2 cups of vegetables each day”
- “Find a way to fit in a serving or two of fruit each day”
- “Eat oatmeal!”
- “Eat chocolate!”
You are giving yourself freedom to eat, not imposing restrictions on what or how much you should eat. Do you see the difference?
The journey to a fit body begins with your level of health esteem. Do you believe you are worthy of good health? Do you believe you can achieve it? Be kind to yourself. Watch your self-talk. Shift your thinking to abundance instead of scarcity and you will find that food really isn’t that sexy after all!