We live in a world of quick fixes and instant gratification. I say we because that includes you and me. The fact that I’m writing this article and you are reading it says that we are at least aware of this and perhaps even want to make some changes.
There are millions of diets, fitness programs, meditation apps out there claiming to instantly trim your waistline, improve your cholesterol, and instantly make you happy.
The younger me was easily convinced by these claims and found myself purchasing fat loss pills that made me feel neurotic and exercise machines that started collecting dust within days. Maybe it was user error but more than that it was false hope.
Our health is our greatest wealth and although we all want great health it’s not something to be taken for granted nor is it something we are entitled to. It takes time, effort, and energy.
Health is not a sprint to the finish line. It’s a marathon.
I’m beginning to hear the conversation shift in the health and wellness industry, albeit slowly.
It’s shifting from quick fixes to sustainability. From fad diets to lifestyle. From 3 times a week to daily.
I’ve been on the service side of this industry for 20 years and the consuming side for even longer and I can honestly say I’m more excited than ever about the direction we’re heading in. We are on the brink of uncovering human potential that has lied dormant for centuries.
What is Sustainable Health?
I’ll preface my answer by saying that health is unique and individual which is why many fad diets and fitness programs don’t work for everyone.
Sustainable, by definition, means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level” … I’ll add to that “for an extended period of time”
Extended period of time is variable but in my opinion it is “ongoing” over the course of your life.
Is the 30-DAY challenge you’re participating in sustainable?
Probably not. That’s why it’s a challenge. Challenges aren’t designed to be sustainable, they are designed to kick your butt into gear. That’s why they work… Temporarily.
Unfortunately, most people go back to old habits and patterns weeks and sometimes days after ending a challenge.
Most challenges offer an integration plan, if not then don’t waste your money. You’ll end up frustrated, discouraged, and out of some cash.
How I Created sustainable health for myself
When I first started experimenting with the Paleo and Zone diets back in 2009, I was clear that I wanted to feel better and increase my energy levels. I was very strict about what I would eat, avoided gluten like the plague, and measured my meals. This lasted for a few months during which I felt the best I ever had. I also learned a lot about my relationship with food and what did and did not work for me.
I was motivated to continue feeling that, but the process of it all was time consuming and put a damper on my social life. Eventually I did away with the weighing and measuring and followed a plating approach.
It took nearly a year for me to no longer crave sugar and gluten and to create a new diet for myself. Nearly 10 years later I eat the same way and have even reintroduced dairy and gluten in small amounts.
Of course, I fluctuate at times, I’m human, but my diet and lifestyle are so intertwined with who I am at my core that I rarely have to think “should I or should I not eat this”, which makes for fairly easy choices anywhere I am. I can confidently say that in 10 years I’ll be eating and living fairly similar to how I am now.
That’s the power and potential of sustainable health.
How you can create sustainable health
There’s no magic pill or perfect recipe for sustainable health. (although “eat.move.meditate.” is close to perfect but that’s my biased opinion). So rather than searching outside for the answer search inside.
The key is to start with learning about the most important person in your wellbeing journey, YOURSELF. Rather than blindly following your friend, just take a moment to ask yourself if it’s the right path for you. Maybe it is, or maybe a variation of it is.
Here are 3 simple questions to ask yourself to make a more informed (and sustainable) choice about the right diet, program, coach, app, etc. for YOU.
- What long term health goal will this support me in achieving? I’m notorious for purchasing online courses, I guess I’m a sucker for a good sales pitch. My advice to you, before purchasing anything for your health ask yourself how it will support you. If you have any answer other than “I don’t know” then it’s fair game… move on to question 2. If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing then you’re not going to get where you want to go. Be honest with yourself. Also recognize if you’re doing it because everyone else, don’t just jump on the bandwagon or drink the Kool-Aid.
- Can I see myself following this in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? I know, I know. Such a cliché question that we’ve all been asked when it comes to professional and personal growth. But it’s an important one when creating sustainable health.
- Can I see myself following some variation of this in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? This is the goldmine question. Most likely your answer to question 2 will be “no, or even a hell no”. Like I said, challenges are designed to be rigorous, they push your limits, and show you that it can be done. They are embodied teachers that teach you what and how your body responds. It’s your responsibility to take those lessons and chose how you want to continue.
Sustainable health, aka long term change, doesn’t happen overnight… But small simple changes can and do happen overnight. One small change maintained at a certain rate or level done over an extended period of time creates sustainable health.
As always don’t just take my word for it. Go out there and try it for yourself. Report back in comments and let us know how it goes.
Ritu Riyat is an Silicon Valley Health Coach and Workplace Wellbeing Strategist. She writes about simple habits to support sustainable health through food, movement, and meditation. Download her free guide to a more mindful life.