Stop Jumping Life Boats, Anchor Yourself in 3 Principles
Meditation before bed. Kombucha. Essential oils. Hot water with lemon and Himalayan sea salt in the morning. Keto, Whole30, Paleo, Atkins. Hack your health in 5 easy steps.
…or, save yourself the agony and root yourself in these foundational principles:
Acceptance, Commitment, and Community.
As humans, we inherently possess the capability for these qualities. We are not meant to diet our way to a healthier life. That’s why dieting feels so hard, causes so much stress, and fails 95% of people.
Hacks don’t work, either. Social media, motivational speakers, and even many health coaches writing articles and producing podcasts have created a current trend in self-care that funnels people toward one thing they can do to improve their physical or psychological health. That one thing changes about every 6 weeks. How are we supposed to keep up?
Putting peppermint oil in your coffee or starting your morning with cayenne peppered hot water is one thing. Telling people it’s the one thing they need to improve their life is absurd. Sure, there may be attention and clarity benefits from peppermint oil, and hot water with various additives has been suspected to aid digestion. Most importantly, if those things make you feel healthier, they are benefiting you at least from a psychological standpoint. The danger comes when we start believing that any one thing is the key to better health.
Why is this belief dangerous? Our society, which has been battered for years with messages shaping unhealthy habits (fast food culture, thin-obsessed media, fat-shaming pediatrics, to name a few), is desperate for reversal of our major health crisis. We are always searching and grasping, searching and grasping. Hence, when we decide to try a new ‘hack’ or diet, we dive into it like a life boat. The catch is that the shore never gets closer, and new life boats spring up all around us at an impossible rate, begging for our attention. The promising options are endless but the fact remains the same: we are still stuck out in our sea of unhealthy habits, beating ourselves up because we wish we weren’t out there, and jumping to the next lifeboat. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
‘Hacks’ and diets don’t work. If there was one thing that could carry us all to optimal health, the secret would have been out centuries ago. Science has repeatedly suggested that restricting the objects of your undesired habits won’t help you make a sustainable change, and latching onto one new ‘good’ habit won’t get you there either. If you want another perspective on hack culture, check out this article.
So, what now? The outlook seems grim – we’re still out at sea, and now all of our life boats have been invalidated.
If there is one thing I’ve learned through being an accountability coach for 7 women in our Lean in 2019 Challenge, it’s this: people who want to improve their health don’t need hacks. They need to embrace 3 principles: acceptance, community, and commitment.
Acceptance: Start progressing from where you are, not where you wish you were. Accept the tendencies you don’t like by acknowledging that you have them. Write down everything you eat in a day. Write down how your choices make you feel. You may not like how it looks, but at least it’s the truth. Think about where you want to be, and accept the gap. Lay out what you need to do to bridge that gap.
Community: Ask for help, ask for ideas, trust someone – a coach, a family member, or a friend – with both your truth and your goal. Sustainable change doesn’t often happen when you’re the only one involved. We are both too easy and too hard on ourselves at different points, and because we lack the ability to be objective, we can get lost in that gap and swept back to believing that our current truth is our forever truth. There are two major reasons people quit their gym memberships: lack of relationship-building, and lack of accountability. Seek community.
Commitment: Commit first to the acceptance. Reflect daily on your choices (I suggest writing them down) and how they make you feel. Then, commit to your community, to accountability with others. Commit to trying to bridge one part of the gap. Commit to the day at hand, accepting when you fall short and knowing that change is a PROCESS. Commit to every day and be present in it. Looking out over the chasm won’t get you there. Committing to the process each day will.
— Coach Emily