Following on from my last blog where I shared how ‘you are not what you eat’, in this blog I want to share with you three different health promoting behaviours, that you can implement and build on for yourself to grow your own knowledge and learning around, to see if focusing on these behaviours, rather than weight loss might bring you more joy and contentment in your everyday life.

Watch the video here or read on below:

1 – Focussing on feelings

So, being successful with lifestyle changes, does require you, in my opinion, to focus on your feelings more so than your weight loss. You’ve heard me say this once too many times, I expect at this stage, but we need to learn how to use positive thinking, positive language, and learn new strategies for how we adapt and how we focus on our changes and how we support ourselves as doing that, because it gets pretty boring in the middle. There’s lots of times where you’re in the middle of a lifestyle change and then something happens or you just get bored of it. And you just want to throw all the toys out of the pram and get back to the other way because the other way is way nicer or it feels way better in the short term.

So, what I suggest, if you’re going to adopt this change or if you’re going to start thinking differently and allow yourself to connect in with how you are feeling. My advice is to resource yourself up right now so that you can think about things in a different way. Let’s think about this. If you wake up in the morning and the first thought in your head is how you didn’t eat properly the day before or you didn’t get for your run the day before or you think about how much you have to do. Well, you’re already setting your nervous systems up for a poor start. We’re pushing that threat button and we’re already on alarm. 

I read a great book last year, that came recommended by a friend. It was a short book, Anxiety is Really Strange by Steve Haines. In it, he was talking about how our brain wakes up in the morning for two things – safety and fuel. So, remember our brain takes up 25% of the fuel that we eat in any given day. If you’ve set that threat button on the very first thought than you’ve woken up not feeling very safe and therefore your food choice might change, your response to other people might not be as nice as you’d like it to be. You’re already in that fight or flight mode. You’re irritable, stressed and you’re reacting rather than responding. Remember also, if those thoughts are about food as well, that you didn’t do good enough yesterday. That you’re not good enough because you didn’t eat properly, then the two things that the brain wants – the food and the safety – are affected.  

So, how are you going to learn to stop that? What we have to do is engage in some way to remind ourselves when we get out of bed in the morning, that we need to reframe how we’re thinking. So, here’s my suggestion. When you get out of your bed, you put your two feet on the ground, and even for three seconds, it doesn’t have to be five minutes. It doesn’t have to be 20 minutes. Just for three seconds, throw your hand on your heart and remind yourself that you’ve got your back all day long. Because let’s face it, all of us are busy. All of us are struggling to come out of that busy-ness and go slower.

I know when I was completely overwhelmed, I found it really hard to even engage and to understand what this concept meant. So, there’s lots of things I could tell you about how to look after yourself. I could say, don’t skip your meals throughout the day. Make sure you get your protein, your fat and your carbs in. I could tell you all of these things, but what I really want to say to you is that the one thing you could do for yourself in the morning so that you kick start the day in a way that is much more positive and much kinder to yourself, is throw your hand on your heart and say to yourself, “I’ve got my back today”. Give yourself some praise for the small wins because to be honest, at the end of the day, we’re always most proud of our own achievements.

I know recently when I won the award for Network Ireland, I went into it thinking, why would I bother doing this? But when I walked away with the award and when I received lots of feedback from so many people, suddenly, I was very proud of the work that I have done to get it. So, you need to give yourself that praise. Starting off with reminding yourself that you’ve got your back. Be kind, be gentle with yourself and ask yourself, “how do I really want to think in any given day”? Do I want to set my threat button today? Or do I want set my safety button? And if you want to set your safety button, just remind yourself every morning how much you’re changing and what you’re doing.

 2 – Think creatively

So, the next point that we’re going to talk about is creativity. Creativity with how we think about things. 

I was driving the other day on a road that I regularly drive. This road is known for people driving, really, really fast and lots of people have been really worried because something’s going to happen at some point. Maybe somebody will get injured or worse, God forbid. So, when I drove that road recently and saw that speed bumps have been put in place, I thought, oh my God, that’s it. That’s what we need to do for ourselves!

So often, we are just driving so fast through our daily lives that we don’t stop and take a moment.

When the advertisements come out, ‘get your body beach ready’, ‘lose ten pounds in ten days’, or ‘It’s a New Year, New You’, we just follow the “trends” and sign up to try the latest thing without taking that pause to think, “is this really a good fit for me?”  

What you need are some speed bumps in the way, that make you slow down and really consider what you are doing. To do this, you need to discover for yourself what your speed bumps are. For instance, what could you say to yourself or what question could you ask yourself when you see these types of advertisements? Could you say to yourself, “well I’ve tried this for the last X many years of my life and it hasn’t worked for me. So, no thank you. I’m not going to buy into your media marketing this time. I’m actually going to float my own boat and see what I can do on my terms”. 

These new health promoting behaviours, that we talk about, these are ideas that are going to bring you into feeling and recognizing what really works for you. Part of this connection and engagement to these new ideas ,is helping to stop and to let go of some of the old behaviours that we’ve engaged in for many reasons. Whether we’ve been taught in education, whether we’ve grown up with it in our family, whether we see our peers doing it. For lots of reasons, we get stuck in the same old action time and time again and we’re here now to put some speed bumps in the way, so that you can actually take a new road and you can decide for yourself what road that is.

So, look at the behaviours that have kept you stuck. What is your inner critic saying to you all the time? Does it tell you that you’ve failed, that you’re lazy or you’re not successful. What if we were to challenge that and say, “actually, I am very dedicated to get this far and I am persistent and I work really hard”. Our inner voice loves to tell us what we haven’t done right but it really does not want to tell us what we do well. And we have to really work hard. We have to put our own speed bumps in the road, so that we stop, take stock, look at our performance, look at that original thought and use it to transform our conclusion. Use it to think differently about ourselves.

That will inspire us. That will motivate us. And that will allow us to get further to that dream or that goal that we are thinking of. So, what is it that you’re dreaming of? What do you really, really want? Do you really want to feel happy in yourself, so that you can get up and you can walk into a room and you can feel worthy and you can feel present and you can feel content? Or do you really just want to lose a few pounds? Ask the question. It’s a new approach. Get creative with how you think about things.

3 – Find your people

And my final point this month is one I think every woman knows. It’s that when you have a better relationship with people around you, it brings you deep joy and happiness. I know after coming out of COVID where I didn’t see many of my friends for a long time, I was actually struggling to get back into the every day, the natter and the chatter about life. Instead, I slowly did it one step at a time as it truly does bring me great joy and happiness to have great people in my life to share things, to laugh, to support each other. We know that having good relationships with people is really, really important for our mental well-being. It helps reduce our stress levels and it actually helps improve our digestive ability. Think about this, much of our eating takes place in a social context. How we eat, who we with, and when we eat, it’s all impacted by the people around us. 

But, what happens when we decide that we want to eat in a different way? What is it that happens within us? We kind of feel a little bit upset or it can be hard to say, “oh, I’m on the diet again.” What we need to do or what we need to think about is to eat in a way that we feel confident and to create connections with people who build us up. So, a first step for you if you’re choosing to eat in another way, that is not really there for the purpose of losing weight is that you lean into those people that you really, really have a great connection with. And you allow yourself to be very vulnerable and say to them, “I am not on a diet. I am choosing to eat this way because it makes me feel better. My body, my being is not measured by what I eat.”

This is an example of the type of language that you could use when you’re having that discussion with people around you. So, as much as your relationship with your friends is really, really important for your wellbeing, your relationship with yourself is as important. And we need to support ourselves in that. When it comes to talking to our friends or family, none of us ever connect with them about food really, do we? They are not connecting to you because they think it’s great that you’re denying yourself your food. 

We all really just connect with people because we love them. We connect with them because we enjoy their company. We connect with them because they make us feel better. We don’t connect with them because of their body size. So, the first step I always think is about being vulnerable enough to show up and to stand up and say, “here’s what my body is like. And here’s how I want to be. As I take this new approach, as I’ve gotten creative with how I want to do things, as I’ve let go of the weight loss, as I’ve embraced more of the health promoting behaviours, here’s how I want to show up. And I’d like you as my friends to be here beside me”.

Don’t focus on the weighing scales

When we think about embracing health promotion behaviours, it should be just like brushing our hair in the morning or brushing our teeth because these are things that we need to do to support our body, to prevent disease, to allow us to live this life that we hear about, this optimal health, vitality, and energy, and all of that. 

Let’s go back to the weight loss. Short term food restrictions impacts your blood sugars. You will see an initial drop in weight. You might even notice an impact on your cholesterol, but if they worked we would have seen in the science and the evidence by now that these are manageable and these are efficient ways of supporting that. Think about what I mentioned earlier, yes in dieting, you have probably brought more vegetables into the mix. You’ve probably started moving more and they are all 100% positive ways of influencing your health. So, rather than focusing on when you feel crap in the middle of it – remember, I’ve always said this it gets boring in the middle. Rather than focusing on the weighing scales, how about you focus on all the things that you have done and try and encourage yourself, not to feel bad if you slip up for a day? 

Every meal is a new opportunity

Every meal is a new opportunity. It is the single most responded to sentence that I’ve gotten from all of my clients. Every meal is a new opportunity. So when you’re thinking that when you embrace your diet you’re doing it because you want to lose weight, come back to think about it like, “I’m embracing foods and changes in what I eat because it is influencing my blood sugars. It is influencing my cholesterol. But I’m doing it in a way that I can sustain this for a longer period”. So, it’s a much healthier way of thinking about things because there will be times that we slip up. There will be times that we fall off the wagon. There will be times when we plain rebel against the whole notion of eating in this way because that’s just human nature.

When this happens I want you to stop and ask yourself, “what am I measuring my success on?” Every meal is a new opportunity and what am I really measuring my success by? Is it an external metric? Or is it an internal feeling? Challenge your brain with really clever questions and focus on things that bring you enjoyment, focus on food that brings you enjoyment as opposed to food that don’t. And spend your time with people who really encourage and inspire you to eat in a way that makes you feel better, not punishes you for how your body is or isn’t in their eyes.

So, that is my focus on health and wellbeing for this month. Health promoting behaviours, things that you can do, that are not just tick off a meal plan and be more organized and get out for another walk. These are some ideas that are going to help you to reframe how you think, help you to adopt new approaches, change things up, create on speed bumps and encourage yourself with creativity. Notice your performance, be around people who lift you up and above all else make food fun. Encourage yourself to have that nice relationship with food that allows you to enjoy the feeling that it brings as opposed to making you feel guilty for what you haven’t done. Check out my other blog ‘How to Get Healthy; But What Does Healthy Mean For You’ for more tips.