How many posts have you read with similar titles as this? "How I..." dropped 30 pounds by doing one simple exercise, trained for a marathon without ever leaving the house, completely changed my life by drinking ACV every morning.
Of course, these are ridiculous examples for the sake of illustration, but sometimes it can feel like everyone on the internet has a simple solution to whatever ails you, requiring little to no effort on your part. It may be tempting to try something new based on these claims, but unfortunately, this is just not how it works.
I recently saw someone posting in a workout-based Facebook group about how she lost a large amount of weight by following the exercise program that was prescribed in by the owner of the group. It seemed unlikely to me, based on what I know about the program, but she's not my client, and I'm not here to question strangers' posts or start pointing fingers online. However, others did and ultimately found out this person did lose the weight and she did follow the exercise program, BUT (and there's almost always a but) she also had changed her diet significantly at the same time.
Much like the saying, correlation does not imply causation, there are usually underlying factors at play when people experience stellar results with what appears to be only minor behavioral change. One of the most helpful visuals I've seen illustrates this using the example of germs being the underlying cause of both disease and bad smells - but disease does not cause bad smells and vise versa.
Going back to the weight loss example, this woman's weight loss was most likely due to a significant diet change, and her new exercise routine could have been caused by a newfound energy due to those dietary changes. The connection between the weight loss and workout routine was simply a correlation. One did not necessarily cause the other.
Does this make sense?
The point I'm getting at is you must take the things you see online with a grain of salt. Some of it may be click bait ("I did this amazing thing! Now buy a product from me."), while others may not be intentionally misleading (the average person may not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of something like weight loss if he/she isn't trained to know how diet, exercise, mindset, our genes, etc. relate to one another).
Now, back to my headline. All three are actually true - but the method was not miraculous in any way. In all three instances of giving up soda, meat and dairy, I did the following:
1. Determined my "why." This one is simple. Why do you want to <insert your goal here>? If you don't have a reason or your motivation is coming from somewhere external, there's a good chance you won't stick with it. But if you truly know your "why," every decision moving forward should move you closer to where you want to be. For me? I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2012. While food is not the cause of this autoimmune disease, nor is a diet change going to eliminate it, certain foods can cause flare-ups. Every person is different, so it was important to me to find what made me feel better. Note, this is what worked for me and not a recommendation for you. Always talk to your doctor or a Registered Dietitian to find what might be right for you and your unique situation.
2. Started small. Those three changes were pretty significant based on my previous habits and were made over the course of five years. I started with soda because it has no nutritional value and was something I relied heavily on daily. After I felt pretty comfortable with this change and confident in my ability to introduce a second new habit, only then did I become a vegetarian and eventually an ovo-vegetarian (AKA a vegetarian that eats eggs but not dairy). When you have a goal and find your "why," then you can begin to implement small changes that will eventually lead to larger transformations.
3. Forgave myself. This one might have you scratching your head, but one of the things I often talk about with clients is the "all or nothing" mentality. I won't get into that too much in this post, but it's easy to have a misstep, beat yourself up incessantly and then quit altogether. As with anything in life, it's okay to make mistakes. Repeat it with me... It's okay to make mistakes. Missed a workout? Start back up tomorrow. Ate something that made you feel crappy? Learn from that and plan a nutritious meal for later in the day. The negative self-talk is getting you nowhere and, in fact, can limit your potential. Instead, tell yourself it's okay and move on. You are human, after all.
Now that I'm 800 words in to what started as a "quick post" about introducing new habits one at a time, let's recap:
Don't be fooled by food or exercise programs that seem too good to be true. They probably are. Instead, find a coach (hi, I can help you with this!) to talk through your goals, break them down into manageable steps and provide you ongoing support as you learn to navigate through the highs and lows of your wellness journey.