13 obstacles to a healthy lifestyle and how to overcome them
With some planning, knowledge and support, you can move past common obstacles and towards a healthy lifestyle.
I’m too tired to work out. Eating healthy is too expensive. I’m so busy, I don’t have time to cook my own meals. I don’t know where to begin. I’ll start on Monday.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably used or heard one of those excuses when faced with a goal to eat better and/or exercise more. And you probably had trouble sticking to your healthy lifestyle. There are many common obstacles you may come up against as you start to make changes. However, a bit of planning, knowledge and support can move you past them and toward a healthy lifestyle. Below are 13 common obstacles along with tips to overcome them.
I don’t have time
Eating healthy and exercising requires time. With so much to do and so little time to do it, things can easily slip through the cracks. This is one area where multitasking can come in handy. Weaving relationships into an active lifestyle allows you to nurture two priorities into one time slot.
Typically, relationships are built and maintained by gathering around food and alcohol. Instead, consider this:
- Date nights can become date rides where you and your partner get out on your bicycles.
- Family day can include a five-kilometre run/walk for charity, miniature golf or a scavenger hunt.
- Friendships can be centred around a hike or fitness class.
- Even your spiritual relationship can combine prayer and meditation with a walk in nature.
I don’t have any support
It might even feel like the people in your life are sabotaging your efforts. You start a new diet and your co-worker shows up with bagels, brownies or birthday cake. You are disciplined all week and your sister calls to invite you out for ice cream or happy hour. You start a cleanse and your partner decides to make homemade jerky. Those closest to you can be your biggest support or they can sabotage your efforts without even knowing it.
The best thing you can do to gain support is to tell the people you interact with most often the reason why you are making changes towards a healthier lifestyle. It could be due to a personal or family health scare, to have more energy for your child/grandchild/pet, or it could simply be that you want to look good for an event such as a wedding, reunion or holiday.
Whatever your reason, when you tell people why you want to be healthy, they are more prepared to rally around you and even hold you accountable.
When we choose not to tell people why we are making changes, they can feel threatened. You are changing and they may feel that your relationship will suffer. Reassure them that while your goal is indeed to change, you still care for them and want to spend time with them. Ask them for suggestions of activities they would enjoy with you that don’t centre on food.
I just want to do this on my own
Sometimes you are not looking for support. You want to keep your healthy lifestyle to yourself until people notice your results. This is a sure-fire way to fail. Even if you have strong willpower and self-discipline, it’s hard to make changes on your own without support and accountability. You weren’t meant to do life alone. Friends and family can be your biggest supporters and accountability partners if you let them. They will cheer for you over victories and encourage you when you feel like giving up. Again, the key is communication. Tell your close circle of friends and family why you are doing this and ask for their help. They may help with meal planning or finding alternative activities. They may even join you. At the very least, they will no longer unknowingly sabotage you.
I’m too tired
Sometimes the obstacle in your way is fatigue. Life gets so busy you start to skip your workouts. If you haven’t planned ahead, you are too tired to cook and it’s easy to order a pizza or other quick takeaway meal. While these foods aren’t necessarily right or wrong, they do contain more salt and sugar and fat than the food you cook at home. Lack of exercise and the wrong foods can add to your fatigue.
This obstacle requires a closer look at the source of your fatigue. Are you sleeping at night? Is your calendar too full? Are you rising early and staying up late? Are you on medications that might be causing drowsiness? How much caffeine is in your system? Is something you are eating causing your tiredness? (Think turkey at Christmas.) When was the last time you took a holiday?
Sleep and nutrition are so underestimated when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. The first step will be to assess your sleep. Can you go to bed early or sleep late? Can you take a nap? Can you cut back on caffeine? What are your bedtime routines for winding down and relaxing? As you bring more sleep into your life, next take a look at your nutrition. You’ll be surprised how effective home cooking is with your energy levels. As sleep and nutrition improve, you’ll find you feel less tired for your workouts, which will give you more energy.
I’m too stressed
Stress shows up in our life on a daily basis. It comes from major life events such as the death of a loved one, marriage, divorce, job promotion or job loss as well as the cumulative build-up of everyday frustrations from living your life. You work hard; it’s important that you make time to play and rest, too.
Start by monitoring your days so you don’t burn the candle at both ends. Learn to say no to things that don’t align with your priorities. Guard your calendar as if your life depended on it. Your health certainly does.
Finally, find a way to bring more balance to your life with meditation, walks in nature, play and just plain fun.
It’s too boring
If a healthy lifestyle is not fun for you, you just might be doing it wrong. Exercise can involve something you love, whether that’s cycling, skiing, yoga, volleyball or kayaking. Don’t know what it is you enjoy? What did you love to do as a child? Do that.
Healthy meals at home can also be fun with family and friends. Buffet style works great for an all-inclusive meal where guests can make and build their own. You could do grain or salad bowls, tacos, shish kebabs or soups and stews. They all start with a vegetable base and participants can add their choice of protein, potatoes, rice, beans, lentils, quinoa etc! Even burgers, chips and pizza can be made with less fat, salt and dairy and more vegetables, herbs and spices.
Healthy food doesn’t taste as good
Do you remember your first cup of coffee? How about your first drink of alcohol? Did you love it? Chances are you had to acquire a taste for it over time. Your taste buds get accustomed to what you eat. If you drink coffee or eat sugar and salt daily, that’s what you’re in the habit of reaching for and that’s what your taste buds are used to. You can just as easily train your palate — and your mind — to like the taste of healthy food. And it doesn’t have to be bland or boring. There are some amazing herbs and seasoning that can tantalise your taste buds.
But I’ll lose all my friends
The threat of losing your relationships because of your desire to live a healthy lifestyle boils down to two social dilemmas: people pleasing and food bullying.
People pleasing is about you. Peer pressure is about others being a food bully. If you are a people pleaser you say Yes when you want to say No. You are more worried about social expectations and disappointing others than you are of disappointing yourself. So, you go along with whatever is suggested and cave into comments and suggestions such as:
- Would you like another helping?
- I made this just for you.
- Skipping one workout won’t matter.
- Join us for happy hour.
- You’re no fun any more.
At the end of the day, you have to face yourself in the mirror and ponder whether you were true to you. Remember, you can say No politely and firmly with a smile on your face. Let people know that what they are offering doesn’t fit in with your current goals. You can even turn things around by calmly and kindly asking your loved one why your food choices are so important to them.
Food bullies want you do what they’re doing and eat what they eat. It validates their lifestyle choices. Remember, people are uncomfortable with change, which is the one thing you are trying to embrace. Communication is critical. Explain your reasons for wanting to live a healthier lifestyle, reassure them, be firm and offer another option to nurture the relationship.
I’m too social
Some jobs require networking and social events that revolve around food. It may be dinner with clients or a mixer after work. Manoeuvring this obstacle requires planning, preparation and decision-making. Decide ahead of time to skip alcohol, appetisers or dessert. Review the menu and make a plan to choose the healthiest option ahead of time when you are not hungry. For the networking events, eat your healthy meal in advance and ask for water with a slice of lime or a cherry while you mingle.
I don’t know where to start
It can be overwhelming to start something new. Maybe you assume you have to go from couch potato to CrossFit competitor overnight. That is why so many New Year’s resolutions fail by February. You bite off more than you can chew, try to change everything all at once and fizzle out before making progress.
The key is to start small and build in smaller habits that you can do with consistency. Maybe for you, it’s five minutes of daily walking. Or taking one lunch hour to exercise each week. You could cut back on caffeine, sugar or sodium. You could add in a weekly family dinner where you make a healthier version of your favourite meal. Small habits done with consistency are the key to starting and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.
It’s too expensive
Have you ever added up what you spend on food, snacks, supplements and drinks on a daily basis? It can be a real eye-opener. Take the next two weeks and write down everything you buy and consume. Include groceries, coffee, energy drinks, sports supplements, vending machine snacks, even popcorn at the movies. Calculate what you are spending on a daily basis. Then ask yourself, “Are my purchases supporting my desire for a healthier lifestyle?” Healthier foods may be more expensive, but if they provide you with better nutrients, you’ll find you have more energy and fewer cravings for junk food. You may even experience greater productivity in your work and less time off due to illness.
Gym memberships can be expensive, but exercise and moving your body don’t require a gym. You can walk, run, bike, ski or swim with minimal equipment. A TRX suspension trainer is a great tool you can buy as a one-off and reap the benefits long-term. YouTube can help you with tips on body weight exercise that you can do anywhere, such as pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and lunges. If you are completely lost or a beginner, find a local personal trainer. Ask if they have a special offer where they show you how to get started and then give you exercises to continue with on your own.
But I deserve a reward
You’ve been good all week and you think, Just one bickie. One beer. A burger. What you deserve is to feel good in your body, your clothes and your health. You deserve to relax, exercise and eat well. Your body is a temple. Fuel it. Explore alternative ways to reward yourself such as a massage, a new outfit or a trip to visit friends or family. These make a great goal and reward after a successful month of healthy living.
I’ll wait till Monday. Or New Year’s Eve. Or when I’m older. The best time to make changes toward a healthier lifestyle is now. Someone in your life is counting on you, whether it’s your partner, child, parent, co-worker or best friend (including the four-legged ones). Maybe, you counting on you. You desire to live your best, healthiest life with freedom in your body, your clothes and your life.
You don’t have to wait. You can start today. This very moment to make small, consistent change toward a healthier lifestyle. Grab a glass of water and hydrate your cells. Take a few minutes to stretch or get outside for a walk. Even five minutes can make a difference. Set the alarm for earlier and start tomorrow with movement and meditation. Remember, a healthy lifestyle is lived with small habits done consistently over time.
You are worth it.