healthy (er)The Problem with Denial

“Lie still,” the radiation tech told me, “and whatever you do, try not to swallow!” Dread built in me as the motor on the CT scanner whirred and I slowly slid into the tube. The tech’s warning to not swallow immediately made me swallow convulsively. Again, and again. My mouth went dry and I struggled to produce saliva for a surreptitious swallow. I hoped that the tiny swallows wouldn’t completely mess up the CT scan, because I never wanted to experience this again.

“All done now,” the tech chirped as he pushed a button and I slid out of the tube. “You ok?” the tech asked as I gasped and shuddered.

“Yeah. I think so.” I swung my legs over the side of the gurney and asked, “What happens if I swallow when I’m in there?”

“Oh, nothing bad,” he said. “We just tell people that to help them stay as still as possible.”

“I don’t think it worked,” I assured him. “All I could do was think about how badly I needed to swallow and I ended up swallowing more often than normal.”

Denial doesn't produce lasting changes. Forming new habits does. Click To Tweet

Healthy (er) Living

That experience has stayed with me. When someone tells us NOT do something, our immediate reaction involves the impulse to do what they told us not to do. In my own journey towards physical wholeness, I strive to maintain balance and a positive attitude.healthy (er)

Instead of telling myself that I have to ‘be healthy,’ I tell myself that I want to make healthy (er) choices. I don’t need to eat clean, go paleo, excise carbs, and run six miles a day. I try to eat more fruits and vegetables. When I bake, I sneak in healthier ingredients. I try to eat balanced meals in sensible portions. Your body adjusts to long runs and they stop providing a benefit.

Remember that your journey to wholeness requires balance. Although I enjoy using apps, gadgets, and gizmos to keep me on track, long-term change happens when we gradually form healthy (er) habits. Let me explain what I mean by healthy (er).

I think that most Americans have the awareness of what they need to do to be healthy: stop smoking, quit drinking, eat less, exercise more, stress less, cut out excess sugars and fats, sleep more. But that mountain of habits formed over a lifetime. A month-long tsunami of change will only shift the mountain, not flatten it out.

I want to live more healthfully, but I want the changes to last. If I make extreme changes, I probably won’t sustain them because I’ll feel as if I have deprived myself. Logic tells me that I need to gradually work on reforming habits—not perform an extreme makeover. Thus, I choose to be healthy (er). ‘Healthy’ sounds like something a perfect person does. I make no claims to perfection or having everything figured out. Healthy (er), on the other hand, feels doable.

Ten Ways to Sneak Healthy (er) Habits into Your Lifestyle

These ten tips have helped me make and sustain gradual changes in my journey to physical wholeness.

1. Park in the back 40. My kids used to groan every time I’d park at the end of the parking lot a half a block from the store entrance. I explained to them that we didn’t have to waste time driving around looking for an empty spot.

2. Take the stairs (I accidentally typed ‘stares’ at first—which works, too. Especially when you hike up the stairs at the airport carrying a suitcase). If you wear a Fitbit, it will turn into a game.

3. Drink 8 ounces of water about a half an hour before each meal. We often confuse hunger and thirst.

4. Get up and move every hour. Sitting is the new smoking.

5. Replace your desk chair with a yoga ball (make sure you get a proper sized one—big enough to work comfortably at your desk).

6. When you bake, replace half the fat with applesauce.

7. Eat less meat. Experiment with vegetarian and vegan dishes.

8. Eat less cheese.

9. Get your heart pounding several times a day. Dance to a good song in your living room; run up and down a flight of stairs; race your kids across the lawn.

10. Smile at strangers. I know, that seems random, but smiling at people releases endorphins, which means we won’t rely on chocolate as often!

Nurture Yourself Takeaway #24—Add little habit changes to your life a few at a time. The compound benefits will pay off in the long run.


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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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