As the new year approaches, many of us (especially us women, but men too) start thinking of the go-to list of New Year Resolutions. Most of the time, it includes a promise to start eating healthier, maybe lose some weight. But the reality is that most of those kinds of New Year’s resolutions don’t last more than a few weeks (if that).
So I’m offering a different way to approach it. A while ago, I came across a concept that I thought was so brilliant that I felt I had to share it. It’s the concept of your “health account”.
So normally what would happen is that you would decide that you want to lose weight and get healthier this year. So you try to latch on to any of the “in” diets at the moment, or maybe just do it the old fashion calorie counting way. But because this way of doing it is either all-in, or all-out, it’s not very sustainable. You will stick to it as long as your willpower is strong. And right after the holidays when you’ve indulged more than usual, it’s usually pretty strong. But as the weeks go by, the willpower starts to run out. Sooner or later, you’re bound to “mis-step” and once you do, chances are you are so hard on yourself that you give up completely. After all, you messed up so what’s the point!? It’s just not a sustainable plan. Not to mention that to diet in order to fit our society's standards is not an act of self love, but of self hate. And there is nothing healthy about that.
I’m offering a much better way to approach a healthier lifestyle, that won’t get de-railed thanks to a wavering willpower: Your health account.
Start thinking of your health similarly to a bank account. Healthy habits count as “deposits” and less healthy habits count as “withdrawals”. All the diets, fixes and cleanses out there run on the premise that you need to make only deposits all the time, and never make any withdrawals.
But that isn’t how our bank accounts work, right? We make deposits, but we need to use that money too, what would be the point in just depositing a lot of money, and never ever use it? This is a much more balanced approach to your health, because it doesn’t just focus on food and what you are (or rather aren’t) allowed to eat, or a hard core exercise program that’s impossible to stick to. It takes into account ALL areas of life that are either improving or taking away from your well being.
So instead of starting another diet this New Year, start keeping a journal of your deposits and withdrawals every day, and simply aim to make more deposits than withdrawals.
Here are some examples of deposits:
- Getting a full night’s sleep (7-8 hours)
- Enjoy foods that make you feel energized and full of vitality
- Go for a walk, or do any type of physical activity that you enjoy (yes, dance party with the kids count)
- Meditating and/or journalling
- Hydrate with water
- Snack on fruits and vegetables
- Connecting to a loved one
- Listen to your body and allow yourself to eat when you are hungry
- Reducing stressful elements in your life
And here are some examples of withdrawals:
- Using the scale to evaluate your self worth
- Being sedentary
- Feeling stressed (regardless of cause)
- Lack of sleep
- Using food as a punishment or substitute for something deeper going on
- Negative self talk
These are just some examples. Any type of healthy habit you do throughout your day is a check in the “deposits” column and any unhealthy habit goes in the “withdrawals” column. As long as your deposits outnumber your withdrawals, you are getting healthier. You will want to ease your way into it, and don’t put unrealistic goals for yourself. If you’re currently not eating much vegetables, any amount that improves on that is a deposit. You don’t need to suddenly have ten servings a day, in order for it to count.
So what this idea suggests is that you need to have a much bigger picture when it comes to improving your health. Simply obsessing over what you can or can’t eat, will only set you back in the long run. Instead, pay attention to things like your sleep and your relationships, in addition to nourishing your body with good, real foods and loving movement. Sure, the scale might not move as fast, or at all (then I would suggest using the scale in the first place, is a withdrawal), but the fact is that your weight doesn't tell you how healthy you are and shouldn't be used as a guideline of health.
And best of all, you will start to love and care for your body and mind, rather than punish and control it. Your family relationships will improve too. Playing with your child on the playground is a deposit! Having some alone-time, connecting with your spouse (or a child) is a deposit!
And then when the whole family goes to the movies, and you enjoy some movie theatre popcorn, or you enjoy an ice cream on a sunny summer day – you don’t stress over it because guess what? Anything you do free of guilt and self-blame, and truly enjoy - is a deposit! It’s a freeing way to think! I hope you will join me in making this the year that we stop being our own biggest bully, and start being our own best ally!