I ask this question a lot, and I still don't have the answer:
We know we're supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables, and that exercise can actually prevent a lot of illnesses, and we are even understanding on a much larger scale these days how absolutely twisted and upside down food policy is in the United States and the garbage, poisons and generally questionable ingredients that processed foods contain, which make up a large part of the average American's daily diet.
So why do we continue to eat garbage and sit our fat behinds on the couch instead of cooking a healthy dinner and going to the gym?
I could list a thousand excuses, as I'm sure you could — no time, not enough money, lack of education, lack of willpower, conflicting information, food aversions, allergies, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, et cetera — but that's all they are: excuses. We know this. And, thus, there are ways around each and every one of these excuses.
Oh, do you need me to briefly list those, too? Okay:
- MAKE the time to cook a homemade meal. Get up earlier. Pack your lunch. Cook dinner instead of watching TV.
- Fresh, seasonal, local food is often cheaper per pound and with respect to nutritional value than fast food. $2 worth of chicken and a couple potatoes will yield you more real "food" than a chicken sandwich and fries at McDonald's. Oh yeah, and water is FREE.
- Lack of education? It's called the internet. That's also free, at your local library if nowhere else.
- Lack of willpower? I just wrote a post about this. Get that saying out of your head. Mind over matter.
- Conflicting information...playing along with the education bullet, if you're relying on the internet at your local library, you're probably trying to get in and out as quickly as possible. Pick ONE website and stick with it, if need be, but be sure it's a reputable one, like ChooseMyPlate.gov or the NIH website — if you're reading 5 different magazines or are a "fan" of as many on Facebook, you WILL get conflicting information. Because THEY all get funding and free products from the same crappy companies who put yellow #5 and crushed beetles in your food.
- Food aversions? Don't be a picky eater like my two-year-old. Unless it's a tried-and-tested food ALLERGY, that a DOCTOR HAS DIAGNOSED YOU WITH, suck it up and try it at least once. Last time I checked no one died from a bite of anchovy.
- Access to fresh fruits and vegetables...okay, I don't really know much about this. I'm pretty sure that even with food stamps you can get apples and oranges. If I'm wrong, please educate me. I'd love to do something about this.
See? I'm sure you could have just done the same thing, maybe even better than I did. There is a workaround for every excuse in the book. You don't need Jillian Michaels to tell you that much.
So...back to my original question. If we know all of this, and we know WHAT to do in order to lead a healthier life, and in most cases we even know HOW, what is it? It almost seems like it has more to do with the why "not." As in:
- Crappy food is easy to find. It's everywhere, and even if you only have a few quarters, you can buy a soda or a candy bar from a vending machine.
- Advertising for crappy food is everywhere. On TV, on your phone, in your inbox, on Facebook, on Twitter, in the mail, in the movies...need I go on?
- Crappy food tastes good. Sometimes. I say this because yesterday I was picking the Cheetos out of my son's cheesy cracker mix. Which I will no longer be buying for him because now it's 2013. I swear.
- Our culture is all about food. If you're the odd man out, ordering a salad rather noshing on some pizza, chances are you'll be ridiculed — even in jest — and next time you'll give in and have a piece or two. And that's all it takes. Off the wagon again.
Sigh. They don't make it easy, do they.
Or do they?
After all, it's New Year's Day. The biggest I'm-starting-my-diet-today day of the year. Treadmills are on sale. Workout gear is featured in all the Sunday newspaper ads. The coupons for low-fat yogurt, brown rice and orange juice are vying for your attention, arguably getting more play in the supermarket than Coke and Pepsi. Weight-loss groups are springing up everywhere, from your local Weight Watchers office to small church groups to mommy clubs and libraries and online forums. And if you check the produce section at the grocery store, I'll bet you $5 you'll find something on sale. (Caramel apple dip and dried sweetened apricots DON'T COUNT. And PS, there's always something on sale in the produce section. I asked.)
So why don't we get over ourselves once and for all and call this whole healthy-living thing EASY? The next time someone asks you how your diet is going, why don't you say GREAT?! Why don't you just lose yourself in the flow of kiwis, ground turkey breast, quinoa and sparkling water and let your bad healthy self take you on the journey of a lifetime?
I think it's about time we stop looking at January 1st as D-Day and start looking at it like the day we finally start taking care of ourselves. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Psychologically. Taking control, peaceably, of course, and taking responsibility. Accountability. With pride.
I've already started working on meal ideas for my new anti-inflammatory lifestyle (which is basically, well, borderline vegetarian/vegan — or just a plant-based diet, which is the best thing you can do for yourself in 2013). And although it looks like it will be a bigger change than I thought — no more toast and coffee for breakfast; less reliance on meats, eggs and cheeses — I don't feel even the least bit overwhelmed. I can do this. YOU can do this. What's more important than your health?
It's really that simple. If you're healthy, you can take better care of your family. If you're healthy, you can perform better at work. And if you're healthy, you'll do an even better job enjoying your time off of work. Playing, growing, learning and getting the most of out life. Why would you ever self-sabotage yourself out of that?