Today I want to talk about personalising your health journey*. Specifically, you taking personal responsibility for the choices you make in regard to your diet and lifestyle choices.
Personal responsibility is the idea that individuals choose, instigate, or otherwise cause their own actions.
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This is not quite as easy as it sounds.
Small confession – for the longest time, I didn’t do this.
Because, it’s so very easy to just drift along, focusing on your career or family or finances; doing what most people do; getting stressed; believing what we read and see in the media; being too busy and taking the easy road…
My health catalyst came when I turned 40 (which is a little weird, because age isn’t something that bothers me terribly). Milestone birthdays are great at causing you to stop and reflect on lessons learnt.
Perhaps your catalyst was something different. Maybe this post will be your catalyst…?
Here’s a good question for you to ask yourself: If you had the choice to put yourself first, why wouldn’t you? After all, who else (other than your Mum) will do it for you?
Whatever way you cut this personal responsibility-thing, putting yourself first is paramount.
- If you have personal goals that you want to achieve in your lifetime – a bucket list, if you will – then making your health a priority is key.
- If you have a family who relies on you, you want to get and stay healthy for them (and that involves making yourself a primary concern).
- If, like me, you want to maximize your quality of life and end up in your twilight years being the healthiest version of yourself you can be (and that includes minimizing your risk of modern diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), then you must place significant importance on your choices.
I happen to follow the principles of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), but this need to step up and take personal responsibility for diet and lifestyle choices applies to us all, regardless of where we currently sit on the continuum of life.
Because, it’s never too late to change.
And, every proactive choice you make today is doing you good.
So, here are some of my helpful tips and tricks for taking personal responsibility…
Use a template for personalising your health journey
It’s always easier if you have a plan!
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you’ll be very familiar with the Autoimmune Protocol template that I follow.
But, your template could easily be something else. Perhaps you follow the Wahl’s Protocol or The Perfect Health Diet or you’re a Paleo convert. Maybe you simply focus on a whole-foods approach. It’s not my preference, but you could even choose to be vegetarian or vegan… The important thing is that you find the template that works for you.
Whichever template you choose to try out for size, these are some great tips for those starting out…
- Eat local and seasonal
- LOTS of fresh vegetables – aim for 8+ serves every day
- A nose-to-tail approach (for reasons of health, sustainability and budget)
- Eliminate highly refined, processed and artificial food (this includes trans-fats)
- Aim for a nutrient-rich diet (including seafood, healthy fats, and lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut)
Take the long-term view in personalising your health journey
This change-thing is hard work. Really. You’re rewiring the patterns of a lifetime. It takes both your effort and your commitment.
So, set yourself small goals. Start out with ones that are easily achieved – this will motivate you to keep going as you progress to more challenging ones.
Remind yourself just why you are doing this. Often. If it helps, pop a sticky in a place where you’ll see it – on your computer or bathroom mirror. That way, you won’t be able to forget!
And, track it. If you don’t already, I highly recommend that you keep a food and mood diary. A while back, I wrote about the importance of keeping a food and mood journal. I believe it’s one of the best tools you can add to your health toolbox. I don’t spend hours on my journal – generally I keep things simple and just rate lifestyle categories on a scale of 1 – 10. But, I do notice anything out of the ordinary so that I can see patterns.
Aim for nutrient density in your health journey
Rather than worrying about what you can’t or choose not to eat, instead spend your energy adding the good stuff.
Some of habits you may like to foster:
- Add a new, previously unknown vegetable every week.
- Add an extra vegetable to every meal. Even breakfast.
- Try a new way to cook some of your favourite vegetables. Did you know carrots are fabulous when roasted and mashed…?
- Try fermenting your own vegetables or making your own beet kvass.
- Experiment with secondary cuts of meat – especially liver
- Create a folder of ‘tried and true’ recipes that you always go back to
- Get in the habit of cooking once to eat twice (or even thrice). Doubling up on recipes and freezing leftovers in meal-sized portions is a great way to avoid falling off the wagon when you’ve had a long day at work and can’t face cooking.
- Make bone broth. Regularly.
- Start a herb garden and experiment with using fresh herbs in your cooking
Be gentle with yourself on your health journey
One of the trickiest bits of this health caper for me has been to learn self-compassion. A big part of self-compassion is self-kindness.
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of my clients aren’t very good at practising self-compassion, either.
It can be life changing
And, a good place to start when it comes to self-compassion is to learn how to say ‘no’. Try it! It can prove to be easier said than done, flexing this little ‘no’ muscle. The next time you are asked for something – be it a favour or a task – before jumping in with your usual ‘yes’, just ask yourself if it is something you really want to do. And, if the answer is that it isn’t, consider saying ‘no’…
Hint: it gets easier with practice!
Always remember that you are a unique little snowflake
There is nobody else in the world quite like you. Your genetic make up, environment and personal choices have all helped to make you into the wonderful human bean you are today – for better or worse.
That also means it stands to reason that your decisions around just what personal responsibility means to you will be different to anybody else’s, too. Whatever protocol you choose to follow, whatever diet and lifestyle choices you choose to make – they are yours. While you may seek advice and guidance from trusted advisors, don’t be afraid to listen to your body and intuition. It’s your body and your life, after all…
“If you own this story you get to write the ending.” – Brené Brown
*I’m not a fan of the word journey. Personally, I prefer caper. But, I freely acknowledge it is not as widely used. So, I went with journey, This time!