Lately, I’ve questioned exactly how committed I am to being healthy. My approach for years has been that as long as I cook clean, workout when I can, and make smart choices during the day, that I’ll be OK. Now, I wonder if that’s enough.
I grew up in a household that unintentionally embraced body positivity. My mother constantly told my sister and I how smart and pretty we were – my sister may have taken it more to the head than I did but I digress. I say unintentionally because feminism and body image were never topics that we talked about outright.
My advice to them as we’ve all aged and experienced changing metabolisms was to add physical activity and be more careful about what they put in their bodies. This can be tough to do even though it seems simple. For me, it comes down to commitment. How focused are you in your long term goals and the things you want? My long term goal was always just to look good and feel good. I think it’s dishonest to say that even though I have a positive body image, that I don’t want to look good. Everyone does.
Commitment can be impacted by a lot of things – time, interest, your friends/family, access. financial status. Let’s look at time. In a perfect world, I would wake up at 5:30 AM, go to an hour long yoga class and make it to work by 8:30 AM everyday. In reality, I do this maybe twice per week and I usually get to work by 9 AM on those days. The evenings are just as bad. Again, in a perfect world, I would alternate evening between running, biking, and boot camp. That’s just not real life though. I leave the office, really committed to working out or making that group fitness class and BAM – I get a text, “dinner?” or “coming to watch the little league game?” and all of a sudden I’m weighing the importance of being present for my friends and family against my own health and physical needs. It’s tough.
Having a support system is also really important. I’m a bit of an introvert so I don’t mind taking a fitness class alone. I can admit that anxiety sets in when the instructor shouts, “grab a partner,” but usually it works out in the end. That’s not the case for anyone else that I know. One of my coworkers invested in a high-end bicycle but only uses it again once a week because she has no one to motivate her. Handling food can be the same. If all of your friends and family eat fast food five days a week, you are going to have to put in some serious mental power to eat your homemade, fresh food. I mean, really, who wants to turn down french fries?
Access is also an important factor. It’s true that you don’t need a gym to get fit – walking, running, doing crunches are all things that are free and don’t require equipment. But what if you just don’t know that? It seems simple but the truth is, a lot of people consider working out to be something that happens at the gym. They don’t think that doing a few laps around their neighborhood really counts. Access also means having resources and knowledge. I can find workout plans and meal plans everywhere – pinterest, facebook, instagram, flyers in Starbucks (seriously!) – but if you don’t know those things exist in that platform or you can’t get to a grocery store that sells fresh vegetables then you’re back where you started.
Financial status also ties into this idea of access impacting commitment. If someone needs to work 12-14 hours a day to support their family or meet their career goals, it’s going to be nearly impossible to find time to do a push up, much less make a fresh meal every night or commit 2-3 hours to meal prep on a Sunday. Unfortunately, if this person is also in a lower income neighborhood the ratio of fresh grocery to fast food is extremely skewed. Even if it is there, they may not be in a position to spend extra time and cash on it.
There are so many other factors that may never even cross my mind. In my own life, I’m lucky to be able to control a lot of the things that challenge my commitment but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you just can’t say no. The answer is figuring out what works best for you. Maybe that’s only taking a fast-paced walk on your lunch break or going for the grilled nuggets instead of the fried ones. Even though these are small changes, they can make a big difference.
What impacts your commitment to being healthy? How are you figuring out what works for you?