Recommitting to Heart Healthy Eating? Start Here.

Since returning from vacation, I’ve been hearing lots of comments like “I fell off the wagon,” or “My old habits are creeping back.” Between the endless pandemic, our awfully short summer, and well, life, it’s natural to need to recommit every so often.

Where to start? Get clear on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and why.

Every conversation I have with a new client starts with the question, “What can I help you with?”

Often the answer is fairly generic. Something like, “I need to get healthy.” Whatever your initial response, I invite you to peel back a few layers of that onion.

To find your way, focus on your why

Really understanding your goal can help you focus your energy on what really matters to you, and make it crystal clear when you’ve achieved it.

So I’ll usually dig deeper: “What does being healthy mean to you?” and “How would your life be different if you got there?”

“I want to be here to help my kids grow up.”

“I want to have more energy.”

“I need to get my blood sugar under control.”

Another round of “What makes that important to you?” and “What would that look like?” often follows. Usually this conversation goes on for 15-20 minutes, until we both have a clear picture of the end result and why it matters to the client. Then we can shift our focus to how.

Planning for lasting change

I’ve heard psychologist Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley speak twice now, most recently at Canada’s virtual 2021 cardiac rehab conference. She reminded us that while people are often keen to change right after being diagnosed with a new health problem, lasting motivation comes from personal, meaningful goals that relate to our values and identity.

What kind of person do you want to be? How do you want to show up in the world?

The fear of another heart event might get you going, but building your fitness enough to enjoy hiking with your partner might keep you going, assuming that’s important to you.

Similarly, avoiding a cholesterol medication might prompt you to book an appointment with me, but learning to cook great food that you and your family actually love can help you stay passionate about heart-healthy eating for life.

It helps to think about what you want, rather than what you want to avoid. Then you can figure out how you’re going to get there.

Set better goals

This was the other part of Dr. Lee-Bagley’s talk that resonated with me. She suggests people focus on a behaviour instead of an outcome goal. I like to think of this as your plan, versus calling it a goal. So instead of…

  • I want to avoid another heart attack –> I’m going to walk for 10 minutes every morning, building up to 30 minutes
  • I should stop snacking at night –> I’m going to start my bedtime routine at 9:30pm (and what will it look like exactly?)
  • I need to eat better –> I’m going to add three heart-healthy meals to my go-to recipe collection this fall (for help with this, join our ongoing virtual Go-To List Challenge)

Notice these are all more about adding health behaviours to your life rather than subtracting.

And Dr. Lee-Bagley suggests picking something you’re 90% confident that you can do. Incremental, sustainable goals work better than versus big hairy goals for lasting change.

Where do you want to focus right now, healthwise?

Lower heart disease risk? More energy? Better mood? Restorative sleep? Strength?

Whatever it is, unpack it, so you have a clear picture of exactly what and why it’s important to you. Then the how comes more easily.

(Note – If it’s weight loss, definitely explore why that matters to you right now. Lasting weight loss is a tough nut to crack, but many of the underlying goals we can do. More on that here.)

And if you need help any of this, feel free to reach out for support and accountability! Your family doctor might be a good place to start. They may be able to connect you to courses or individual counselling within the public health system.

And check your benefits – you might have coverage to see a private therapist or dietitian. (You can set up a free Meet & Greet with me to talk about options.)

So what do you think? What’s your number one health goal right now? What makes it important to you?

Feel free to share on Facebook or privately via email. Happy to support you however I can. If you’re outside of my practice area or can’t do private counselling right now, I’m still happy to cheer you on and share resources.

Let’s do this.

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