I remember how shocked I was to hear that my mom had started smoking at the ripe old age of 13. “That was back before we knew how bad it was,” she explained, “Nowadays we know better.” I think the same is true for nutrition. We’re bombarded with information on how to get well — what to eat, what not to eat, how to lose weight, how to gain muscle, how to be healthy, how to achieve total wellness. If we know better, then why is our nation experiencing a health crisis?
Because knowledge is only half the battle.
Behavior change is the most difficult part of a health goal, be it weight loss, total transformation or the improvement of a specific health metric (like lower blood pressure, for example). Inevitably, there are certain habits we have to be willing to let go of — some temporarily, and some for the long haul.
The habits and behaviors with a lifetime of momentum behind them are the toughest to change. Picture a steam engine that’s coasting along at full speed and then suddenly tries to reverse. It takes a great effort just to stop, let alone change direction! Snacking is the steam engine in my life. Everything is better with a little something to munch on, right? It’s a habit I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. Every day that I continue only adds to the momentum, making it that much harder to stop.
The sick guy lying by the pool in Bethesda (John 5) probably knows something about the power of momentum. When Jesus met him, the man had been lying there, waiting for someone to push him in, for 38 years. That’s a lot of momentum! For 38 years, this man knew full well how to get well. Given that, I’m not surprised by Jesus’ question: “Do you want to get well?”
Well, do you?
That’s a provocative question, but it’s intended to help you dig into the heart of your motivation. In most cases, we know exactly what needs to be done to get well. The trouble is that getting well — and staying well — requires you to change. After healing the man lying by the pool in Bethesda, Jesus had some advice for him: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 NIV). Even a man healed by Jesus wasn’t exempt from the hard work of behavior change!
If you desire to get well, a better question would be: Are you ready? Are you ready to let go, to move forward? Are you ready to change?
I encourage you to be honest with yourself and to accept yourself right where you are. If you aren’t ready, don’t lie by the pool (or the produce aisle), wishing someone would push you in. Refocus on something you are ready to change. Not ready to change your diet? Instead, ask yourself if you’re ready to part with just one unhealthy food item. A few suggestions:
- For weight loss: Kick sweetened drinks. This includes sodas, juice, Gatorade and even the cleverly named Vitamin Water (take a look at that sugar content!).
- For total transformation: Add activity. Building an active lifestyle should include regular workouts, but that can be challenging. If that overwhelms you, start by adding bursts of activity throughout your day. Stand up right there in your cubicle and do 20 jumping squats three times a day, or instead of fast-forwarding through commercials, get up and do some jumping jacks until your show is back on. You don’t have to do these things forever, but they’ll get the ball rolling.
- For overall wellness: Prioritize sleep. This is the perfect place to start, because everything is easier with a good night’s sleep! Plus there are countless health benefits.
Above all, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself some grace, and stay focused on what you can do to get well.