Every day we are faced with decisions and choices
Some decisions are easy, some are hard, and some choices that we make can have profound effects on the rest of our lives. Some decisions can be really difficult to make. Difficult because they affect the rest of our family, our friends, sometimes our professional decisions can have an effect on people we don’t even know. Some are difficult, because both options are desirable (or maybe even both are undesirable), so it’s tough to choose. Sometimes we have to make difficult life changing decisions. Decisions on moving house, changing jobs, leaving a relationship, entering a relationship, they are all really hard life changing decisions.
There are other decisions in life that aren’t quite so difficult – what to wear, where to go on holiday, what to do next weekend. These decisions don’t generally have life changing consequences for ourselves and our families, but some every day decisions if made over and over again can eventually have life changing consequences for us.
How many times are we faced with a decision on what to eat, or whether to do that work out and we make a bad choice?
I made bad decisions over my choice of food, how much alcohol I drank and how much (or really how little) exercise I did, for years and years. I got bigger and bigger, and more and more unhealthy. I remember going to see the midwife at my booking in appointment when I was just pregnant with Ruby, my first child, and being told not to use pregnancy as an excuse to eat for two, as they didn’t want me returning to them with any future pregnancies EVEN bigger. Those words really hurt – EVEN BIGGER – this meant that my current size was obviously becoming a problem for my health. All because of the choices that I had made about what I had put in my body, and what I did with my body. My bad decisions.
Our decisions on food, drink and exercise, whilst in the short term aren’t life changing, if we repeatedly make bad choices, they add up and will undoubtedly impact on our lives, and potentially the lives of our families and friends, if it means we won’t be around for as long as we could be, or our health needs would require them to care for us.
I have a relative, who hasn’t really looked after herself for a number of years. She has made bad decisions about how much she drinks and her levels of activity. Whilst I have never considered her to be hugely overweight, she now has health problems associated with pretty much a whole lifetime of inactivity and drinking too much. She isn’t 70 yet and she has to walk with a frame, and is in pain. She is becoming socially isolated because she hasn’t built up networks by attending different activities. She suffers with her mental health because of this too. My mum in stark contrast, only a few years between them, has always valued the benefits of exercise, despite suffering from osteoporosis. She gets out, still attending twice weekly aerobics classes and walking her dogs twice a day. She even walks to the supermarket, when she only needs a few bits, just because it gets her out into the fresh air. She has a strong network of friends, who she sees regularly, at the various classes she goes to. So not only has the choices that she has made around exercise and physical activity ensured she is healthier than our relative, but also that she has a better quality of life too.
So, for my mum and our relative those little every day decisions really have been life changing for each of them.
The same can be said for decisions about food. If we continuously make poor decisions on the food options available to us, thinking about the gratification that we get in that moment, rather than the long term benefits that food can offer, the nourishment it gives our bodies, as we have looked at recently, it will ultimately come back to bite us. Regardless of what it says on the scales, eating foods high in fat, salt and sugar will affect our health. If we eat these foods continuously we are undoubtedly storing up problems such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol and heart disease. Then there is the impact of carrying extra weight on our joints and our backs, leading to potential for mobility problems in the future. All these problems will inevitably come if we continuously make bad choices when it comes to our food.
We all have people in our lives, where we think that we don’t want to end up like them – hitting their 50’s and 60’s in poor health, carrying too much weight, and not moving enough, and for the most part, self-inflicted. Well this is the wake-up call. The way that you don’t end up like them is to make good decisions most of the time. We can’t be angel’s every hour of every day, and nor is it realistic to try, but if we can make good decisions 80-90% of the time, chances are we will get into our 50’s and 60’s a lot healthier than those people that we know we don’t want to be like.
The Domino Effect!
Bad decisions can come along like buses. I know, I have made them. You know the score, you make one bad decision, then it seems to be quickly followed by another and another. A bit like when you knock that first domino over in a domino rally. I can exercise control over food, the majority of the time, I spot when I am making poor choices, and reign it back in.
However, when I go out for a few drinks (in the days when we could), my decision making takes a turn for the worse. I drink more than I should on a night out and inevitably wake up at 5 am, with a blinding headache and feeling queasy. The only answer (or my poor decision making says it is the only answer) is to eat my way through it, and then spend most of the day being lazy and eating. The better decision would have been to drink a pint of water or two when I get in, along with a couple of painkillers. In turn, there is less chance that I will wake up at 5 am with a headache. Which might mean, I am not as tired the following day, because I have slept for longer. This would mean that I have the energy to go for a walk to clear my head. This will then mean I don’t feel compelled to eat my way to bedtime. An even better way, Rick might suggest tongue in cheek, would be to not drink at all the night before – but let’s not do anything too rash!
Everyone will have different triggers for making that continuous stream of bad decisions. Whether it’s that you aren’t feeling well, you are hormonal, it could be the weather, or that you’re having a bad time at the moment. The trick is to plan for this. Like we discussed in the article ‘How well do you know yourself?‘ a couple of weeks ago, if you know what your triggers are, you can plan around it. You can reframe your thinking, and choose to deal with it in a different way. So for instance, if I am going for a night out I can leave two pints of water and a packet of paracetamol by the front door for when I get in, and make sure there is only healthy food in the fridge for the day after, or even make a plan to go for a walk or a run the next day, so I have to get out of bed and get moving. Staying out of the house, also keeps me away from the fridge.
Only you will know what your triggers are, and you will also know what you can do to minimise the potential for bad decisions. It’s in there, just think about it – if you don’t know ask us, speak to other Be Strong members. Once you acknowledge where you can fall down you are half way to finding the solution.
There is one really important thing to remember too – it’s ok to make the odd bad decision. The real win is in acknowledging this, and stopping the domino effect. It’s OK to fall off the wagon, the key is to get up quick, and bring it back on track. Don’t dwell, just start to make those good decisions again.
The next time you are faced with options, be conscious, be mindful – make a good decision. Then repeat! The more you practice making good decisions, the easier those decisions become. You only get one body, so love it and make the most of it. Your body has got you this far in life so give it the respect it deserves and treat it well. Keep it healthful. Eat well, drink plenty of fluids and move more. Easier said than done I know, but done by making one good decision at a time. You are in control!