Download: Knowledge On A Page
No time to read our full article? Download the Knowledge On A Page (PDF Download)
We are faced with decisions every single day of our lives – some decisions are immediately life changing, some aren’t, but even those small, simple decisions like what we have for dinner, or whether we do that work out will accumulate into life impacting results, if we make them often enough.
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 decisions 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 decisions, they add up and will undoubtedly impact on our lives, and potentially the lives of our families and friends.
I have a relative, who hasn’t really looked after herself for a number of years. She has made repeated 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. Before she turned 70 she was having to walk with a frame, and was in pain. She is socially isolated because she hasn’t built up networks by attending different activities. My mum in stark contrast, only a few years between them, has always valued the benefits of exercise, despite suffering from osteoporosis and arthritis. She gets out and about, still attending twice weekly aerobics classes and walking the 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 decisions 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 every day decisions really have been life changing for each of them.
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, 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 an angel every hour of every day, and nor is it realistic to try, but if we can make good decisions 80% of the time, chances are we will get into later life a lot healthier than those people that we know we don’t want to be like.
What you want now vs what you want later!
What are your thought processes when it comes to your decisions. Do you live in the moment? Or do you think about the long term?
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, it will ultimately come back to bite us on the bum. 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 the potential for mobility problems in the future. All these problems will inevitably come if we continuously make bad decisions when it comes to our food.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ever have treats again. It means factoring treats into your decision making process. It means being more aware of what you have already eaten, whether you have moved enough, and making decisions taking into account all the facts and figures around this.
The Domino Effect
Decisions good or bad can turn into a domino effect. Make a good decision, and this breeds enthusiasm and confidence to make another good decision and so on.
But the same can be said for bad decisions. My bad decisions usually involve a night out. I make one bad decision to have one more drink, then this is usually followed by a spiral of bad decisions. I end up with a hangover, waking up at 5am with a blinding headache and a queasy stomach, followed by a day on the settee, not moving, making poor decisions about the food I eat just to get me through the day. If I had made a better decision and had a pint of water instead of that last drink, I probably wouldn’t have felt as rubbish the following day, and been able to function and more importantly make better decisions about what I eat.
Your bad decisions might be linked to your emotions, or just a feeling of frivolity. You’ve been good for so long and you just don’t want to be good any more! Which is fine if it’s in the short term, but if this is the trigger for a series of bad decisions and ultimately falling off the wagon, we must find strategies to get around this.
What triggers these bad decisions for you? Is it a bad day at work? Is it a stressful relationship with someone? Is it a night out or a night in? Is it habits around how you spend your time? If you know what your triggers are, you can plan around it. So for instance, I could leave two pints of water and a packet of paracetamol by the front door for when I get in from a night out, 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 early the next day, so I have to get out of bed and get moving. Staying out of the house will also keep me away from the fridge.
Only you will know what your triggers are, but 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.
Flip it on it’s head!
We all make bad decisions from time to time – and that is totally cool. The real win is in acknowledging your bad decision, and stopping the domino effect – keep it borne in mind that our lifestyle is the sum of the decisions that we make. Its 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. Make it easy for yourself and go back to basics if you have to. If you are finding it hard to make good decisions around food, forget about that and focus on something else – hydration, moving more, eating your 5-a-day. A little bit of success in one area will give you the strength and resolve to make better decisions in other areas.
When you are faced with options this week, be conscious, be mindful – make a good decision. Then repeat! The more you practice making good decisions, the easier those decisions become – because eventually those decisions become the norm.
Make decisions that your future self will be grateful for. 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!