Don’t you love all of the articles with titles like this?
We all click on them with the hope that just THIS time the secret to changing a bad habit or adopting a healthy one will be revealed and we’ll finally be able to stick to that diet, stop that one or ten things that might in the moment make us feel temporarily good but really just make us fat, unhealthy, sad, mad or just frustrated with ourselves.
Well… this isn’t one of those articles. I don’t have 5 easy steps to help you change your habits….
Sure there are tried and true methods and if we didn’t believe that you are absolutely capable of making better informed supported choices about your gut health and thus your life then we’d not be doing this.
Your Personal Journey
But I wanted to talk a bit more about the personal journey one takes when undertaking a change in their life that might be challenging on some level. I’m sure each of you can recall a time or multiple times you’ve done so…. leaving a relationship that no longer served your needs or was healthy (I have been known to say “it took me 4 years to get out of a 6-year relationship”)…. quitting smoking …. or saying no to the morning glazed donut at work… or learning to ask for what you need… I am sure you have your very own list.
Me in my happy place… the garden is where I go to feed by soul and body.
A Thousand Tiny Steps
The truth is habit changes are never done in 5 steps. They are undertaken in hundreds of thousands of tiny steps all day long. And I’ve found that you have to have both the mind and the environment set up for it to succeed.
You have to become your own best friend. Which also means that you cannot expect others to do what you need to do for yourself.
This is easier said than done for most of us. Even highly independent and capable people sabotage their own self-care or abdicate responsibility when it comes to making choices about certain aspects of their life. Been there, done that.
But when you are dealing with a lifelong health issue that impacts your life as much as IBS can and does – you have two choices.
You can ignore and tolerate the symptoms and pain and disruption and drown out the voice in your head and just keep adjusting your life to avoid or make invisible to others what is happening – in essence betraying your “self”.
Or you can learn to listen to that voice– and make repeated small and large choices throughout the day that will lead you to not only a healthier body- but a healthier relationship to yourself.
Fair warning: this may impact a lot more than your gut.
As a 57-year old woman who has had the benefit of time and opportunities to look deeply at my own relationship to myself (intimate relationships, parenting, a four year battle with Lyme disease, loss of loved ones, career choices, financial responsibilities, etc) I can say with confidence that the most important friend you will ever have in life is yourself.
I know, we all read that on Instagram. But what does that mean when it comes to making different choices about what you eat, how you manage stressful situations that life will inevitably present you with, and where you put your energy and time?
Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
It means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable- at least at the outset of any change in behavior- thought or action- meant to lead to new habits. So if you know you will be uncomfortable ask yourself what is going to make this as comfortable as possible?
Now, of course, some of you, like me, may immediately jump to “more martinis!” or “can’t eat cream cheese so going to replace that with…. more martinis!” – see where I’m going? Probably not the best idea to replace one unhealthy habit with another- at least not for the long run.
So… let’s make a list of questions. Put them right next to each other. Then start answering them.
Now you may ask, why these 4 questions?
I think the #1, #3 and #4 are self-evident. But why bother with the “what I WANT to replace it with” list? Well, I think if you are not honest with yourself about what your current natural “go to” is when you are seeking to mollify that part of yourself that feels denied (waaaaaahhhhh!!!) of something that you have enjoyed – or at least are familiar and comfortable with even if it’s not healthy or enjoyable (remember that guy? Or girl?)- then it’s more likely you will not put into place the necessary alternative to ensure that you don’t revert to that behavior.
And the “replacement” needs to be meaningful and should stand well enough on its own merits to warrant replacing something you enjoy. So you need to give it some good thought too. Maybe even attach a “reward” to it.
Here…. let me get you started….
It’s Not About the Food
It’s not just about the food. If you LOVE getting a bagel and cream cheese every morning on your way to work- and if you are honest with yourself you realize that it’s in part due to the fact that the gal or guy who runs the place is super friendly and you like your chat with them in the morning, or that you aren’t great in the morning and the idea of making something for yourself is just not gonna happen… you have to prepare for addressing THOSE things as well.
So if it’s about the connection you make with others – go to the bagel place- with your Low FODMAP version in your hand, and order coffee only.
Or find out if they have a white sourdough bread option and bring your own cheese or switch to only butter. You have to be sure you are filling the desire as well as the need.
Some of these are easy- at least in theory.
Getting rid of foods in the fridge or pantry that can hurt your gut (see Monash App!) is a no brainer- stocking up on their pain-free alternatives… maybe a bit harder.
Avoiding a restaurant that has nothing on the menu you can safely eat…. okay… if you are the one making the decision. But being prepared with Low FODMAP snack foods in your bag- or calling ahead and figuring out what they can make you if you need to order something – or speaking up to the waitress in front of your friends and clearly explaining what you can and cannot eat so they can make you something…. much harder.
But what makes these things easier is thinking about what you have to in advance of doing it. And where possible- put a plan in place. In fact…. PUT A PLAN IN PLACE will help you out most of all.
There are lots of tips and tricks to making these changes less painful- and in many instances, you will find the changes are contributing to much more than your gut health. We talk about many of them in our health and wellness articles – we’ve been down this path and we have some tried and true approaches. Be sure to do a deep dive into our archives!
Let’s Hear From You!
So…. Not 5 things…. But 4. So that leaves you to add one more step to the list that works for you…or tell us what you hate the idea of giving up and what you have decided to replace it with and what you are doing to make it easier to succeed- in the comments section below.