No Really, You Have Time to Eat Better

by | Jun 23, 2014

Photo by flik

Excuses are awesome, aren’t they? Letting you get away with doing nothing about a problem and still feel self-righteous about it. What’s not to love?

I’ve heard them all: I don’t like vegetables, I can’t cook, my husband is too picky, my kids won’t eat it, I work too hard, my knees hurt, my friends are jerks, I love McDonalds, it’s too expensive, I’m too busy.

Yes, yes. Of course you are. But aren’t these still just excuses, illusions we create to mask the real reasons we’d rather watch TV than do something to improve our own lives?

STOP (***Record scratch sound effect***)

If you aren’t getting mad yet, you should be. I didn’t say it, but the implied message is clear: You’re really just making excuses to be unhealthy because you’re lazy.

But that isn’t your experience, is it?

You know you work hard. You know health is important. You’re doing your best. You try to make good decisions. But things come up, you have to improvise, and your best intentions unravel. It isn’t because you’re doing too little, it’s because you’re doing too much.

Still, isn’t laziness the message we hear every day?

It’s almost impossible to find someone offering health and fitness advice that doesn’t insist effort is the missing piece of the equation. If you’ve watched The Biggest Loser you might even think you need a drill sergeant as well: You want to be thin and healthy? Drop and give me 50, Loser.

It is true that we make excuses when our actions fall short of our goals, but let’s take a closer look as to why that is.

 

Effort + failure = guilt (thank you, fitness gurus)

Guilt + more failure = less effort

Less effort + excuses = less guilt

 

Problem solved. Sort of.

Excuses allow us to mitigate the guilt we feel for failing to make ourselves healthier, which we’ve been told is due to our own lack of effort. It’s tempting to focus on the last equation (Less effort + excuses = less guilt) and continue to blame ourselves. Maybe we are making excuses so we feel less guilty. Maybe we are trying less than we used to. But we’ve tried harder in the past and it didn’t work. Maybe we just don’t have what it takes….

But you and I both know that lack of effort is not the problem. Or at least it didn’t start that way. Heck, even most of The Biggest Loser contestants gain the weight back eventually. So if effort isn’t the problem, then why haven’t we conquered this health thing?

The problem is that we’ve been trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. We’re relying on brute force to deprive ourselves of things we need and love, and it’s a losing battle. You aren’t too lazy or weak, you’ve just been given a method that doesn’t actually work in the long-term.

Escaping the guilt-excuse loop is possible, but it first requires accepting that the problem isn’t you. You don’t need to make excuses for not trying harder on something that doesn’t work. You don’t need to feel guilty for not accomplishing the impossible.

When you drop the guilt, you can drop the excuses. When you drop the excuses, you can once again prioritize your health. There is no doubt that getting healthy will require some extra effort. But unlike with restrictive dieting, the effort you invest won’t be wasted.

As in any meaningful journey, the most difficult part is getting started. Once healthy habits take root, the difficulty and discomfort dissipate and are ultimately replaced by familiarity and contentment. Your effort will be rewarded with results, health will stop feeling like a chore, and your excuses will disappear. Yes, you really do have time to eat better.

To learn more about how to lose weight without dieting, check out my book Foodist.

Originally published July 17, 2013.

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10 Responses to “No Really, You Have Time to Eat Better”

  1. Marci Bowman says:

    Thank you, Darya, for another well-written article (loved the Foodist, too!).

    I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and as a personal trainer, I have the kind of schedule that affords me time to make my meals. However, most of my clients are stuck in a 9-5 (more like 7:30-6:30) rut, and are too exhausted to come home and cook after. I try to help them see that developing the habit of shopping + cooking is a way to take care of themselves that can be pleasurable, too. The effort/failure/guilt loop is no way to live!

    • Dee says:

      Yeah, it could be done. People just need to make up their mind that its a life area that needs improvement, stop being lazy and do it.

      • Storm Daughter says:

        You… missed the point of the article, didn’t you?
        Its not about being lazy, its about the perception of difficulty and eminent failure.

  2. Pat King says:

    Okay I confess…I was one of those people who had tons of excuses why I couldn’t eat healthy (work, family, etc.) even though I thought I’d had made several valient efforts (really?!). It wasn’t until my blood pressure was dangerously high and hearing my doctor say “You’re a stroke waiting to happen,” was when it became so clear… eat healthier, take better care of myself, or possibly die! That’s when pretty much everything else took the back seat and I realized that my health was way more important overall. So for me, when I hear others with excuses, I sometimes think to myself that it’s just not that important to them…yet.

    • Yup! That guilt thing isn’t an issue when you’re told you have a disease that will kill you. Of course that could be the case for everyone, but when you see medical test results, it crystalizes everything. Then eating healthy is the #1 priority (for some)!

  3. Penny says:

    Another powerful and oh-so-true article! Thank you! Keep ‘em comin!!

  4. Yohann says:

    I completely agree with you! Eating healthy doesn’t take any more time than eating unhealthy. What annoys me the most is that when people realize that I am a healthy eater they automatically say “I don’t like eating healthy because it’s gross”…

  5. ALM says:

    I love this post! Everything you said resonated with me. I like your equations; could you write some for my situation? I have noticed a correlation in me between “criticizing the way my body looks (not out loud, in my head)” and “diet/exercise/health”. I think that when I am working on my diet/exercise/health with the motivator “improving my looks” in mind, it doesn’t work. However, the more work I do on liking myself regardless of my looks, and cultivating other traits in myself that aren’t dependent on my appearance, the better I take care of myself, and the easier diet/exercise/health are for me. I swear it’s like some sort of reverse psychology or something! Maybe you could write some equations about that to help me (or others with this tendency) figure it out!

    • Anita says:

      I agree with ALM. In fact, I’ve come up with a phrase to keep me on track. I say to myself, ” You are eating healthy/exercising/( or whatever it is I’m doing positively) for health, not vanity. Remember the goal is health not vanity”. Vanity to me is losing weight because I want to be skinny. Health is for myself, my husband, my son, family and friends. Being healthy is the goal, its not a number on the scale. It’s amazing, I got really overweight Doing starvation diet after starvation diet. Recently, I was tempted to do a starvation diet (that actually got me severely overweight in the first place) and everything I was thinking about was the number on the scale. With my husbands encouragement I decided to not do the diet but to create a healthy life style. So I started doing that.
      After months of eating 90% clean healthy foods and excercising 5xs pretty hard a week I’m feeling much better, more confident and happier.
      Instead of my weight number being the only source of encouragement, I’m now thinking about how awesome it is that my body just ran 6.5 miles last week and how I went down the slalom course waterskiing 6 times today! 2 things i couldn’t attempt to do a few months ago (and still would not be able to do if i had starved myself). i’m still overweight but I’ve lost fat and become so much stronger and healthier and happier. My meals contain more fruits and vegetables than ever before and my husband is very proud of me making healthy lifestyle changes rather than starving myself thin and then regaining it all and then some more. I try to Focus on health not vanity… At least that is what helps me.

    • Julia says:

      Hey!
      I wanted to say that.. your comment makes so much sense!! By not trying to attain an unattainable goal (the utopic beauty that we are being exposed to every day.. which is not real beauty anyway..) you start focusing on how you actually feel. Changing your focus removes the pressure to deprive yourself from certain foods that you put on yourself when dieting. This works like the polar bear experiment that Darya talks about in foodist (the point of the story:if you tell yourself NOT to think about something, you will think about it all the time!). I experienced the same thing when I let go of diets. If you haven’t read foodist you should absolutely get it!
      Cheers :)

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