Why is it that everyone seems to know the right thing to do when it comes to healthy eating, yet so few practice it? Even more importantly, why is it that so many people who have experienced the joy and liberation of healthy living end up sliding back?
If you ask me what big, overarching lessons I’ve learned, I would say that whether you succeed or not comes down to two relationships:
1. The relationship you have with yourself.
2. The relationship you have with plants.
Begin a Love Affair With Yourself
The relationship we have with ourselves—or the lack of one—is a huge key to understanding why we act the way we do. Most of us are way too critical of ourselves for a whole bunch of reasons. We have this inner voice that just beats us up. We look at ourselves in the mirror and, rather than thinking or saying something encouraging, we’ll usually say something like, “My God what happened to you? You look terrible. Look at those bags under your eyes. Look at that belly. How old you look.” I know, because that was how I treated myself.
If you don’t love and respect yourself, it’s going to be a real challenge to sustain healthy habits. If you're like me, especially when you’re faced with stress, you can quickly find yourself in the “who really cares?” mode. That’s when we put ourselves on hold. We don't exercise and we don’t eat right because who really cares? What difference does it make if we are 20 pounds heavier.
I’ve been a serial dieter. Some worked more than others, but no matter how successful they were, I’d return to my old ways and regain the weight. I would tell myself, “I have no willpower,” or “Diets don’t work for me,” and then I’d give in, proving I had no willpower. I’d think of myself as a failure. Then I’d say, “Who really cares anyway?”
Does that sound familiar? I think everyone has that inner voice, the one that’s willing to accept defeat before you even get started. How to fix it? Start by answering the question of who really cares. That should be you, based on having a good relationship with yourself.
During the years after my health journey began, I paid more attention to this relationship, the one between Joe and Joe. I became conscious of it, and put effort and work into it. I learned to respect myself and the loving, nurturing, caring side of me.
I always had respect for myself in business and in making money. But love affairs, with yourself or anyone else, are not about business. They’re about looking in that mirror and instead of saying, “I’m a loser who can’t succeed,” saying, “It’s OK. Today will be better. I’m taking a step in the right direction, and that belly—or whatever—is going to get better little by little. And you know what? I like those wrinkles, and the wisdom those gray hairs give me.”
Yes, we’ve all got to be honest with ourselves and face what’s in the mirror. But there is a big difference between self-honesty and being mean and hard on yourself.
Become Friends With Plants
The other big relationship is the one that people have—or rather don’t have—with plants and the food that comes from them. They don't have the proper appreciation and respect for what Mother Nature provides.
We are so besotted with processed foods that it’s as though we’ve lost our connection to the natural world. And believe me, I was one of those people. The last place I wanted to spend any time in the supermarket was in the fresh produce aisle. Take me to the cookies, crackers, frozen pizzas, deli meats, cheeses, pretzels, and potato chips, not to the greens.
But this relationship with Mother Nature, and with plants in particular, is also critical. Our understanding and knowledge of this food group is supremely important in our lives. We need to respect it, we need to honor it, we need to work at it, we need to embrace it—and we need to consume it.
When I meet people—and I’ve met tens of thousands on my journey—I see individuals who are hurting, who are sick and tired, and many of them sick and tired of being sick and tired.
And generally speaking, in every case, one or both of the two key relationships we’re discussing is broken.
What I’ve learned is that these two relationships are crucial to health and happiness. Like any relationship, be it with family, friends, or significant others, they need to be nurtured. We need to work on them and make them strong.
You can't take yourself or plants for granted. You can go a few days or weeks with being a little bit absent, but you can’t do that too often. Otherwise when we get stressed and when the going gets rough, it becomes too easy to say, “What’s wrong with a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake? Who cares anyway? I’ll have some veggies later.”
But the longer “later” gets, the more we forget how much we loved our veggies in the first place.
Excerpted from Reboot With Joe: Fully Charged: 7 Keys to Losing Weight, Staying Healthy and Thriving by Joe Cross. Reprinted with permission. Reboot Press, 2015.