BY FREDERIC PATENAUDE
What does it mean to “make health a priority?”
I often hear in different situations that health is the most important thing in life.
People often say, “Health is number one because, without it, nothing in life is fun or enjoyable.”
I think most people will agree that health should be a priority, but in reality, won’t live by this principle.
I say that because the people I often hear making that statement don’t make significant efforts in taking care of their health. Perhaps “making health a priority” means going to the doctor for checkups and hoping for the best.
When you look at the facts, we have to admit that health is rarely our priority.
Here are some examples:
1) Most smokers continue smoking even though it is destroying their health. The pain of quitting and the pleasure they get from smoking are more important than the distant thought of living a longer life.
2) The vast majority of people, when survey, think they eat a very healthy diet. But what’s on their plate and the results in their weight and health tells a different story.
3) Most people don’t exercise enough, even though they know it’s important for their long-term health. However, they find plenty of time for other activities such as watching TV.
I’m not saying that I’m perfect myself and that I expect anyone to be. But I think there’s a big difference between what we say and what we do.
We say health is the most important thing. But our actions show that we value other things more, such as pleasure, convenience, etc.
To stay healthy, we have to do a few things:
1) First, we have to believe that health should be a priority — above other considerations like money, leisure, and “trying to fit in.”
2) Second, we have to believe that we have the power to be healthy. That it’s not about “luck” or “genes” but the daily actions we take. Seeing the doctor on a regular basis is NOT prevention.
3) Finally, we have to make healthy a priority most of the time. It doesn’t need to be 100% of the time. But you have to find that sweet spot where the occasional indulgence is truly occasional — where you’re getting the results you want.
How to Make Health a Priority
Here are some practical ways to truly mean it when you say you will make health a priority. Those willing to go the extra mile will reap the rewards! It won’t always be easy. But if you believe that health should be a priority and that you have the power to keep yourself healthy by your daily actions, then you’ll make it happen!
1. Not falling for the excuse “I don’t have time.”
I didn’t understand when people said that they ate Kraft Dinner because they “didn’t have the time.” It probably takes more time to cook Kraft Dinner than it does to open a can of organic beans, dice an avocado and add it to a salad, topped with seasonings or dressing.
Maybe you don’t always have time to shop. In this case, you should always keep a few foods that are both healthy and easy to fix for those time when you truly “don’t have the time.”
For example, I keep organic canned beans, pre-cooked rice or quinoa packages, and frozen vegetables, among other things, for those times.
At work and in my car, I keep Lara Bars, or nuts and dried fruits.
Think ahead! The problem is rarely a lack of time, but poor organization.
2. Find the time to exercise
Exercise is a different beast. It takes not only time but actual physical energy. And this is where most of us fall short. In reality, the problem is not time, but motivation. That’s why you have to find a program that you’re motivated about — and in this way everyone is different.
I realized that I did not do so well with self-motivation when it came to exercise. With food, I’m okay doing everything on my own. But with fitness, I need coaching. So I found an excellent gym that offers this service — with people that are very knowledgeable and that I trust. (This took some researching!).
You have to find an exercise routine that you enjoy and stick with it.
Don’t fall for the idea that “it’s too late to work out — I won’t fall asleep” — as research recently debunked that one. (Bottom line: we sleep better no matter when we exercise!).
3. Don’t keep unhealthy foods at home
There are times when I would eat something unhealthy if it were easily available. But I don’t keep anything unhealthy at home, so it makes it a lot more inconvenient to fall for a craving. Not keeping unhealthy foods in the house is one of the most important ways to make health a priority!
4. Spend on your health
It’s funny how much we say that health is a priority but how little we spend on health, such as organic food and fitness coaching. Most people consider hiring a fitness coach a luxury but consider cable TV or smartphones essential.
In Western countries and especially in America, we spend the smallest percentage of our salary on food compared to other nations in the world. We spend more on health care than ever before — which should instead be called “disease care.”
I’m not implying that eating healthy is necessarily expensive. But it’s funny how people won’t buy a banana at an airport because it costs one dollar, however, won’t hesitate to spend $7 on a latte and a muffin (i.e. cake) at a coffee shop.
Be willing to invest in your health. If it’s truly a priority, then that means there should be a budget devoted to your self-care. Are there some areas where you could cut down on unnecessary items? Maybe fitness coaching or meal plans is what you need to take your health to the next level. If so, spending on this might make more sense than on vacation to Hawaii.
5. Learn to say “no” often!
I once heard a person who had successfully lost a lot of weight and maintained their success long-term say that the secret was “saying no.”
Saying “no thanks” to food at the office — like donuts brought in by co-workers.
Saying “no thanks” to seconds.
Saying “no thanks” to dessert.
Saying “no thanks” to that third glass of wine.
There are times when saying yes makes sense. But to get there, we have to learn to say no!
6. Creating Your Personal Rules
Making decisions is tiresome. It’s best to know in advance how you’re going to react in certain situations before those situations occur!
Have a strategy for what you’re going to order at a restaurant in such a situation.
Work out social problems in advance.
If you allow yourself some indulgences, like drinking, decide in advance how that will fit into your life. Perhaps you have a simple rule, like never drinking during the week, or a maximum number of drinks.
Create your rule and stick to them! This strategy puts you in full control of your destiny.
The secret to making your health a priority is no secret at all… Make it a priority!
Tim Ferriss, someone I rarely quote when it comes to health, says something I think is worth considering:
If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep. If I’ve missed a workout and have a con-call coming up in 30 minutes? Same. Late-night birthday party with a close friend? Not unless I can sleep in the next morning. In practice, strictly making health #1 has real social and business ramifications. That’s a price I’ve realized I MUST be fine paying, or I could lose weeks or months to sickness or fatigue. Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolute — all or nothing. If it’s #1 50% of the time, you’ll compromise precisely when it’s most important.
What does it mean for you to “make health a priority?”