Reason #3 Why You're Stuck: You Don't Approach Health Holistically
Updated: Jan 7
Many years ago I began working with a client who had some significant weight to lose.
He knew he needed exercise to be part of the equation for changing his life.
Well, actually...exercise was the equation.
From his perspective, all he needed to do to lose weight was to exercise, and exercise hard.
It worked in college and should work again…right?
Two years later, after I had put him through the ringer three days a week (hey, he asked me for it), he finally had an epiphany when he had not lost any weight, “you know, maybe we should talk about my diet.”
In my defense, I had mentioned we should talk about his diet when we started, but for one reason or another, changing his diet was not on the table.
Funny thing happened when he started working as hard on his diet as he had in the gym—his weight started to come down nicely.
That short story alone more or less makes the point of this post, but there are two deeper truths about the change process I want to explore:
TRUTH #1: There’s a Strange Predicament to Changing Your Health.
If you focus too much on one thing, you’re not likely going to get the results you want.
Yet, if you focus on too many things at once, you’re also not likely to get the results you want.
That fact can be an annoying or liberating tension depending on how you view it.
TRUTH #2: A Holistic Approach to Health is the Only Way to Achieve Lasting Vitality.
In my view, health is actually about seven interrelated fundamentals.
We call the above visual our "Synergy Symbol."
Those categories are basically the "physics"of health.
We can't cheat them, or will them to not be true.
Any area we're weak in becomes an anchor we drag, and we ignore it to our own detriment.
Said another way:
You can’t out-exercise a bad diet
You can't eat better to make up for not sleeping
A great attitude and doesn't compensate for not drinking water
Cardio is not the opposite of smoking
Health just doesn’t work that way.
Vitality requires a well-rounded approach.
As I mentioned in the last post, health is built by a lot of little habits, compounded over time.
SO WHAT'S THE SWEET SPOT BETWEEN TOO MUCH AND TOO LITTLE?
Well, here’s where reaching your health goals becomes more of an art than a science.
Finding the sweet spot of 1) perspective on what to change and 2) bandwidth to actually change, is an ever-present tension.
With that said, here are some suggestions:
1. ACTION STEP #1: Create Some “White Space” in Your Life.
Finding a way to do less will let you step back, ask good questions, and find your creative, problem-solving side.
It will also help you deal with the emotional aspect of change I mentioned in Part 1 of this series.
Creating space to think, track and reflect will almost assuredly help you more clearly see your limits and excuses.
2. ACTION STEP #2: Trust Your Gut.
Your intuition can be an amazingly good guide for both where you need to start and how much you can handle.
Apply the art of listening to and adapting…to your emotions, your schedule, feedback from your muscles and joints, your checkbook, and all the random, unplanned happenings life throws at you.
All these types of feedback help you know when you’re overdoing it and give you insights on what to adjust.
3. ACTION STEP #3: Find a Sounding Board.
Your gut may be great, but it will also tend toward lazy if you let it.
According to David McLellen at Harvard, your reference group (i.e. the people you regularly spend time with) are the #1 factor in the quality of life you will live.
A great coach, a great friend, or group of friends who look out for your best interests is one of the sweetest gifts in life, and a great way to stay on track.
Where can you level up your associations?
A GAME CHANGING APPROACH:
One of the things we teach our private coaching clients is to understand the concept of keystone habits in each of the seven areas of the synergy symbol above.
Keystone habits are ones that when practiced regularly, tend to trigger all sorts of other good behaviors.
Learning how to trigger them, and break them down into actions steps with clear rewards, is one of the best ways to take control of your health.
By focusing on replacing one bad habit with one good one every 2-4 weeks, we can stay aware on the big picture, but avoid causing a “fatal system error” caused by taking on too much or doing too little to make progress.
Sometimes the habit we choose to work on sticks and sometimes it needs to be adjusted, or given another month to become routine. Either way, the attempted change is instructive.
Think about it for a second. If each month you simply replace one bad habit with something better, at the end of the year you have 12 new habits pulling you in the direction you want to go, and 12 old habits that are gone.
How might that change the game for you?
WANT SOME HELP FIGURING OUT YOUR KEYSTONE HABITS?
So what are the keystone habits that will set you on the path to a long and healthy life?
A new bedtime routine?
Reality is, at any moment we're all a fresh perspective away from a breakthrough.
In the next post I'll tell you about what differentiates a wish from a goal.
Wishes don't come true. Well-engineered goals do.
Until next time,
PS. Curious what a full-spectrum, health-transformation plan looks like? It's basically the most holistic approach you've ever seen.