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Series index: How to change your life
When I decided that it was time to change the way I thought about my health, I realized that for a long time I had been confusing two important words: need and want.
There were a lot of food-related things I thought I needed.
I thought I needed to eat every few hours or I would get light-headed.
I thought I needed desserts and treats to feel happy and satisfied.
I thought I needed to eat when everyone else was eating or I would feel left out.
I thought I needed to eat breakfast or I would have no energy.
Now, to be clear, some people may in fact need some or all of these things. Some people do need to eat snacks or they get hypoglycemic and don't feel well. Some people do need to eat breakfast. Everyone's body is different.
But when I put some of the things I thought were my needs under a microscope, it turned out they weren't needs. They were wants.
This is about me and my health
In order to approach food, eating and exercise in a healthier way for my own body and life, I decided to reorganize my list of what I need vs. what I want.
My revised list looks something like this:
I need to get healthier. And stay that way.
That's pretty much it on the "need" side.
And that's when I realized that when the things I thought were needs conflicted with this one very basic need - the need to get healthier - then they weren't really needs. They were wants.
I might want cake, but I do not need cake. I am not going to die if I don't have cake. Quite the opposite, in fact: If I eat too much cake, I might very well die because of it (at some point).
I might want to eat just because everyone else is eating, but I do not need to. If I'm hungry and there's something that falls into the "make me healthier" category, I'll eat. But if not, not. I can still talk and socialize and sit at the table. Whether I eat or don't eat, it's my choice. And that's why I don't feel left out or deprived at those moments: I am making the choice that is right for me and my health, and that is the most important thing to me.
I might want to eat breakfast when I get up, but as it turns out, I can wait. After reading about intermittent fasting and how it helps some people lose weight and boost their metabolism, I decided to give it a try. (More on that in a future post.) Now I often don't eat until 10am or later - not because I'm actively trying to deprive myself, but because I am truly not hungry.
I have a choice
You get the idea. Once I realized that the only true need I had was to help my body get healthier, everything else became a choice. And I have committed to myself to make better choices. Every. Single. Day.
Are you wondering whether I ever give in to the "want"? Yes, of course, sometimes. I'm not going to go the rest of my life without eating pizza. But I clearly recognize those times as the exception, not the rule. Because if I eat too much pizza, it's going to get in the way of what I need: to get healthier and stay that way.
(Also, I no longer settle for bad pizza. Or mediocre pizza. If I'm going to have pizza twice a year, it's going to be darn good pizza.)
Note: This is the second post in a series on how I improved my health by making some pretty big changes to the way I cook, eat, and take care of my middle-aged body. Nothing in this post is intended as medical or nutritional advice - it's my own experience with my own body. I listen to and consult with my doctors, and you should too. Start at the beginning with How to change your life: Actions and consequences