• meredith fay

Finding your "why"

The most important step for making lasting change

There comes a moment in most nutrition consults where an unmistakable look of overwhelm comes across my client's face. The volume of new information can feel daunting. Already, making dietary choices seems like a complex minefield of marketing hype and confusing labels just daring you to make a mistake that will undermine your health and best intentions. Now, scrapping all of that for a whole new set of recommendations and guidance can feel like being asked to learn another language on the fly.

Sure, we start with small and realistically manageable changes. But being told that some of your favorite foods - the ones you grew up with and love and already have conveniently stocked in your kitchen - are slowly but surely eating away at you is a tough pill to swallow. Food is so deeply rooted both culturally and emotionally for most of us, that there is a very real arc of shock, dismay and even grief that often needs to be acknowledged before change can begin. Food is also such a common tool for self-medication, celebration, and exerting the limited sense of control we feel we have over our lives, that changes in that domain can often trigger unanticipated issues around self-worth, guilt, fear, and more that have been lying just under the surface for years.

In short, this stuff is hard.

"This is a lot" is a pretty universal reaction to the information shared in a nutritional therapy session. I hear this from clients who are incredibly successful, high achievers who accomplish more by 10 a.m. than most people do in a week. Sure, partly it's a natural reaction to being given a lot of new things to consider on top of an already busy life. But these are people who regularly tackle projects of far greater complexity than a handful of dietary changes. So when I see the "this is a lot" moment, what I am actually witnessing is the unfolding of some very intense realizations in the client's mind, in real time. I can practically see the gears turning in their heads as they come to terms with the logistical, social, and emotional implications of the work ahead to start nourishing themselves in a new way to regain their health.

For exactly this reason, we spend a lot of time connecting to the client's "why" for change.

Most people seek out support and treatments like nutritional therapy, ostensibly, for help with the "how": how do I get healthy, how do I understand what's happening in my body, how do I make different choices, how do I lose the weight? All of that is important and certainly gets addressed.

What I know to be at least as important as the "how" questions though, are the "why" questions: why am I wanting to make a change, why is this important enough to make an investment in my well-being, why bother?

Plenty of qualified practitioners can hand you the "how" part on a platter. In fact, everybody already knows some of the basics of what we probably should be doing to improve our health. And that gets us exactly nowhere unless it is put into practice.

Maybe you get as far as talking to a professional for guidance and even implement some of it for a week or two. Soon, the pressures of daily life and the lure of the familiar and easy will be a powerful draw back to old habits - unless you are connected to your "why."

Perhaps your "why" is a desire to have enough energy to play with your kids. Maybe it's wanting to look and feel your best as you get back into the dating scene. Perhaps you love your career and you want to be calmer and more present at work. Or you're just sick of landing in the ER in crippling pain every 3 months. Your reasons will be unique to you. The important thing is to get clear on them - and lock on to them so solidly that you can actually feel your passion for reason X at a physical level. Spend some time really experiencing and encoding that intense feeling in your memory so you can quickly find it again in the future.

(If your "why" is defined in terms of wanting to be better/stronger/hotter/fill in the blank for someone else, consider also adding your own intrinsic happiness and well-being to the list of motivations. It is not selfish or vain to nurture yourself. In fact, it is a necessary precondition to be able to serve others in a genuine and sustainable way.)

When the going gets tough and the temptation to return to old habits inevitably strikes, reconnecting to your "why" is the all-natural, ever-accessible, and free hit of energy you'll need to reignite your motivation and leapfrog any resistance to the mechanics of "how" you'll get there. Plus, keeping a laser focus on your "why" will make it even more satisfying down the road when you look back and survey the great progress you've made. You'll know that all along you've stayed true to your goals and what makes you, you.

Here is my challenge to you: whatever change you are looking to make in your life (health-related or otherwise), take a moment to find your "why." Why is this a goal worth striving for? What awesome qualities will be present in your life and relationships as a result? Give this exercise some time, and don't stop digging until you hit on something that truly fires you up at a visceral level. Whatever you come up with, write it down and put it somewhere you'll look at every day.

Then get moving.