One question to ask when healthy habits feel hard

Sometimes I am the queen of over-complication. Sometimes I analyze and over-analyze and think about things like healthy habits way too much. The problem with this is that nothing actually happens. Action leads to progress. Thinking about action does not.

I firmly believe that it’s important to think about a plan and then to implement it. But, if you get stuck in the thinking, I want to give you a question that will change that.

In order to be healthy, you can’t just think about being healthy. You actually have to DO something (or a lot of little somethings) to become healthy. You need to get in your kitchen and cook the broccoli, roll out the mat and do the workout, sit and meditate, get out the bottles and a glass of water and take your supplements, and the list goes on.

I was working with a nutrition coaching client this week and we got into a conversation about her motivation to cook or in this case, lack of motivation to cook. While coaching her through this and working with her to unravel her mindset around cooking, we discovered that she was over-thinking and over-complicating the process of cooking. So, I asked her this question:

“What if this was easy?”

“What if cooking dinner was easy?”

You see, when you ask yourself questions like this, your brain goes to work to come up with a solution. What if cooking dinner was easy? Well. . .

Let’s keep going with this example and break down cooking a healthy dinner.

You LOVE soup and you’re wanting to eat an amazingly delicious healthy soup full of different types of beans, vegetables, broth, herbs and spices that you can serve once or twice and freeze the rest for other days. You tell yourself you don’t have the energy or motivation to do it. Ask yourself “what if this was easy?” until your energy and motivation matches your desire.

What is the easiest possible way to make this soup?

  1. Go buy some high quality vegetable bean soup at the Co+op, grocery store, or a local restaurant.
  2. Buy some cans of beans, a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, some organic chicken broth in a carton, and grab some herbs and spices out of your cupboard, put it all in a pan and heat it up. (Bonus if all of these foods are already in your pantry and freezer!)
  3. Saute some onions, garlic, celery, and carrots in a soup pot. Add leftover cooked beans or frozen beans, add a carton of organic chicken broth, chop up and add some more veggies from your produce drawer, then add some herbs and spices from your cupboard.
  4. Soak and pressure cook several types of beans, chop up a variety of fresh local vegetables, thaw some homemade bone broth from your freezer, and add a variety of fresh herbs grown in your garden and spices from your cupboard.
Vegeatable Bean Soup
Vegetable bean soup

I’ve got to admit, number 4 would be my ideal. Is it my daily reality? Nope and it doesn’t need to be yours either. All of these (1 to 4) are pretty healthy options.

When you get stuck or have little motivation to do something you know you want to do, ask yourself, “what if this was easy”? 

If it feels hard and you can’t get out of your head and into action, simplify and simplify again and simplify again until it feels entirely doable, even laughable.

Once you establish a habit or motivation to do something, you can build on it. Asking for perfection or to reach your ideal on the first go is just not a realistic expectation.

You might want to work out 5 days a week for an hour at the gym, but right now you’re doing either nothing or a fraction of that. What could you start doing that is so easy that it feels entirely doable? 10 squats? A 5 minute walk after dinner? A 1 minute plank? 

Just get started with something, even something very very small!

What in your life are you over-complicating? Ask “what if this was easy?”

And, if you want a coach in your corner to help you on your journey to health, I’m right here. Often, I can see what you’re not seeing and help you get started.

Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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