This week we’ve been talking about options. Asking “what are your options for living a healthy lifestyle?” Are you really free to choose the lifestyle you want? There are many different ways of being free.
A lot of things get in the way of your healthy self. Freedom from want, doubt and fear are freedoms that need to be present before you can be “free to” choose your healthy options.
Firstly, want. I’ve been wanting to mention the extraordinary Jack Monroe and here’s my excuse. Proof that there need be no financial barrier to eating good food. Secondly doubt. We all doubt ourselves. Currently, I seriously doubt my ability to complete the quadrathlon before all the marshals go home for tea. I had so much doubt last year about finishing the first triathlon I nearly pulled out. So you probably won’t be free from doubt. You have to learn to live with it. That’s where your accountability buddy comes in. It’s their job to tell you
“You can and you will”
Or, beat you into submission. Either is effective. The thought of letting the Superbad-multitasker down was more powerful than my self-doubt.
Finally fear. There are all sorts of things you might be afraid of when change is happening. But often it’s just the fear of change itself. Stop looking too far ahead, be mindful and focus on what’s happening right now and freely live the moment. Especially if that moment is full of endorphins or raspberries and sunshine.
And once you are free from the shackles holding you back are you free to get on with it? Not necessarily. Not as free as you think you are. Time and “the obesogenic society” are constraining your freedom to be a healthy agent. Your time is not your own, just look at your diary. Society, and capitalism in particular, does not want you to freely renounce biscuits. So what can you do?
With time, you are free to prioritise your health. Yes, you have to go to work, pick the kids up, visit your folks, but find the other times when you do things that are actually less important than your health. And don’t forget you’re free to just do 4 minutes of H.I.I.T. to see health benefits. It’s OK to start small.
Capitalism. Advertising and marketing and the amount of complex psychological research that’s put into it. The behavioural economics theory used against you. We don’t even become conscious of half the ways our freedom to make healthy choices is eroded. For instance, nudge says we will buy things that are placed at eye level. We’ll pick things up if we are waiting with products in front of us. What’s at children’s eye level at the checkout? Sweets. And adults eye level – often “women’s” magazines with a photo-shopped picture of an impossible “girl” on the front. Or, the supermarket’s in-house magazine with a mouthwatering cake on the front. The way round this is to firstly be more conscious of the pervasiveness of the efforts product manufacturers go to. But the second way is to be prepared. Never shop when you are hungry. Never shop without a list. Maybe shop online, then you can’t be enticed by the smell of the bakery the supermarket pumps to the front door.
Social situations are harder. If someone cooks you dinner, it’s polite to eat it. It’s polite to drink the wine. If you go out for dinner you aren’t free to say “salmon quinoa and avocado” please, there’s a menu. There’s temptation. Maybe cocktails:
But you are free to exercise that day, fast the next day, smile and enjoy it – making it your planned 20% “cheat day”.
We may not be 100% free, but we are as free to be healthy as we prioritise ourselves to be.