why so hard to change

Why it’s So Hard to Change

As the years go by, life expectancy is on the rise. Unfortunately, so is the rate of chronic disease and illness. Today, there are more people living with diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease than ever before.

Instead of living a life dictated by controlling a disease, we can focus on disease prevention or reversal with a few lifestyle changes.

We already know that most chronic diseases in the Western world are a direct cause of unhealthy lifestyle habits. Swapping these unhealthy habits out for healthy ones at any stage in life can significantly improve your health and well-being.

Easier said than done, though. The majority of people living with unhealthy lifestyle habits fall into one of three categories: they aren’t trying to make changes, they are trying but not succeeding at making changes, or they succeed for a short period of time, only to fall back into old, unhealthy habits.

Why is it so hard to change?

1. It’s in the genes

Habits that are now deemed unhealthy were once necessary for our survival. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. Food was hard to come by, and a lot of energy was spent looking for the next meal.

The uncertainty of when or where the next meal would come from led to a few behaviors that were needed for survival. First, when food was available, people needed to eat as much as possible. Second, calorie-burning was reserved for activities that were necessary for survival.

Today, the Western world lives in surplus. The rich diversity of foods and nutrients available to us is unprecedented. That means that we’re either constantly eating too much or holding ourselves back from eating too much.

It’s okay to slip up every once in a while — that’s human nature. Just try again the next day.

2. Conflicting messages from the media

On the one hand, we’re told to buy certain food products that negatively impact our health. We’re encouraged to indulge and treat ourselves because we deserve to.
On the other hand, we’re exposed to images of unattainable standards of beauty and fitness. We want to look like the models in magazines and commercials, but we’re “indulging” in unhealthy habits.

These conflicting messages are a recipe for failure. They leave us constantly feeling guilty instead of being able to enjoy whatever it is we choose to do.

Failure is often the result of aiming for a goal that was too big. Go for baby steps instead. Easing into a healthy lifestyle will help you slowly take on sustainable habits.

3. Instant gratification

The truth is that food is delicious, warming, and comforting, cigarettes are relaxing, and exercising can be a hassle.

We are used to giving in to short-term desires and benefiting from immediate results.

While personal gains are important — and shouldn’t be ignored — they shouldn’t be the priority. Get to know your weaknesses. Observe when these moments of weakness are triggered, and learn to predict them so that you can be prepared the next time they creep up. Experiment with different things including healthy foods, experiences, and physical activities for different ways to earn immediate gratification.

Consider 3 tips that can help you live a healthier lifestyle:

  • Practice self-compassion
  • Take small steps toward your goal
  • Look for instant gratification in new and surprising places