This guest post is by Kim Dorval, RD, LD, CEO of Nutrition in Motion, a national network of experienced Registered Dietitians (RDs). Nutrition in Motion is dedicated to changing lives by educating, motivating, and supporting people in achieving their individual health goals.
My father was a self-employed, self-made millionaire. He ran his own insurance agency, worked hard—and played hard. In his late 50s, he had a massive heart attack and underwent a quintuple bypass. As you might imagine, he needed quite a bit of time to recover which meant he couldn’t work for a while. Years after his recovery, he developed Alzheimer’s and spent the remainder of his life in an Alzheimer’s home.
No one wants to work their whole life just to retire and get sick. You want to be able to translate all your hard work into spending time with your family and friends and doing all the wonderful things you’ve dreamed of and planned to do.
I was a Vice President of a bank when my father had his heart attack, which was a huge wake up call for me. I didn’t want my retirement to look like my father’s, so I left my banking career, went back to school, and built a business that helps people live healthier, more abundant lives.
If you’d like to spend your later years doing the things you love—like fishing, golfing, and traveling—rather than attending doctor’s appointments and rehab facilities, I have a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
1. Get rid of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality
There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to diet and exercise. You’ll never be able to eat 100% clean and healthy and exercise every day. Life happens and expecting perfection sets you up for failure. As a result of too many failed tries, people often throw in the towel and give up.
Instead, adopt the same mentality you take with your business. You don’t quit and walk away when you miss a target or lose a deal. You figure out what went wrong and how you can do it differently next time. It’s not about perfection—it’s about constantly pivoting when things don’t go quite as you planned.
2. Make small changes into new habits.
The diet industry sets us up to fail so that we’ll continue to buy into more fad diets and diet foods. Our brain records every one of those failures as a constant reminder and eventually we give up trying.
Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH and CEO and Founder of Fresh Tri, a neuroscience-based digital health company, has studied this phenomenon and has built a habit changing mobile app. She explains that the habenula is the part of the brain that records failure. When future failure on top of past failure is perceived, the habenula lights up and suppresses our motivation to move forward. It also perpetuates negative self-talk and keeps us from achieving our goals.
To counteract these effects, you need to retrain your brain by continued exposure to success. You can start by making small, healthy changes you know you can stick with. This should be familiar territory for you—entrepreneurs and executives are famous for making successful habits around their work and businesses.
- Buy a large water bottle and set a goal to drink the entire container every day.
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break at work. Get up and move for at least 15-20 minutes.
- Commit to eating one additional serving of fruits or vegetables each day.
In other words, choose one behavior you know you can reliably adopt, do it for 30 days, then choose another. At the end of a year, you’ll have 12 new healthy habits.
Caution: Don’t try to adopt too many habits at once (one or two are plenty). Often times, people try to make too many changes at once, then fail and give up.
3. Eat the chips—but watch the drinks.
I eat chips every day. Why? Because eliminating your favorite foods isn’t the answer. There’s a lot of information out there about foods you should eliminate—carbs, fats, sugars, you name it. But when you tell your brain you can’t have something, it inevitably becomes more desirable (I found myself elbow-deep in the chip bowl at every party because I never ate them at home).
Not to mention, who wants to live without their favorite foods? Not me.
Instead, it’s important to incorporate your favorites as part of a healthy lifestyle. Chips now have no power over me because I eat them every day. Managing your portion size of these types of foods is key.
You do need to be careful with drinks. Whether it’s your high calorie tea and coffee drinks, sugary smoothies or alcoholic beverages, most people don’t realize just how many extra liquid calories they are consuming—and how quickly they can add up. If there’s a drink you really love (hello, margaritas!), build it into your lifestyle in small portions like the chips I mentioned. Otherwise, focus on non-caloric beverages like water, flavored seltzer water, Vitamin Water Zero, black coffee and tea, and for alcoholic beverages, Titos and soda (the calories are in the mixers).
4. Work with a dietitian
Believe it or not, dietitians are not the food police. We also don’t have a one-size-fits-all mentality. A dietitian can you help you understand your current health situation and risk factors and get you on the path to a future that will not just add years to your life—but also quality to your years.
Dietitians can help with:
- Planning quick and easy meals
- Learning how to eat well at restaurants and while traveling
- Incorporating (not eliminating!) your favorite foods
- Creating goals you can stick with
- Customizing a game plan specifically for you
Plus, services are covered by insurance—in most cases at 100%.
I know all of you work hard at building your businesses and your careers. Put some of that same focus into your health goals now, and it will pay more dividends than you can imagine as you age.