Putting the Happy Back in Happy and Healthy

Today I would like to put the Happy back in Happy and Healthy.

 

I have a patient who I’ve been working with for a while. He’s serious and successful. He’s lost 20 pounds and I’ve watched him internalize new skills as he learns to live his life as if he’s already at his goal weight. This week he began adding a skill that is easily overlooked. A skill that makes all the difference.

At first, it takes some focus and concentration to eat well and begin building healthy habits. And there’s no doubt how important it is to understand how our bodies work and how what we eat affects us. This is the Healthy side of the equation.

 

I’m thinking of 2 Questions:

  • How can I be happy while changing the way I eat? AND…
  • How can eating healthy actually help make me happy?

 

If you believe that you have to give up everything you love in order to be healthy, and many people do, then it is unlikely you will be able to develop a successful long term strategy. And you don’t have to tell yourself “when I’ve lost the weight I’ll be happy”. It’s about the process rather than about the end.

Happiness helps you access a deeper source of creativity. This creativity allows you to see possibilities that might otherwise be unnoticed.The Happiness part enables you to tap into a different source of energy. It’s a way of moving through a world that allows you to have what you really need, do what you need to do, while having it work out for you as well.

Understanding the Happy part opens up a different set of questions. For example, you could ask yourself “How can I enjoy entertaining my friends, share a meal we’ll love, have them feel welcome and cared for, and have it still be good for me?” or “How can I have a meal that I love and not undo all the hard work I’ve already done or lose all the ground I’ve gained while I’m at it?”

And here’s another aspect that doesn’t get much attention, it’s the reverse. A bonus, of sorts. It’s the healthy part that leads to happiness.

It turns out that sugar is actually a depressant. It is structurally similar to alcohol and it has a similarly powerful effect on your brain. It’s most noticeable when you eat sugar after it’s been out of your system for a while. Studies have shown that for 2-3 days after reintroducing sugar it can cause negative thinking, being down on yourself, really feeling off. Sugar is a powerful drug. Avoid excess sugar and you will typically lighten your mood. Most of us have had this experience, now we know why.

Studies have likewise linked eating lots of vegetables – rich in phytonutrients and fiber – to less depression and anxiety. One European study showed a direct link. Eating more vegetables increased levels of happiness.

All this time we’ve been talking about what I call, healing the split, where we include the whole of who we are, including our desires, our needs, our unique reality. We are the sum of our parts and so we strive for congruence. To bring it all together, just as we are, and on our own terms.

When we are in alignment with this one simple belief, our choices become straightforward and so much easier. This work is for everyone, a condition we all reach for. Maybe it’s what we call being “aware”. I picked up a postcard many years ago with these words written on it. It read Enjoy Your Life, It May Be Your Last.

 

You can be happy and healthy!

Dr. Gail Altschuler

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