In a recent session with a client, we were catching up from our summer hiatus (seems health and nutrition counselors are not in demand in the summer months) and I asked the somewhat dreaded question: "So, what held?" I was referring to all the sessions we had before the summer. We met about five times and he was really getting it--going full force into changing his lifestyle and habits. He was my favorite client, of course.
I had expected that he fell off the wagon a bit--not having been held accountable by me and having all the temptations of summer: ice cream, BBQ's, beer, etc. So, I held my breath as I waited for his answer. "Pretty much everything held," he said. He went on. "Once a week, maybe, I'd splurge, having some pizza or a hamburger, maybe, but other than that, I was good almost all the time, eating lots of real food and exercising. I felt great all summer and I'm down 36 pounds now." I let out my breath and smiled a big smile. Then he added, "I made the turn, you know. This is my life now. I'm not dieting. I'm living, but living much healthier, and to tell you the truth, I don't even miss any of the stuff I used to eat. I feel too good to go back." "Wow, that's great!" I said, wanting to jump up and hug him.
With all the people I've worked with (or wanted to work with) there are only a few who "get it." I don't mean to say that other clients weren't successful in their work with me. It's just that most people go along with eating better and exercising because they know it's good for them. It may very well "stick" too, but the difference is a switch in thinking where you don't really have to think much anymore. It's not so much the choice between McDonalds and an organic, free-range burger from a local mom and pop as much as it is the choice between the healthy burger and a veggie wrap. In other words, McDonalds isn't even an option anymore. It doesn't really occur to you to go there or to grab a bag of M & M's at the checkout counter. They no longer apply to you. Maybe once in a while you'll indulge, but on an every day basis, these just aren't a part of your agenda.
It takes a while to get there for some. It's a matter or readiness, I suppose. And there are different levels of "getting it." If you've grown up and lived in the typical American lifestyle, there are a lot of habits that people want to shed and the marketing of products in the U.S. doesn't help. You may have gotten rid of fast food in your life, and that's an accomplishment. But then there's another level, and another after that. People just have to find what level they are comfortable in. There are some extremists who keep on getting healthier and healthier so much that they feel they can't be a part of the typical American society any longer. They get it, of course, but there's a cost as to how much.
I suppose it's not really something you have control over either. You can't just all of a sudden just get it. It usually takes an event that snaps you into it or you just take in enough information that one day you realize you've gotten it and never even noticed when it all started. Sometimes it's a little of both. For me, the seeds had been planted as a child but it took my infertility to get me on the fast track where I've been for the last ten or eleven years. Even the fast track has baby steps. I have little epiphanies every once in a while where I "get it" a little more and more.
So, you get it or you don't. And if you do, that's great--you may live longer and more comfortably. Maybe I'll see you out on the tennis court for the 100 and older league. If you don't get it, good luck, but then again, you probably aren't reading this anyway.