Man and woman having fun while exercising

How To Eat Healthier, Exercise More & Still Enjoy Your Life!

Welcome back for day 19 of my Happy.Healthy.Whole Project! Today’s post is a continuation of yesterday’s post, which you might want to pop over and read first if you haven’t already. 

But just in case, here’s a quick recap. First, I introduced the two types of happiness: short-term happiness also known as pleasure, and long-term happiness which has to do with being healthy, having purpose, helping others etc.

In order to feel truly happy, we must have BOTH short and long-term happiness in our lives. If either one is missing, we will feel restless and unfulfilled.

Next, I introduced Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar’s Hamburger Model of Happiness which introduces the four different archetypes representing the different combinations of either having or not having short and long-term happiness. 

Check out the table below for a summary of this model.

hamburger model of happiness summary table

As you can see from this table, the happiness archetype is ideal! Can you imagine? Enjoying something in both the long-term AND the short-term? That sounds amazing!

Yet, when we try to build healthier habits, we tend to take a rat racer approach. We feel that we have to delay all happiness now (by eating health food we hate, and doing exercise we don’t like), so that we can be happy and healthy in the future. 

But we know that doesn’t work. Habits need to be pleasurable in the short term AND beneficial in the long term, or else we will be unhappy, and likely end up quitting our new habit.

But, we’ve been led to believe by modern culture that it isn’t possible to enjoy things that are healthy for us. But I think a shift of mindset is in order.

How to eat healthier, exercise more, and still enjoy life!
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How To Eat Healthier, Exercise More & Still Enjoy Your Life!

What if long-term happiness and short-term happiness didn’t have to conflict? What if we could eat well and enjoy it? Or exercise more and be excited about it?

What I am describing, is the happiness archetype.

Is it possible to apply the happiness archetype to our habits so that we can enjoy them in the moment AND also get future benefit from them? 

The answer is YES! We just have to change our strategy and mindset a little bit. Here are 4 ways that we can do that.

1 – Prove To Yourself That Healthy Habits Can Be Enjoyable

A lot of times people have this limiting belief that if something is healthy for you, you can’t possibly enjoy it. But this is a false and limiting belief, meaning that it holds you back from achieving your goals. 

Eating Healthy

First, experiment with healthy recipes. It is virtually impossible to hate every single meal that is healthy for you. The problem more often than not is that you haven’t tried any healthy recipes that you like. 

But millions and millions of free healthy recipes are right at the tips of our fingers these days. Set yourself a goal to check out some new websites or cookbooks, and prepare at least one new healthy recipe a week.

If you like it, great! Add it to your recipe box. If not, no big deal, throw it out and try again next week. Repeat this process until you have a go to list of recipes that you love.

Exercising More

Second, experiment with different types of exercise that you like. Like eating healthy, exercise doesn’t have to be unenjoyable. Unless you are an athlete training for a certain type of event, you don’t even HAVE to do any particular exercise if you don’t like it. 

For example I hate running with the passion of 1,000 burning suns. I don’t run, ever. But I do exercise regularly. 

Through experimentation, I found types of exercise that I get excited about. For example, stand up paddleboarding, hiking, outrigger canoeing, rock climbing and kickboxing don’t feel like a chore at all to me.

Take some time and figure out what you enjoy. Take your dog for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Take a dance class. Hit a punching bag. 

Not all exercise is created equal. Get out there and figure out what works best for YOU.

[Related: 3 Tips To Stop Hating (And Start Loving!) Your Exercise]

2 – Reframe Your Thoughts About Healthy Habits

This point follows up on the previous one about getting rid of limiting beliefs related to healthy habits.

We often think of healthy habits as a chore, which makes us dread doing them even more.

If you want to enjoy healthy habits in the present, it can be extremely helpful to reframe your thoughts about them.

This reframing activity is somewhat similar to practicing gratitude. 

Humans have a tendency to overlook the good things that they already have in life, and instead, long for all that they don’t have. I call this “the grass is always greener effect”.

But gratitude and reframing can help us realize that the grass is actually greener where we water it. 

So find short-term happiness while working to develop healthy habits, try to think of your healthy habits as a privilege rather than a chore.

Here’s a personal example of this. I often used to think, “Ugh, I have to go exercise…” 

But now I am injured. I haven’t been able to go to work for over 9 months because of it. I haven’t been able to participate on my outrigger canoe team practices because of it.

And of course now I miss exercising like I used to (I even miss working!). So when it’s time to do my physical therapy exercises, I say, “I get to do my exercises.”

I say I “get to”, because now doing my exercises feels like a privilege rather than a chore. 

It’s a small difference, but it makes a big impact on my attitude towards exercising.

But you don’t have to have an accident like me to appreciate and reframe your thoughts on your habits – just think about others that can’t. People that are injured, have chronic neurodegenerative diseases, are paralyzed etc.

Here are a few other examples of reframing for you:

Examples of how to reframe your thoughts about healthy habits.

Next time you catch yourself thinking that your habits are a chore, give this reframing exercise a try! It really does make a difference.

3 – Don’t Aim For Perfection When It Comes To Healthy Habits

The next limiting belief that we need to banish is one born of perfectionism – it is called all-or-nothing thinking.

When it comes to healthy habits, people get stuck in the mindset that they have to be absolutely perfect. If they eat one unhealthy meal in a week or miss a single workout they’re a complete and utter failure and they might as well quit.

Sound familiar? But here’s the problem with all-or-nothing thinking: aiming for perfection sets you up for failure.

Let’s say you set a rat racer goal of eating healthy at every single meal for a whole month. 

Now, imagine that you were able to accomplish this goal. Sure you would be proud of yourself, and why not? It’s an impressive feat of willpower. But look past the temporary high of achieving that goal. 

How would you would feel in the present? Would you enjoy eating 140 healthy meals in a month and zero unhealthy ones? Or would you feel deprived, like you’re missing out on all the fun things in life? 

And if you’d feel deprived, how long do you think you could keep that habit up? Is it something you could sustain for a whole lifetime? Or would you probably fall off the wagon in a few weeks and go back to your old ways?

What I’m getting at, is if you aim for perfect it’s a lose-lose situation for you. If you achieve the goal you feel deprived and are not happy in the present. But, If you fail to stick to your ambitious goal… you also won’t be happy. 

So what should you do instead?

Here’s the big secret of how to both enjoy your habits now, and get benefit from them in the future: You don’t HAVE to be perfect all the time to get healthier. 

Yes, you heard me right. In order to improve your health and fitness, not every meal needs to be 100% healthy and you don’t have to go to the gym every single day.

Let’s work through a nutrition example to illustrate this point.

Thought Experiment

How many healthy meals do you currently eat per week? 

If you’re eating 3 meals each day, that’s 35 total meals in a week. If you’re eating 7 healthy meals a week you are currently eating healthy 20% of the time.

Once you’ve figured out how many healthy meals you eat on average per week, bump it up a little for the next week. If you were eating 7 healthy meals a week maybe aim for 10  next week. And once you’ve mastered that, bump it up a little more.

I know, that part is nothing groundbreaking – but here’s the kicker. 

Don’t even try to work up to 100% of your meals being healthy.

For example, I try to eat healthy 75-80% of the time. And that works fantastic for me. I’m able to maintain my weight, I have the energy to perform well in my outrigger canoeing and at work, and I enjoy life while I’m doing it. 

So, just for the fun of it, let’s Do the math. If 80% of my 35 meals a week are healthy,  then I have eaten 28 healthy meals and 7 less healthy meals per week. 

When we put it that way, it seems a lot less restrictive doesn’t it? Now we don’t need to feel deprived or guilty. We can go out with our friends now and again, go to the barbeque or kids birthday party etc. without stressing.

The key is to make it sustainable. This is a compromise that lets you feel BOTH types of happiness, long-term and short-term so that you don’t feel deprived. 

When we enjoy the present, and we get future benefit – why wouldn’t we stick to our habits?

But I know what you’re thinking – wait Clarissa – you don’t really expect us to meet our goals by only eating healthy and working out PART of the time do you?

Will You Still Get Results If You’re Only Eating Healthy/Working Out Part Of The Time?

The research says yes! So long as it is more than you were doing before.

In our example case, 20% of meals were healthy to start with. If that was you, and we bumped that up to 50% of the meals being healthy – do you think you’d feel better? Do you think you’d look better? What about at 65% healthy meals, or 80%?

But, if you don’t want to take my word for it, check out this amazing study conducted by Precision Nutrition on thousands of their coaching clients. 

SPOILER ALERT! They found that people made significant progress towards their weight loss goals even when they only stuck to their nutrition plan 50% of the time.

The point is, it’s all relative. So long as you are doing better than you were before, you will see progress. 

Remember: progress and happiness are the main goals – not perfection. Perfection is the enemy of both progress and happiness.

4 simple ways to eat healthier, exercise more, and still enjoy life!
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4 – Stop Labeling Foods As “Good” And “Bad”

Labeling foods as “good” and “bad” is a form of extreme thinking and is another way to make yourself feel unhappy and deprived in the short-term.

By labeling foods as “bad” and placing them off-limits for yourself, you are setting yourself up for failure in the short-term, and creating a long-term unhealthy and guilty relationship with food.

If you resist your cravings and don’t eat the “bad” food you will feel deprived. But, if you give in and eat the “bad” food, you’ll feel too guilty to enjoy it.

This is another lose-lose situation.

Instead of labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, Precision Nutrition (the leading nutrition coaching company in the United States) places foods on a spectrum that ranges from “eat more” to “eat less”. Check out their awesome infographic!

By not labeling foods as “good” and “bad” nothing is strictly off limits, so you’re less likely to feel deprived and more likely to stick to your goals. It also helps to keep our relationship with food more healthy, and can allow us to gradually work towards a healthier diet.

Conclusion

The best way to turn a healthy habit into a healthy lifestyle that lasts, is to make sure that it brings you both present enjoyment AND future happiness.

If you adopt healthy habits and live by them, the future happiness pretty much takes care of itself.

It’s the short-term happiness that we have to worry about when it comes to healthy habits.

In summary, to make sure you are enjoying life while building your healthy habits:

  1. Prove to yourself that healthy habits can be enjoyable.
  2. Reframe your thoughts about healthy habits.
  3. Don’t aim for perfection when it comes to healthy habits.
  4. Stop labeling foods as “good” or “bad”.

If you are able to make these mindset shifts, you will find it much easier to enjoy your healthy habits in the present, and therefore be more likely to stick to them which will bring long-term happiness as well. Win-win!

Thanks so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so feel free to drop them in the comments below, and lets have a discussion!

Until tomorrow,

~ Clarissa

P.S. Are you interested in getting to know yourself a little better before the end of the year? Join my free 30-Day Self Discovery Challenge! Click on the image below to learn more.

Free 30-day self discovery challenge!

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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

30 Replies to “How To Eat Healthier, Exercise More & Still Enjoy Your Life!

  1. Incredible post once again. I love the thought experiment you recommend. Getting comfortable with your food reality is very important.

    One of the ways I found to wean out old habits (snacking on biscuits, drinking more, vegging out instead of working out) was to introduce new habits (morning meditation, journalling, breathing, stretching). The very mindset change of bringing in new, exciting, interesting and healthy habits made it much easier to lose outdated unhealthy habits. Maybe a fly wheel of motivation was in play, I don’t know.

    1. Thanks for reading! It’s so funny you should mention about replacing old habits with newer ones. The post that I am publishing tomorrow talks about that in depth!

      Great minds think alike I guess! Thanks so much for taking the time to add to the conversation!

  2. Great post! I love the positivity messaging and making things manageable to most. I once had a Dr that said eat healthy 80% of the time and you can allow yourself the occasional treat 20% of the time. I’ve tried to maintain that throughout my life! Walking is my greatest joy for exercise and one I do not take for granted. I had four months last year that I couldn’t walk (or even put my foot down for any length of time) and it really has changed my way of thinking.

    1. Thank you for reading Jodie! I think your doctor gave you fantastic advice! We can be so strict with ourselves sometimes, and in doing so actually end up sabotaging all our good intentions.

      That sounds like a huge bummer about your foot! I know the feeling all to well. It really does put us in a completely different mindset doesn’t it? I am glad that you are able to do the healthy habit that brings you pleasure again, and hope that I’ll be out there doing the same soon! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Reframing is a good strategy for changing your mindset about exercise. I would not make it as a runner, either, but I do love hiking, walking, and yoga. I’ve recently gotten into HIIT exercise. There are plenty of great beginning exercise videos on YouTube so I can exercise inside, too.

    1. Yes! There are so many options for exercise out there! And as you mentioned with the internet and YouTube there is so much you can do right at home! With a little exploration, I think everyone could find something that suited them.

      Thanks so much for following my project Kathy!

    1. Yes! Thanks Lisa – for me, and a lot of people I have worked with in the past, this is the single biggest thing holding many people back. I think starting with realistic expectations is so important!!!

  4. Great post! I believe that healthy habits are all in the mindset. I too have been disciplining myself with doing something active every day and my relationship with food! 🙂

  5. Great read with lots of good advice.i’ve spent the whoke of lockdown upping the exercise and trying to eat a lot healthier.

    1. That’s fantastic Graham! What better time to reprioritize health than during the middle of a pandemic, when many people have more time at home than usual? The big thing is we just have to find a way to manage the stress as well. Well done making progress on your health during lockdown, and thanks so much for taking the time to read and share your experience!

  6. This was such a great article. Although I feel like I have some of these things well under control (like enjoying healthy eating) there are a number of things I see that I can improve upon (like labeling foods as good or bad). I like that you said you don’t have to do ALL exercise but to do more of what you enjoy. I too hate running, but I do like hiking. I guess I label exercises as good and bad too because I feel like running holds more value. Thanks for the insight!

    1. You are so welcome! I am glad that you were still able to find value in this post, even though you are already pretty good at a few of these things. I feel very fortunate that I enjoyed veggies and healthy food from a young age – although I do blame my dad sneaking me candy as a baby for my sweet tooth! 😂

      But yes I think the labels of “good” and “bad” really complicate things and make unhealthy relationships with our habits. You make a great point that this could be applied to exercise as well as food.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights on this topic with me!

  7. I really needed to read this right now. I’m trying to make my body healthier and you’ve included some great tips. I’ve never thought about how I label foods as good or bad before but I definitely need to stop doing that.

    1. I’m glad this post was helpful for you Kelly! You’re definitely not alone in labeling foods, I’ve found almost all people do it. It really affects our relationship with food in a negative way. Thanks so much for reading!

  8. This is a great post and really well timed – considering the second lockdown looming! I am doing the opposite this time around and going to focus on my health and fitness rather than eat my way through it. I think that it’ll really help my mental health and my mind!
    Some great tips in this post, thank you!

    Rosie

    1. That’s a great plan Rosie! That’s what I did during our lockdown and I know it did my mental health a lot of good, because exercise has always been a great stress reducer for me. I am sorry you have to lock down again, but hope this approach will serve you well. Thanks for reading!

  9. I 100 percent agree with every single thing you’ve said in this post. It’s so refreshing that you are spreading such valuable and helpful information! Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. I love your advice of eating 80% healthy meals, as it is true that nobody can keep up with only healthy food forever (or at least I can’t ahah). Great post as always, thanks for sharing!

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