Healthy woman making a smoothie

Is Your Health a Priority?

Gina was not making progress with her digestive problems. After seeing me for two months, she still hadn’t found time to prepare some of the foods we had discussed.

She continued to skip breakfast and eat lunch in her car in between appointments, and had not temporarily eliminated dairy to see if it was causing some of her problems. In fact, she hadn’t been able to keep away from dairy for more than a few days in all the time we had been working together. “It’s just too difficult to do anything right now,” she explained. “We’re doing a lot of entertaining and eating out two or three times a week. I’m extremely busy and stressed.”

Her eating patterns and food choices were adding to Gina’s stress. Somehow I needed to find a way to get through to her so she would take the time to make necessary changes. If I failed, Gina was likely to continue having gas, bloating, and constipation. I stopped writing notes in her chart and looked her in the eyes. “Tell me, Gina, what would you say are your three priorities in life right now?”

She thought for a moment. “Why, my work, my family, and my health,” she replied. “I can see that your work and family are priorities. That’s where you spend your time and energies,” I answered. “But I don’t think your health is a priority yet. You may want your health to be a priority. That’s why you’re here. But priorities are what we do, not what we would like them to be. And you’re not making enough time to make simple dietary changes to get to the bottom of your digestive problems. To find those answers you have to make your health a priority.”

That’s a Priority?

Your priorities are not based on the amount of time you spend in any area. For something to be a priority, you need to spend enough time doing something to get the results you’re looking for. If you’re a working woman, you’ve probably realized for quite a while that work is a priority. It has to be if you want to remain employed or have a successful business. If you’re a mother, you may be making your family a priority by shopping for food and seeing that the laundry and other chores are done. If you’re in a relationship, you may find that you’re spending time talking over problems as they come up or just being together.

The same is true with your health. To make progress with any health concern you need to spend enough time to shop for the foods you need. You have to find time to prepare them and eat sitting down in a relaxed setting. You may need to make notations of what you’re eating to see how foods affect the way you feel. And for your health to be a priority, you must remember to take your supplements – every day.

To lose weight or firm up, you have to get regular exercise. Years ago, I read an article about a world-class female runner in a magazine. She was asked “what is the most difficult part of your training?” Her answer: “Putting on my shoes in the morning.” Making exercise a priority can be a challenge, but you won’t get results until you exercise regularly. And you won’t solve your health problems until you make consistent changes.

It’s difficult for many of us to make our health a priority. What mother is going to sit down and eat a healthy breakfast when her children need to be driven to school? How easy is it to prepare the foods we need when our mate or families eat differently? How can we go for a walk after work when someone needs to make dinner?

Making Your Health a Priority

How can you put your health closer to the top of your priority list? If your family is at the top of your list, remember that you’re a primary role model for your children. Children don’t do what you say, they do what you do. So if you improve your own health, you’ll probably improve the health of everyone in your family.

Use whatever tools you need to remind yourself of the steps you want to take. Basically, this means thinking and planning ahead. Creating a new habit takes time and concentration at first. Then it’s easy. Here are a few tips:

  • Set your supplements out the night before. This will help you remember to take them the next day.
  • Prepare some meals ahead. If you’re having difficulty eating enough vegetables, make extra veggies for dinner and use the leftovers for lunch.
  • Make a shopping list for the foods you need. You’re likely to forget the ones you need and remember what everyone else eats.
  • Keep a checklist with the most important steps you need to take. Include such things as “15 minute walk,” “stretch before bed,” and anything else you know you need to do, but never find time for.
  • Read your checklist every morning. Put something on the list into action that day and check it off after you do.

It may not be easy at first for you to put your health near the top of your priority list, but it’s often the best way for you to reach your goals. Take a look at what you want in your life. Are you investing enough time to get it? Take the time to rethink your priorities. A shift in your actions – making your health a top priority – can make all the difference between what you want and what you get.

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Written by Nan Kathryn Fuchs PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021