Don’t you wish you could just snap your fingers and make healthy choices consistently without any problems? That your tastebuds would suddenly love vegetables and detest all the sugary deep-fried comfort foods? Yeah… me too!
I know, I can hear the shocked response… What do you mean? You write a health blog! Don’t you breathe and eat all things healthy all the time?!
Confession time: Um, no… Don’t get me wrong, I want to consistently make healthy choices. And I go out of my way to make them most of the time. But I’M NOT PERFECT!
I have spent the last several years on my own health journey and helping countless others on theirs. My combined experiences personally and professionally have inspired me to identify 5 basic stages of the Wellness Cycle.
It’s a natural cycle we all experience, consciously or not. Understanding where you are in the cycle can help you decide if it’s where you want to be. It can inspire you to make better choices and allow you to finally get traction on your health goals.
Before I explain this one, I just want to say that I totally “get” this person because I have been there more times than I care to admit!
Health rejectors are people who aren’t interested in health, but want to enjoy their decadent desserts or bready/cheesy meals in peace. They aren’t happy with their weight usually. But even if it somehow isn’t showing up on the scale, they often struggle with self doubt and at least mild depression or apathy. They might dive into a new diet but often gives up within a few days because they just get too hungry.
Like I said, I get these people. I lived in this world for so long as a health rejector! And even then, I was not happy. I wanted to be healthier but I was overwhelmed and just plain frustrated at the process that seemed impossible!
Unfortunately, I’ve also been a health sufferer too. I’m thankful this is not my current season of life right now!
Health sufferers experience prolonged symptoms of pain or discomfort from a known or unknown medical issue and do not have much hope of recovering.
I have shared my story on the blog before and some suggestions for dealing with the fear of being a medical unknown. It’s not a season in my life I would care to repeat at all, but there is so much modern science cannot explain that it’s entirely possible that it could happen again.
Health sufferers are often seeking medical attention but not necessarily receiving quality information to address lifestyle issues. Health sufferers are also commonly dealing with depression and anxiety related to their ongoing and seemingly unending symptoms.
If you have a health sufferer in your life, you might notice them also struggling with loneliness because so many people just cannot understand or sympathize with their ongoing struggles.
Thankfully, there is more and more availability of information reaching these people because of the internet giving platforms to people who are bringing awareness of lifestyle interventions and natural health changes. Many of these efforts are more effective and less dangerous than modern medical approaches.
This is such a tricky phase of the health journey, and I have such empathy for people in this phase! Your health might be overall pretty good – it’s not like you are a health sufferer. But you want to lose weight and look better and feel stronger… and you might be following all of your doctor’s orders to just eat less and move more. That’s supposed to be the answer, right?
So you hop on a low calorie diet, join a gym, push yourself hard for weeks on end so that you can lose about 10 pounds. When you squint just the right way in the mirror you might can imagine where those pounds came from but you just feel hungry and tired all the time. The diet falls away because you just get hungry and frustrated. Then a few weeks later when you have gained it all back, you find another diet that looks promising.
As a health seeker, you might feel like it is the biggest struggle of your life to make healthy choices! You might feel like the world is set against you and your body just can’t lose weight like it used to. (And let’s be honest, if you have tried lots of diets, losing weight can be a struggle!)
Of course, some hormonal shifts mean that it’s typical to have a few more pounds as we age. But you really shouldn’t have to work hard to just maintain or lose extra weight! Does that sound a bit scandalous to you? Keep reading! You might be curious how the health journey is experienced by people who are able to move beyond this phase!
This is the phase where things start to get really interesting! A health student is one who is asking questions and seeking out answers to apply in their own daily life. Unlike the health rejectors they are open and excited to get new health information. Unlike the seekers, they are no longer trying to muscle their way through.
Health students are people who are on a long road to overhauling their entire lifestyle. They have tried the “Eat Less / Move More” too many times to believe it works, so they start looking elsewhere. They find other approaches that are more enjoyable and sustainable for their life preferences. They also look at how a variety of daily choices from the deodorant they use to how they breath is impacting their overall health status!
Health students start seeing progress. It might be small at first, but it’s exciting! Like watching a seed sprout for the first time, it can be incredible to see some of the light bulb moments happen for health students!
Some health students might also be health sufferers that are finally just – so – done with the conventional medicine approach to whatever their symptoms are. But others may not have any particular medical issues. Either way, they will undoubtedly start learning more and more about what works well with their individual bodies over time. And as the line between healthy choices and feeling better in your own body grows stronger and stronger, the effort needed to help you keep making those choices gets less and less!
Health masters is the term I use to refer to people who have internalized their health journey. They of course continue to be health students as it’s impossible to stop learning once the process begins. However, they have progressed far enough along the journey that there is no going back.
Health masters are people who have been utterly convinced that their approach to health and wellness is at least in the right direction for their individual biology. They are no longer really tempted by junk food because their healthy lifestyle habits are so enjoyable to them.
Health masters are the ones who will get mocked by their less confident and still-striving health seeker friends who work so hard to make a healthy choice. But they are also the ones who get asked all kinds of health questions and spend their free time learning more about the human body.
I want to make it clear that even health masters are not perfect. We can all be thrown off by a tricky season of life, by some misleading health information, or just because we are human and eating that ice cream feels good right now! Health masters are the ones though that have figured out how to resiliently resume a healthy lifestyle and continue making progress. They will do so with a bit of initial grit and then results flow without too much actual effort because their automatic choices are in sync with the things that support their optimal biology.
How Does the Wellness Cycle Work Exactly?
Well, usually you start as a Health Rejector and progress towards becoming a Health Master… but it’s not exactly a clear cut process.
It’s common to regress, especially during stressful seasons. A regression doesn’t mean you are starting over. It’s just one more opportunity to give yourself some grace and redefine what healthy looks like as you settle into whatever your new reality is.
But I will say the majority of adults I know seem to get stuck cycling between the first 3 stages. They want to be healthy, but just don’t know how to break out of the cycle of crash diets to be able to reliably make healthy choices without it feeling like a chore. If this is you, I strongly recommend finding a health coach to help you bust through this ceiling. They can help you find unique ways to make healthier choices that you will LOVE!
So Where are You?
Now that I have described the five basic stages of a health journey, did you see yourself in one of the descriptions? What do you think of these stages? Did I leave out something you would add? I would love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to leave me a comment below so we can discuss it.
Or, if you would prefer to not broadcast your stage to the internet, you can click on the Contact button at the top of the page and send me an email.