Re-framing What We Give Up for Our Health

“I gave up eating sugar, but I guess that was the sacrifice I had to make to get healthy.”

I hear a lot of talk about dieting and healthy eating in my day to day life and rarely ever is it instigated by me. I learned a long time ago that unless people want to hear what I have to say, they aren’t going to take it to heart. Very rarely do I ever offer unsolicited nutrition advice (anymore).

I hear similar remarks like the one above being thrown around and it’s something that’s really been weighing on me lately. The idea that we have to give something up in order to be happy or healthy is one I hear a lot. I want to pose a differing view and re-frame our way of looking at how we make the changes we need to be healthy and happy.

Why don’t we ever talk about the things we really give up in relation to our health and happiness because we continue to eat the foods that contribute to our declining health?

Let's say someone "gives up" sugar because they’re diabetic. Really, they quit having to fear that one day they might lose their eye sight, or a foot, or a kidney to a condition that was being exacerbated by their overconsumption of refined sugars and processed foods. They quit worrying that they might end up in the hospital because their high blood sugars caused them to develop Diabetic Ketoacidosis. But they didn’t give up.

Imagine a person "gives up" gluten because they want to feel better. What if instead they stopped worrying about how others looked at their eczema covered skin or that they might have another migraine attack at work and not have the sick time to cover it. They stopped hoping they’d be able to make it through their social engagement without having to worry about their IBS flaring up, or that they would have another autoimmune flare up. They stopped worrying because they were able to remove the foods that triggered their symptoms and wreaked havoc on their body. But they didn’t give up.

Giving up implies that you stopped making an effort and resigned to failure.

Giving up means that you no longer feel like the situation is in your control. And that’s not what you’re doing when you make the changes necessary to promoting better health. You’re taking charge, changing your situation and finally gaining something! Whether it’s more vitality, happiness, confidence in yourself or the ability to enjoy the flowers of Spring for the first time in years because you aren’t suffering from seasonal allergies, you've reclaimed your own health and well-being. You’ll gain more by making a change than you’ll ever lose by removing the thing or things that have been keeping you from feeling better. Giving up means not doing the work you need to do to get better, not letting go of the things that keep you sick.  

Sometimes it’s easy to give up. It’s easier for the diabetic to keep eating the foods that are making them sick and continue to take increasingly larger doses of insulin as they develop more and more insulin resistance. But it’s not easy to live a quality life hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine or read your favorite book when you’re blind.

It’s easier to keep buying Excedrin™ than it is to check the label on each and every package you buy at the store for gluten containing foods. It’s not easy to have to keep asking your boss for sick time or to have to plan your road trip according to the distance between rest stops “just in case.”

Yeah, it’s definitely easier in the moment but in the end you have to ask yourself if it was worth it? We all have different goals that we're working towards and each of us has our own set of dietary challenges that we will face in the process of achieving success. I've only picked out these particular foods because they are the most common foods associated with chronic illness. This is by no means comprehensive, as the things that make us sick are unique to each of us. 

The changes are often hard to make and the habits we have are not always easy to reform, but the most important thing you can do if you’re trying to improve your health and your quality of life is to keep moving along, keep moving in the right direction, redirect yourself when you get off course and never give up!