You’ve been brainwashed.
All your life, you’ve been led to believe that it is impossible to enjoy healthy habits. That enjoyment and a healthy lifestyle are mortal enemies which can never cross paths.
You’ve been told:
- All healthy food tastes like cardboard.
- Exercise has to hurt to be beneficial.
- Anything you actually enjoy eating is “bad” for you.
- No pain, no gain.
You probably hear the words “exercise, “health” and “nutrition” and immediately start having debilitating FOMO (fear of missing out) on everything that’s enjoyable in life.
This is because society has trained us to believe that health is synonymous with abstinence. That if we want to be healthy, we need to put aside all earthly pleasures like some kind of a monk locked up in a monastery away from the real world.
But, I’m here to tell you this isn’t true. It IS possible to lead a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy your life. So don’t shave your head and pack your bags for the monastery just yet.
Stay tuned and I’ll give you some actionable tips on how to live a healthy lifestyle without that soul-crushing FOMO. You can start implementing these tips right away so that you can enjoy the present moment while working towards building a healthier lifestyle.
But, before we can understand how to live a healthy lifestyle that you enjoy, you’ll need to learn a few basics about happiness. Let’s dive in!
The Two Types Of Happiness
There are two distinctly different kinds of happiness. To feel satisfied with our lives overall, we must have both.
The first type is a short-term happiness which is about enjoying the present moment. This short-term happiness is often referred to as “pleasure” or “hedonic happiness”.
Some examples of these short-term (hedonistic) pleasures might be:
- Chowing down on delicious sugary or fatty foods.
- Hitting up happy hour with your friends.
- Having sex.
- Watching television.
- Playing video games etc.
The second type of happiness is a long-term happiness which Aristotle describes as a deeper, “virtuous happiness”. This long-term happiness is about doing the “right” thing.
- Helping others.
- Having good health.
- Making a difference in the world.
- Having quality relationships etc.
Our habits or behaviors can produce four different combinations of short & long-term happiness. Let’s have a look.
The Hamburger Model of Happiness
The “Hamburger Model Of Happiness” was invented by Tal Ben-Shahar, an Isreli-born, former professional squash athlete turned Harvard Psychology Professor.
[If you’d like to learn more about the hamburger model of happiness, check out Tal Ben-Shahar’s New York Times best selling book Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment.]
This interestingly named, but very useful theory came to be after an epiphany Tal had while eating hamburgers (and why not?).
In this theory, he describes four different archetypes which are made of the four different combinations of long and short-term happiness that we saw above.
|Archetype||Current Pleasure?||Future Benefit?||Example(s)|
|Hedonistic||Yes||No||Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, drug abuse.|
|Rat Racer||No||Yes||Student who skips all social activities & fun to get the perfect job after graduating.|
|Nihilism||No||No||Person who has given up on life.|
|Happiness||Yes||Yes||Person who loves their job AND gets promotions.|
First, the Hedonism Archetype. The hedonist seeks pleasure and avoids pain whenever possible. But they look for short-term pleasure in things that will not bring them long-term happiness.
Think of poor eating habits, lack of exercise, or any kind of drug or alcohol abuse. It feels good in the moment, but it’s not so great further on down the road. These things create short-term but not long-term happiness.
Second, is the Rat Race Archetype. Rat racers are people that delay their current enjoyment in hopes that it will bring them future happiness.
Think of the student who skips every party and social outing in order to get straight A’s and their dream job after graduation. Or the new guy, who works 60+ hours a week trying to pay his dues so that he can make partner at his firm some day. Neither of these people are enjoying life now, but they might enjoy the future.
Third is the Nihilism Archetype. These people have lost all hope. They no longer enjoy the present, and they have no dreams of a positive or happy future. They have given up. This is the worst case scenario.
And finally, there is the Happiness Archetype. These people enjoy things in the present that also benefit them in the future!
Think of someone who absolutely loves their job. They are excited to go to work in the morning, and work passionately while there. Because of this, they will also likely have future benefits like career satisfaction, promotions and pay raises.
As you can see from the above table, the happiness archetype is ideal! Can you imagine? Enjoying a healthy habit in both the long-term AND the short-term? That sounds amazing!
How The Hamburger Model Explains Our Relationship With Healthy Habits
Let’s look a little closer, and see how the hamburger model of happiness can be used to understand our relationship with healthy habits.
The default state of humans seems to be the hedonistic archetype. We crave instant gratification. We’d rather sit on the couch and eat junk food while watching our favorite show than make a healthy dinner, exercise, and read a book.
The good news is that we humans have big enough brains to realize that this sort of hedonism is not good for us (at least not all the time). So we try hard to live a healthier lifestyle.
But there is this misconception that the rat racer mentality (delaying all present enjoyment for future gain) is the best way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. So we eat health food we hate, and sweat to death doing exercise we absolutely loathe, all for the chance to be happy and healthy in the future.
But we know that the rat racer approach rarely works.
Habits need to be pleasurable in the short term AND beneficial in the long term, or else we feel deprived, like we’re missing out on all the best things life has to offer. And as soon as we start feeling that FOMO set in… That’s where people get stuck and usually quit on their healthy habits.
But There Is Another Choice!
What if long-term 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? Can we learn how to live a healthy lifestyle AND enjoy it?
The answer is YES! We just have to change our strategy and mindset a little bit.
How To Live A Healthy Lifestyle While Avoiding Soul Crushing FOMO
Now that you understand what goes into happiness, It’s finally time how to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle that you can enjoy rather than dread.
Check out the following 4 actionable tips to start banishing your FOMO today!
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.
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.
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.
To 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 a year because of it. I haven’t been able to participate in my outrigger canoe team practices because of it.
And of course now I miss exercising like I used to. So when it’s time to do my physical therapy exercises, I say, “I get to do my exercises” 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 reframe your thoughts on your habits. Below are a few other examples of reframing.
|Original Thought||Reframed Thought|
|“I bet my husband made another bland, healthy dinner tonight.”||“I am lucky to have a partner that supports my goal of getting healthier.”|
|“Ugh I have to exercise…”||“I get to do my exercises and work on my health.”|
|“This healthy food is really expensive.”||“This food may be a bit more expensive than what I was eating, but my health is worth it.”|
|“I have to go to the gym.”||“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the gym since many gyms around the world are closed due to covid-19.”|
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 you should be, it’s an impressive feat of willpower. But look past the temporary high of achieving that goal.
How would you 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.
My advice? 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.
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 you don’t need to feel deprived or guilty. You can hit up happy hour with your 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.
Imagine that only 20% of your total meals were healthy to start with. If you 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 – 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 you to gradually work towards a healthier diet.
The best way to turn a healthy habit into a healthy lifestyle is to make sure that it brings you both present enjoyment AND future happiness.
If you adopt healthy habits and stick to them, the future happiness part pretty much takes care of itself. It’s the short-term happiness that we have to worry about when it comes to healthy habits.
How to live a healthy lifestyle AND enjoy it FOMO-free:
- Prove to yourself that healthy habits can be enjoyable.
- Reframe your negative thoughts.
- Don’t aim for perfection, only improvement.
- 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 moment, and therefore be more likely to stick to them which in turn leads to long-term happiness. Win-win!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to drop them in the comments below, and let’s have a discussion!
35 Replies to “How To Live A Healthy Lifestyle AND Avoid Soul Crushing FOMO”
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.
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!
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.
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!
Thank you for these inspiring tips. I struggle to maintain and stick to a healthy diet. But I will definitely consider your ideas❤️
Sounds like a plan Demi! Good luck with your goals and thanks so much for stopping by and giving this a read!
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.
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!
You always come up with such insightful posts. Thank you so much for sharing
You are most welcome Priyanka! Thanks for stopping by and reading.
These are great tips – I love how they not only are practical but touch at the reality of the situations they touch on. Like not shooting for perfection…
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!!!
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! 🙂
Yes! I really do believe that mindset matters Lynn. It sounds like you are making some great progress towards your goals. Well done, and thanks so much for reading!
Great read with lots of good advice.i’ve spent the whoke of lockdown upping the exercise and trying to eat a lot healthier.
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!
Great post!!!!! I am in the process of creating a new me, more active and healthier, your words and your tips are precious to me, thank you for sharing😉
Awww I am so happy to hear that Fabiana! You are quite welcome. I wish you the best of luck in all of your goals!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
Awwww thanks Lex! I really hope it will make a positive difference for people. Thanks for your kind words!
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!
Awww thanks Cecile! In my opinion a moderately healthy habit that you can stick to is better than a very healthy habits that you can’t. Thanks so much for reading!
I agree that a shift in mindset is important. We need to look at things from all angles. There are many benefits that we forget about.
I agree Elise, mindset matters! Little changes in mindset can go a long ways for improving health, happiness, and quality of life. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!
Excellent read. I’ve got my fitness to a pretty acceptable level, but want to work harder at that and the food I eat next year.
This is a great post! I’ve been struggling to come up with a exercise routine I can maintain. I hate working out. This post has just made me aware of one of my limiting beliefs about exercise, that for it to be effective it must be a certain type of workout. Now, I am actually looking forward to exploring some other options. Thanks for this!
This is a fantastic post, really really enjoyed this. Very interested in the modeling issues on happiness – I’m definitely currently long term happy but short term unhappy. Will have to reread as so much here!
Making healthy habits enjoyable has really helped me remain consistent. Instead of snacking if I want something sweet in the evenings I opt for a protein shake. In my protein shake, I like to add frozen strawberries. It always does the job of curing my sweet tooth and it doesn’t include the guilt.
That is a perfect example of making healthy habits enjoyable Erica! It makes all the difference doesn’t it? I get the late night sweet tooth as well. My fix is similar but it’s a mini acai bowl with fresh berries and a little dab of cashew butter. Yum!