A few weeks ago, I got monumentally ill, the kind of sick that makes you wish you were already dead instead of laying on your bed, feverish and frequently passing out from the pain. I couldn’t eat or even stand the smell of food, my body ached all over and the fever had me cuffed to my bed. It was the most horrible experience I’ve had so far, but the very next day the doctor gave me the go, I went home and ate a chocolate cookie that only led to another two days of sickness.  This is what I always do, when I’m laying in bed feeling sorry for myself, I swear that I will take care of myself to prevent it. Except that, when I get better, I shrug it off blaming my bad gene pool, and look at the bright side: oh, look! I burned 10 pounds in a week, I should get sick more often.

Just last Monday, I was telling one of my friends that I couldn’t recall the last time I felt completely healthy. He’s the clown of the group, so I half-expected a funny comeback; instead, he very seriously said, “How do you expect to be healthy when you don’t take care of yourself?” And the cold water splashed all over me. Even though, I didn’t admit it to him, I know he is right. I’m always whining that my stomach is weak or my migraine is insufferable, but I never stop and think of what may be causing it.

So when my awesome sort-of-boss asked me to write this piece, I knew it must have been a sign. I immediately grabbed a journal and started writing down my food and water intake, the hours I spent going up and down the stairs at the hospital and the leisure time I wasted sitting on my bed TV-binging on Grey’s Anatomy. Today, I faced the reality I had been trying to deny… The truth is, I don’t have the faintest idea of how to be healthy. I’ve never had an exercise routine or vitamin-rich meals, I skip them every so often that I can go days without eating (something I’m not proud of), and I’m not fond of fruits or vegetables. I lack self-discipline and find any excuse not to try to change it. Therefore, I decided that this article was going to be the beginning of a different lifestyle.

Going through a vast research, I found five easy methods to gain self-discipline according to Forbes, and here is what I learned throughout the week:

1. Remove temptations. Self-control is often easiest when abiding by the old saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” Eating while watching Netflix or working at the computer? Not good, you don’t pay attention to the amount you’re consuming and you don’t feel full because your mind is distracted.  Removing all temptations and distractions from your environment is a crucial first step when working to improve your self discipline. This is a very important step!!

2. Eat regularly and healthily. Studies have shown that low blood sugar often weakens a person’s resolve. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential. Eating my breakfast two days in a row made me feel brand new, instead of feeling exhausted before noon. Allow you brain to focus on your goals and priorities instead of on your growling stomach. Bottom line is: don’t skip foods, eat, eat, eat!

3. Don’t wait for it to “feel right.” Improving your self-discipline means changing up your normal routine, which can be uncomfortable and awkward. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that when a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do. The solution? Embrace the wrong. Acknowledge that it will take a while for your new regime to feel right or good or natural.

4. Schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. Self-discipline does not mean your new regimen needs to be entirely cold turkey, hard core, or drill sergeant-like in execution. In fact, giving yourself zero wiggle room often results in failures, disappointments, and giving into your old ways. Self-discipline can be insanely hard. Reward your effort!

5. Forgive yourself and move forward. Instituting a new way of thinking won’t always go according to plan. You will have ups and downs, fabulous successes, and flat out failures. The key is to keep moving forward. Forgive yourself, and get back in the saddle. The longer you’re off your game, the harder it is to keep going in a positive direction.

The path towards a healthier life has a thousand doors, we just have to find the one that suits us best. You don’t need to be a doctor or a dietician to know how to get healthy or to take positive steps in the direction of your well-being. There are many things you can do to transform your life, but remember that claiming back your health is a journey. It’s not something that happens in the blink of an eye. Just take one more step, and then another. Make the choice to take responsibility to find what works for you and your body, and enjoy the process of carving out your personal path to health and well-being.

I’m sure that I will continue slipping from time to time, but now that I’ve experienced the other side of it, I will fight harder to accomplish it. Don’t just wait for someone to direct your life and tell you where to go. It will be difficult, but nothing that comes easy has ever been worthwhile. Claim it and own it!

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