Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 2

It’s important to understand how change happens.

One of the first principles is that it must be necessary.

That might sound counterintuitive, but think about it. All change happens because of necessity. We have the capacity to affect change through positive and negative influences in our lives. If we align our heart’s desire with positive change, good health will follow.

photo by Nghia Le

What Are the Two Types of Necessity for Change?

“We don’t want to wait until we’re so sick that we have no choice but to change. We want to choose from a place of strength, a place where our heart’s desire resides.”

You can have two different types of necessity—positive or negative. Negative necessity is experiencing such bad health that you feel terrible all the time. Does this sound familiar?

  • Your professional life is at a breaking point.
  • Engaging with family members is difficult.
  • You’re chronically sick.
  • You’re sleeping too much or not enough.

Things must change. YOU must change.

Positive necessity involves a deep appreciation for your life and your health. When you feel that every day you have important things to accomplish, whether that be in your role as a family member, community member, or your professional life, you will be strongly connected to your health. You will want to have all of the potential energy inside of you available for your use. Any time something affects your health, you’ll quickly detect it and make appropriate adjustments because you’re accustomed to feeling good. This is the kind of positive necessity we have to stoke. We don’t want to wait until we’re so sick that we have no choice but to change. We want to choose from a place of strength, a place where our heart’s desire resides.

How Important is Your Heart’s Desire?

Throughout this Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health series, I’ll be talking about different concepts, such as your mindset and your willpower. These are important tools you can use to become your healthiest self.

However, the most essential element is your heart’s desire.


photo by Bruce Hong

You must truly want your best health. You must be after it with everything you have, because you want what it will afford you, such as:

  • Energy
  • Vitality
  • Wellbeing
  • Strength
  • Purposeful engagement

I hope you’ll agree with me that this is highly valuable and worth pursuing. It doesn’t matter the context for your health. You may have a serious disease that you’re dealing with that was the result of circumstances beyond your control. What I’m talking about is feeling your best and optimizing your current health.

You could always use more energy.

You could always be feeling better.

That’s what we’re talking about.

“If your heart’s desire is to be healthy, you will continue to do whatever is necessary to experience your best health.”

We want you to cultivate an intense desire for your health. Any quest involves challenges, both internal and external. We’re going to talk about that in a future blog. Many of these challenges you can overcome by sheer willpower, but eventually, the energy of willpower runs out, and you come across a challenge that requires more from you.

When that occurs, your heart’s desire will see you through. If your heart’s desire is to be healthy, you will continue to do whatever is necessary to experience your best health. In the next blog, I’m going to introduce to you a simple visualization exercise that can help you cultivate that desire for your best health. Remember, only you can want this. Only you can desire your best health. There are actions you must take.

Do you have questions about a personalized approach to your wellbeing?  Contact us, like us, and follow us. Want a deeper understanding? Read more in Authentic Health.

I saw Mrs. C. last week. She’s a long-standing patient in her 60s who has proactively approached her complicated health issues which include:

Mrs. C experienced a period of depression after her husband left her. During that time, she didn’t focus on her health. Since then, she’s been well disciplined about exercising, eating nutritious food, and getting her blood pressure and blood sugar under control.

To help regulate her blood sugar, we used medication. Through trial and error, we moved from a prescription that had a significant side effect to one that appropriately managed Mrs. C.’s condition.

Should Your Employer Health Plan Dictate Your Health?

The medication regimen that has been effective for her was going to be disrupted, and this could affect her ability to control her risk factors.

Mrs. C’s employer recently started using a chronic disease management clinic to monitor the use of expensive prescriptions. However, the employer also changed their formulary, and the medication that she has positively responded to was no longer covered. Understandably, Mrs. C was distraught. The medication regimen that has been effective for her was going to be disrupted, and this could affect her ability to control her risk factors.

In addition, Mrs. C’s blood sugar has been creeping up. She admits that she hasn’t been eating well. It’s possible that even with her prescription, she would continue to have elevated blood sugars. It’s also possible that her diabetes has progressed to where she has become partially insulin dependent. In this case, we may have to use insulin to control her blood sugars. However, we would prefer not to for several reasons:

  1. Insulin can cause weight gain and more than likely, Mrs. C has too much insulin in her system because of her insulin resistance. Given her stage of diabetes, once we place her on insulin, it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to take her back off of it.
  2. She probably would not only need a once-a-day insulin pen but also likely need mealtime insulin as well. The cost of insulin pens is significant. Monthly it can range 400-$600, and if you have two different types you’re using, then you could be looking at nearly $1,000 a month.
  3. The effective medication she has been taking is nearly $300 a month. If she is forced to use insulin, we’ll be increasing her total medication costs, plus placing her on medication that may negatively impact her ability to continue to maintain her weight and follow the nutrition program that has worked for her.

We agreed that the best course of action was 1) keep her on her current medical regimen, and 2) resume a nutritious diet. If this approach is not useful, then we can reevaluate her regimen and make changes.  

healthy green salad in white bowl with shaved cheese and beets

Who Should Tell You What Medication Is Best For You?

Unfortunately, it appears that her employer-based health plan is going to be inflexible. Remember I mentioned a medication that caused a detrimental side effect? They would like her to switch to that same drug. When she explained that she had a side effect that required a treatment intervention, they asked for supporting medical documents.

It’s frustrating that the manager of the health plan doesn’t trust my patient and me enough to believe that this side effect occurred. In actuality, the way we managed her side effect saved her employer health plan a significant amount of money in the cost of visits.

Remember I mentioned a medication that caused a detrimental side effect? They would like her to switch to that same drug.

When I suggested to Mrs. C. that based on complicating factors, perhaps the chronic disease management clinic should help manage her diabetes for her, she indicated they wanted me to handle it. This is a frustrating dilemma. We have a clinic trying to control access to medications on behalf of the provider that’s unwilling to manage the conditions of the patient. In fact, they are making it difficult to provide the patient with the best care possible by creating boundaries for me as her physician.

healthy senior attractive woman portrait

Health Care Should Be Team Effort

Sometimes, those managing the health care dollars, step into the way of those entrusted to provide the health care. I understand the need to scrutinize the use of expensive medications, but our first priority is the patient. It’s an all too common example of the difficulties your primary care physician faces when trying to provide you with the best possible care.

We all should insist on a more integrated and transparent system: one where the payers, meaning the individuals and businesses who pay all the cost, have more influence on their individual treatment plans.

At Health Shepherds, we understand the importance of integrated healthcare. If you have questions about a more personalized approach to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

So many of the books written about health, nutrition, and weight loss are written as though the audience is professionals on these topics. Professionals like to write books to each other. We create our theories based on data, consensus, and professional interpretations. This is important work. And these books are very helpful.

Finding Answers

For years in my practice, I would pick some of these books and recommend them to my patients so that they could begin to improve their health. The book may be on how to change your thinking, or your habits, or nutritional advice that could lead to weight loss and the reversal of diabetes. What I often found was that my patients did not read these books. Now it may just be that it would take time to order them, or that the patient wasn’t really a reader in general. Generally speaking, the book could be 300 pages just covering one of those topics. What I learned over time was that my patients wanted a simpler version. They really didn’t want to read 300 pages on how to change their habits. They just wanted a simple template.

my rolephoto by Lucas Vasques

Again, data driven books written by professionals with citations are important. Those are the books I read to get the information that I can use to help my patients. But these books primarily engage the deductive mind, the left-brain. They create solid arguments based on sound science. They’re reasonable and believable. The reader believes the argument. But they’re still not moved to change in the direction the book would suggest.

Regardless of the varying theories that occupy the arena of thoughts regarding a particular topic, I have found that the action steps are generally very similar, no matter which underlying theory wins the day.

An example would be theories of insulin resistance. We have an epidemic of insulin resistance, and it’s causing diseases in our population. There are many theories about what causes insulin resistance:

  • Excess calories
  • Chronic obesity
  • Inflammation
  • Excess consumption of fructose
  • Excess consumption of sugar

These are just a few of the theories. However, regardless of which of these theories is true—and in fact all of them are probably partially true—the action steps you would take based on them remain the same. All will lead to the same response if you want to avoid or reverse insulin resistance.

  • Don’t eat excess calories
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Reduce your sugar intake
  • Be active

Taking Action

My patients wanted to know the action steps. They trusted that I had read the science. And honestly, they didn’t really care which theory was accurate. They just wanted to know what would work. However, just knowing what will work often doesn’t lead to productive change. Most of us have the knowledge that we should eat healthier, and move more, and get more sleep, and perhaps turn off the television, but yet we don’t seem to change.

my rolephoto byAustin Ban

The knowledge alone really doesn’t do much for us. They say we know it, but we don’t really know it, because knowledge itself is not power. Only applied knowledge is power. Once you apply your knowledge, then you truly know it. You have experienced it, and you can talk about it as something you truly know. But as long as it’s just been a theory for you, you don’t truly know it. Or really understand it.

What I wanted was to present the knowledge, but mostly find a way to help the knowledge become applied. Because it’s only powerful when it’s applied. Again, I found that the scientific explanations and theories really didn’t help my patients. They needed to know what to do, and how to do it. This involves change, and change is hard. Habits are habits for a reason, even if they’re making us sick. They feel comfortable to us.

The mind resists change. For people to change, you have to engage their heart.

Their mind is important. They do have to believe that they have the right knowledge, but for them to turn that knowledge into the power to change, it involves the heart.

my rolephoto by Chang Duong

That’s why we spend so much time talking about mindset and willpower. But in our additional resources, we also talk about the heart, and following our hearts. Because your truest heart’s desires are ultimately what will lead to the changes you’re willing to make.

Engaging the Heart

Obviously we’re using the heart in a metaphorical way. Generally speaking, thinking from the heart involves right-brain thinking. This is creative thinking. This is intuitive thinking, which really involves the whole brain. This involves imagination and emotions, not just rational thinking. The rational thinking is important, and it’s the foundation that we can stand on, and it can inform our heart. It’s very important. However, to change you have to engage the heart. You have to engage the emotions and the feelings. The emotions are more powerful than rational thoughts. The emotions lead to sustained change. We follow our emotions, and we follow what makes us feel good.

That’s why understanding desire, and our highest desires, is so important.

My Role

Ultimately my job is to synthesize the information, simplify it, and clarify it in a way that the knowledge is accessible to those who need it. But then, I need to be able to engage the individual’s heart in a manner that creates desire, strong feelings, and emotions about achieving their best health. That’s where the power is. This takes story. This takes passion. This takes emotion, and imagination.

Just telling someone not to eat sugar because we’ve scientifically proved it to be harmful does not sound exciting to anyone. It sounds like something painful. It sounds like something they have to do or ought to do. They feel like they should do it, but they don’t want to. There’s already strong resistance to, and negative emotions associated with making the change regarding a powerful substance that stimulates their reward system and makes them feel good.

These processes are understood through our modern brain science. We understand much better how the brain works. We know for sure that having a very clear, passionate, and strongly imprinted version of one’s self gives power that is not compatible with being sick or feeling bad. Having a strong, passionate conception of being your healthiest self, and how much that will give you, is so important to this process. That’s where the power is.

My book, Authentic Health, is written to the end users. Although I hope it’s helpful to my fellow professionals, it’s not written to them. My book is about the fundamental action steps. It’s meant to be simple. It’s meant to engage the heart and the mind. It involves telling the story, especially the story of real people who’ve transformed their lives by transforming their health through these truths.

If you want more information about how to change your mind and identify your highest desires, please see our additional resources, and especially our video series, on mindset and desire. This will teach you how to use the power of your mind and your heart to permanently change and experience your best health. This works.

Come visit us at Health Shepherds

Any journey worth taking, including transforming your habits to transform your health, requires a couple of key elements. One is, you have to know where you’re trying to go.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.

So you’ve got to know where you’re going. This has to do with desire and goals.

transforming your habits

photo by Mahkeo

Two, you’ve got to know how to get there. You’ve got to have the right information to get where you’re trying to go. The wrong information will obviously not help you on your quest.

Three, you’ve got to know how to create the changes necessary to get from point A to point B.

In this blog series, my goal is to give you the tools you need to

  • understand the way your mind works when it comes to change
  • implement techniques that help you remap your mind so the choices you gravitate to are in line with your health goals
  • decide on your heart’s desires for your best health
  • determine the steps you need to take to gain your heart’s desires for your best health
  • show you how to navigate challenging moments in that quest for your best health, be they temptation, a faltering of willpower, etc.

Change is hard, but not impossible

Change is resisted both passively and actively. You have your own internal resistance to change. There are many reasons for this. We will outline the reasons why change is so hard, and how to overcome this in this series of posts. I believe you’ll find this incredibly informative and actionable. I also think you’ll find that it’s simpler than you would have thought. You just have to understand how to make it happen. That’s what we’re going to teach you.

transforming your habits

photo by Stefano Pollio

The first point I want to make is that I am speaking to you about how to create the changes to experience your best health, how to build the necessary mindset. This may be how to change your nutritional approach, or how to incorporate more movement into your life, how to reduce stress, or to change your overall thinking so that you can create a habit of thought that automates healthy behaviors for you.

Our goal is to make this easy for you, that adopting the habits of thinking and habits of doing that will become your default system, resulting in you experiencing your best health every single day.

You won’t have to fight yourself, or feel bad about yourself, anymore.

If you’re reading this and you already have a perfect life, and every day you feel like you experience great energy and great health, then this series may still help you, but it’s not primarily written to you. This series is written to people who need to change, who know they need to change, but can’t seem to make it happen. This series will be good news to those of you who’ve always struggled with change. You’ll learn the truth about why it’s so hard, about how you can make it happen, and you’ll be set free to become who you want to be, and experience your best health. I promise this is doable for everyone.

Stay with this series. I believe this teaching is incredibly powerful. In fact, I believe it’s the most powerful thing that we teach, because once you have this, everything else becomes easy. Consider this the Owner’s Manual for your mind.

Check out our resources for more information on mindset and the freedom that can be found in achieving your Authentic Health.

I just saw a patient this past week, and it made me think about the concept of sending our brain the right message for weight loss that I think is really important for you to grasp. The book, Authentic Health, describes this in a little more detail in the chapter on what it takes to keep a body healthy. I would encourage you to read that, and really think about what I communicate there, because it is the truth.

A Case Study

The gentleman I saw was middle aged, and he’s a little overweight, and he doesn’t feel as good as he’d like to. Again, it’s a really common scenario I’ve come across. He was in for a general checkup and we both agreed that losing a little weight would help him feel better. I asked him what plan he thought he may consider for this, and he said, “Well, I’m joining a gym.”

photo by Victor Freitas

Now I get this a lot. People like to join a gym. Gyms love this because they get a lot of memberships and oftentimes people don’t end up following through. If a gym is the best place for you to pursue exercise, then go for it. I’m all for that. I’m not here to discuss the ins and outs of the gym industry. My main issue is a consistency of movement for you.

My point is this: his answer to losing weight was to go to the gym.

I want to make it clear that I like the idea of him getting exercise. I have an entire chapter about the importance of physical activity and movement in my book. Strength training is a great message for the body. It strengthens:

  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Upregulates hormones
  • Improves metabolism
  • Lowers insulin resistance

It really is a great treatment for feeling good. I also think that regular aerobic or interval training, and mobility exercises are all really good for the body. Those are powerful messages that produce responses in your body that give you back physical and mental health. You feel good when you use your body. I’m a big fan of that.

Primary Weight Loss Tool

But that is not the primary way to lose weight. When we’re talking about losing weight, we’re talking about a change in our body composition. We’re talking about reducing the amount of fat stored on our body. If your amount of fat stored is actually at your genetic baseline, your basic genetic profile for your body composition, then losing that fat is going to be very challenging. It’s going to take ongoing maintenance. Unless it is a very specific goal for you to get as lean as you possibly can, I don’t recommend that for people who are at their healthy genetic weight.

In this case, this gentleman is 30 lbs heavier than he ought to be, and we both know it, and his laboratory data shows it. I do agree with his plan to lose weight. I just didn’t agree with his primary mechanism of doing so, which is to go to the gym. I agree with going to the gym, but that’s not going to produce weight loss for him. Yes, he will burn calories, and yes, that’s good. Of course, if you burn more calories than you take in in a given day for a period of time, your body will shed body weight.

photo by Anna Pelzer

However, we stress in our teaching how your body weight and body composition is regulated hormonally, and this is determined by a set point in a region of your brain. Ultimately, the primary messengers about this body fat are hormones. Hormones are messengers that respond to stimuli.

  • How you eat
  • How you move
  • How stressed you are
  • The levels of nutrients in your system

These things evoke a hormonal response. It’s all about what message you send your body so that your internal messages—meaning your hormones, and in your brain, your neurotransmitters—will produce the response you’re looking for. In this case, this gentleman wants to get leaner.

I had to point him back to his approach to nutrition. If he wants to lean out, it’ll come through how he approaches nutrition. The movement is great, but it’s a tiny part of the overall equation.

Nutrition is the primary message for weight loss.

Of course, that’s not what he wanted to do because that’s more challenging for him, as he himself stated. He really enjoys food, he enjoys his current pattern of eating, and he doesn’t really want to change that. It’s uncomfortable. Whereas going to the gym is an actual long-standing, positive habit for him. He falls out of it occasionally, but when he returns to it, he feels good, and it’s very familiar to him. It’s something that’s easy for him to do. He has the circuitry in his brain grooved for going to the gym on a consistent basis for a certain amount of time each year. There’s not much resistance to it, so it’s easy for him. It’s his default mindset.

photo by LUM3N

But changing his eating is a much harder thing. He does not have consistent circuitry in his brain that is grooved to help him achieve that. In the past, he has typically not had success. He could perhaps do a 30-day program, feel a little better, but then he reverts back to his normal eating habits. There are many reasons for this, and we discuss them in our various documents.

Ultimately, the challenge for him is to permanently alter his approach to food if he wants to lean out. I was able to give him that news and keep it positive, and tell him how slow he can go. He doesn’t need to lose 30 lbs in three months like he’d like to. He can lose this 30 lbs over the next year, and it won’t be that hard to do, and he will improve his health and how he feels. But it’s going to involve not just a temporary change in his nutrition, but a consistent change.

Your approach to eating is the primary driver of how your body regulates its stored energy: namely your fat.

What Is Your Approach to Eating?

If you’re trying to get strong, or build muscle, do strength training. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to change your eating behaviors. We have a lot of materials with different ways of accomplishing that, which can help you build a strategic mindset to increase your chances of success. In this case, this gentleman agreed the easiest thing for him was to not think about it, so he agreed to an intermittent fasting protocol that I developed for him. I suspect by following that program, we’re going to see him losing that 30 lbs over about 6 months.

If you want to get stronger, strength train. If you want to lose weight, change your nutrition. Send the right message to your brain, and you’ll get the right response in return.

If you need help with an individualized program, please contact our office, or come to our Facebook page and see how others are doing, or read some of our other materials. The main issue is, you are getting back the version of yourself that you are messaging to your brain. If you need to change that, you need to get the messages right.