First, Believe You Can


I recently attended the Integrative Healthcare Symposium at which healthcare practitioners from various disciplines converged to hear about the latest advancements in integrative and functional medicine. During his presentation about patient-centered diagnosis, Leo Galland, MD, said that disease and illness result from the interaction of mediators, triggers, and risk factors. In other words, the relationship between these three components can manifest as sickness or another health condition. Identifying mediators, triggers, and risk factors is necessary for solving the root cause of the illness rather than treating the symptoms.

While I’m sure the concept is mildly interesting to you, you may also be wondering what the point is since you don’t have control over all the variables. After all, you can’t stop yourself from being exposed to the cold virus (a trigger) and you can’t change your genes. (Although as I mentioned in the 4 Links of the Personalized Food Chain, genetics only loads the “gun”.)

It is true that you don’t have control over many things. But there is one very important mediator over which you have complete control: your mind. What you think plays an important role in whether the triggers and risk factors in your life result in sickness, illness, or disease.

The technical term for this is self-efficacy, which is defined as, “an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments.” Self-efficacy has been shown to impact all aspects of the human experience. Whether it’s a project at the office or making a dietary change to look and feel better:

Believing that your behaviors will bring about the result you desire is critical to actually achieving it.

So, if you’ve been thinking that you need to make some nutrition changes to shed pounds, cut your dependence on sugar or caffeine, or resolve a digestive discomfort, the first thing you must do is believe that you can! You can make food choices that allow you to achieve and maintain a comfortable weight. You can eat in a way that keeps you energized all day and sleeping soundly at night. You can use food to look and feel like the best version of yourself. But first, you have to believe you can!

If your nutrition-related confidence needs a boost, here are three ways to improve your self-efficacy and optimize your health:

1) Set challenging, but attainable short-term goals.

Avoid the confidence blow from failing to meet a big goal by establishing smaller goals that eventually add up to the bigger goal. For example, rather than saying you want to lose 50 pounds this year, decide you will lose 5 pounds this month. Instead of telling yourself to give up sugar forever, aim to avoid added sugars for the 21 days necessary to reset your taste buds. Or decide that your goal is to finish a particular program (like a cleanse or an elimination diet) regardless of what the outcomes might or might not be.

2) Lay out a step-by-step plan to achieve the short-term goal.

Depending on your goal, there may be a lot of steps or only a few. As long as the number of steps isn’t overwhelming, having a plan will help you visualize the outcome and the path to get there. For example, if your goal is to eat more vegetables, then aim to eat five servings of vegetables every day for the next five days and use a daily calendar to track your progress.

(By the way, if you’re unsure what a step-by-step plan looks like to achieve your health goals, consider getting some guidance via one of my group programs or one-on-one nutrition coaching.)

3) Only compare your nutrition habits to those necessary to achieve your health goals.

You are the only person that matters in the discussion about how you look and feel. So you have to decide whether or not your food choices are contributing to your health goals. If it’s working for you, then you don’t need to change it regardless of what anyone else says. If you want to look or feel better, then you get to decide what food changes will help you become the vibrant person you want to be.

Start improving your self-efficacy today and be amazed at how your confidence in your food choices can change your life and improve your overall health.


This article first appeared on Happy Living as Guest Post: If You Believe It, You Can Use Food to Change Your Life. | Image via Pixabay.

— Galland, L. Patient-Centered Diagnosis: The Heart of Integrative Practice. Lecture slides. Accessed on April 4, 2015.
— Carey MP, Forsyth AD. Teaching Tip Sheet: Self-Efficacy. Accessed on April 4, 2015.

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