When I blindly and excitedly moved for a new job in my mid-20s from Michigan – where I had lived a good chunk of my young life – to San Francisco, I was in for not just for a welcome change of scenery and salary boost, but a general lack of comfort for a period of time. I knew I wanted to shake things up in my life and career and that was a huge motivator for me, but the reality of change – all the new little things that add up in the day-to-day – were definitely making me question my leap, and on more than one occasion almost made me head right back to the familiarity and comfort that I missed in Detroit. But, in pushing through those challenges, and keeping the promise I made to myself, I quickly discovered a new level of personal strength, growth, and overall wellness improvement. That satisfaction drove me to replicate cycles of enormous discomfort a number of times over in my life when I knew I was ready to hit the next level of development – whether mental or physical. It’s with that commitment to push your comfort zone and expose yourself to new people, new diets, new lifestyles and/or new thinking, that you can really reach new heights, new paths, and a new, better you.
I’m sure this is a story you’ve heard before: person moves to a new place, gets exposed to new things, and life blossoms. Yadda, yadda. But this isn’t just about a move to a new place and the impact that it will inevitably have on your life. In shaking up my previous routine, I uncovered some little bad-habits that I had been doing every day without a thought, and once they were removed in my new surroundings and I was forced to make changes that resulted in some temporary discomfort, I ultimately arrived at some seriously positive change for my overall health and wellness. What I’m talking about here are…sandwiches. Yep, sandwiches.
When I am hungry and pressed for time, I can tell you that I’m really not interested in pushing any comfort-zones: at that time, this Detroit gal simply wanted a name-brand, chain-restaurant sandwich and that didn’t seem to be SF’s jam. Instead, California offered a level of thoughtful and diverse food choices that I had never been exposed to (for a mix of age, interest and geography reasons) – nor had major chains on every corner as I was used to – and while it was all very exciting, it could feel quite strange and frustrating at the same time. Salad, which was available in far greater abundance near my new office, just wasn’t lunch to me – that was a first course to something more substantial. But, as they say, I had to just go with the low hanging fruit and get back to work. So between the copious amounts of walking (uphill both ways) in my new undulating urban setting and a lack of easily-accessible nationally-branded sandwiches, I had to change my diet and exercise patterns and found my clothes falling off me relatively quickly. Well, this was certainly a welcome result!
In getting out of my comfort zone and old habits, I realized that as hard and unnerving as it can be to submerge yourself in change – especially when the hunger beast within you makes it hard to make the better choice – the benefits I was gaining in my emotional balance and physique was winning the battle against fear of the unfamiliar. Embrace that illustrative salad, my friends.
It wouldn’t be until well over a decade later when I would research more of the science behind how I had benefited from being forced away from my comfort-sandwiches. Within that, I would better understand the negative impact of processed meats and regular consumption of bread on the body (which generally wasn’t whole grain at a minimum). How the grains in our bread today are not what they used to be and consuming toxic amounts can contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia.* And, how eating just 50 grams of processed meats per day** can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. *** Eeek! On the increased walking-front I would later learn how Ayurvedic lifestyle recommends starting your day with a morning walk for a variety of reasons from the oxygen-benefits and stimulating circulation, to strengthening the heart, reducing blood pressure, fending off stress and depression…among other medical benefits.
That proof-positive from my particular experience aside, it validated that it can be good to get out of your old habits, routines, comfort zones and health short-cuts…even when it seems uncomfortable or inconvenient. Do you have a sandwich addiction too? Do you need to ditch a sugary-drink habit? Are you super-sizing when you know you shouldn’t? Or, some other negative vice?
Consider putting yourself in the situations where you won’t be tempted to go back to old ways. Food prep on Sundays and take your lunch to work. Surround yourself with a new support system. Change your driving route so you don’t pass that drive-though trap. Throw out the unhealthy food you know is lurking in your cupboard. Commit. Stay strong. Don’t look back. In some cases, the longevity of your life will depend on it. In others, it will just feel better than the satisfaction of a bad, old habit. Shake up your diet and exercise and see how much better you can feel!
Or, just move to San Francisco. 😉