Monday, August 20, 2012

"Can't" vs. "Won't"

I have a client who wants to "get healthy."  He has a serious health condition that proper diet and exercise habits will help greatly.  He comes to see me once per week.  I have given him several exercise programs for him to do on his own, as well as given him meal ideas, made myself available for food consultations, given him avenues to keep him accountable for his dietary choices, and so on.  Every time I see him, we have a conversation that goes a little something like this:

Me:  So how's the exercise program going?
Him:  It's not.
Me:  How come?
Him:  Because I can't do it.  I don't have time.
Me:  How about after work?
Him:  I can't.  I'm too tired after work.
Me:  How about before work?
Him:  I can't.  I don't want to wake up earlier.
Me:  How about at lunch time?
Him:  I can't.  I don't want to get sweaty at lunch.
Me:  What if you did 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes when you get home?
Him:  I can't.
Me:  :-/
Me:  What about your food?  How's that going?  I haven't seen your food diary at all.
Him:  (gives me a sheepish look)

And so on.

He's not the first client I've had who "can't" manage to get the work done on his own.  And I'm sure he won't be the last.

But here's the thing:

There's a big difference between "Can't" and "Won't."

When it comes down to it, most people who "can't" find the time/energy to exercise and eat more healthfully can find plenty of time to do things they deem more pleasant.  There are very, very few people out there who can't spare 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there to move their bodies.  There's almost no reason why a person can't forgo a McLunch for a healthy meal brought from home (or purchased from a market/restaurant, if need be).

A lot of people don't know that for almost five years, I was a computer consultant.  I had to travel Sunday-Thursday most weeks.  I worked a lot of late nights and was in a lot of pretty health-unfriendly areas.  I had to spend hours in catered meetings and was surrounded by co-workers who dragged me to team dinners at unfortunate restaurants.  I know how hard it can be-- but also how possible it is.  I used to take advantage of hotel gyms or do bodyweight exercises in my hotel room.  I would say no to the candy and sweets my co-workers brought in all the time.  I picked up a lot of healthier provisions I could eat without much preparation (baby carrots, salads, etc) at local supermarkets.  During one project, I would drive 20 minutes to the only place in town that had vegetarian meals and stock up. When meetings were catered, I'd usually ask before they ordered the food if there was a vegetarian option, or, if not I'd just eat the fruit or salad that came with the order (if it existed)-- or I'd just bring a bag of almonds to snack on.  It wasn't ideal, but it was doable. 

So think about it.  Is it really that you can't?  Is your day really so jam-packed that you can't find an extra five minutes here and there to do a set of squats, maybe, or some pushups?  (Do you watch TV or surf the internet when you come home?  Heeey-- there's some free time you might think about using...)

Is the junk food and sedentary lifestyle so important to you that you are willing to sacrifice your health for it?  Is the idea of eating healthier food (which, by the way, does not by any means mean "less tasty") so repugnant that diabetes, fatty liver disease, a heart attack, low energy levels, faster aging, joint pain, low immunity, and so on seem like better options? 

Think about it.

Is it that you can't?

Or is it that you won't?

If it truly is the former, and your health is important to you, then it's time you made a change in your life so that you can start taking care of yourself.

If it truly is the latter, and your health is important to you, then it's time you made a change in your attitude and approach towards healthy habits and find a way to turn your "won't" into a "will."

Physically write exercise "appointments" into your schedule, even if they're just a few minutes long a few times per day.
Pack ready-to-eat healthy food with you when you travel or go to work. 
Pile on the veggies in lieu of fries, rice, chips, and bread at restaurants.
Say no to your co-worker's candy dish.

It can be done.

Your life depends on it.

Questions?  Comments?  Feel free to post 'em here!


  1. Great reminder, it's kinda mind-setting, how committed you are to being fit, thanks!

  2. Working in health care, I'd have to strongly say that it's a fact that people "won't".....we've made life too easy to live it being the most lazy we possible can. Running away from our problems is a race we'll never win. We don't always have to be proud of what we've done/haven't done in the past, but right now is a new beginning. What we do TODAY can improve all of our tomorrows!
    I never used the excuse of "can't", I was a right out "won't" and that led me to over 300lbs. Now I'm a "will"....and even though I put in a 14+ hour day most days at my job, I will still do something to get my body to move after my day.
    Great post Melody!

    1. The healthcare industry is financed mostly by the people who "won't."

      Awesome job, Diana!