This is something I have struggled with for a long time because since I was a little kid, I thought I knew what was best for people. I wanted to help them and show them my way. I wanted to give them the answer. I was naïve and a bull in my relationships and way of living. Now I am a touch less naïve and know a thing or two when it comes to health. We live way outside of town, and I generally keep to myself, but people still come to me for answers, and I still have clients who really don’t want to change.
This not wanting to change all comes down to attachment. An attachment to a certain activity as normal, as part of who they are. An attachment to life not being worth living without a certain type of food. An attachment to fitting in or some other type of desire or pleasure.
“The root of suffering is attachment.”
A few years back, I would follow a lot of RD principles to be nice and try to break these attachments slowly. We would start by taking away one food at a time and always replace it with something else. Week 1, you stop drinking coke and start drinking lemon water. Week 2, you stop eating McMuffins every day for breakfast and eat whole wheat toast with peanut butter (this was never a real option). But, you can still have one McMuffin once a week. If you have the right end point, it does work. This type of protocol lets people down slowly and uses creeping normalcy in their favor. Eventually, maybe 6 months to a year later, they don’t even recognize the person they have become.
The problem – it doesn’t work for everyone, as some people need big change and can’t moderate anything.
The other problem – it takes a long damn time!
Conversely, you have a protocol like Dr. Bob Rakowski’s week-long, intense detox. I hate the word detox because it just sounds like pseudo-science. But, from a fundamental perspective, the week-long detox is simply taking out everything bad (toxic fats, processed foods, alcohol, pesticides, environmental estrogens, etc) and adding copious amounts of everything good (plant nutrients, vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, etc). It is anything but normal, yet also extremely powerful at moving the dial.
To be honest, I don’t think there is one right way. I lean more heavily to shorter intense protocols, but the end game is the same – get people taking responsibility for what they eat, how they think, and what they do. Get people taking responsibility for their actions with the understanding that these actions form the basis for how they feel, not vice versa. The other reason I don’t use these slower protocols anymore is that at my current rates, no one is going to pay me to replace pop tarts with apples, nor do I really have time to deal with people who want this type of approach.
“I found out very early on that it was very distressing when I took more responsibility for my patient’s health than they were willing to. That just doesn’t work.”
– Dr. Bob Raksowki
Moving people to take an action is all about leverage. If I create a relationship with the client, show them succinctly the gravity of what they need to do, and make it as easy as possible for them to do with thorough and clear directions, the rubber will meet the road, and we will get this thing moving.
Or it won’t, and I am not the best choice for them yet. I don’t beat myself up. This does not infringe on my self-worth. It will not take time away from my family and loved ones. It will not take a smile off my face. I have given them everything I can. They are not ready, they aren’t owning it yet, and that is ok.
I have seen personal trainers and coaches run themselves ragged on clients who are not ready or unwilling to take responsibility. I have done this, and I started to question – have I put the same amount of time and energy into the clients that are really owning it and want to change? The answer was kind of maybe, and so I made a decision to make sure that the answer to this question was always a resounding yes.
I should have learned this when I was 19 and formally practicing Zen.
One of the master teachers was Tony Somlai. He had a brightness about him, an aura of laughter and happiness, and if you needed help in any way, there was no hesitation; he reached out his hand. He also had a saying, “maybe not this life.”
Being self-less isn’t stupid. Don’t forget that and…
“Don’t expect a time in your life when you’ll be free from change, free from struggle, free from worry. To be resilient, you must understand that your objective is not to come to rest because there is no rest. Your objective is to use what hits you to change your trajectory in a positive direction.”
-Eric Greitens Navy SEAL