What was the number one reason I didn’t make my health a priority for more than 15 years?

Can you guess?

You got it: time.

It may be different for you, but for the majority of my patients (and in the past, for me), time is at the top of the list of reasons why they are struggling.

Every day I balanced work, home, friends and a seemingly endless stream of errands and to-dos. I wore too many hats. To be honest, I was once a workaholic; I used to work up to 14–16 hrs. a day. There was NO time for exercise or cooking, let alone some relaxation time. I used to think that people who had time for that were just, simply put, “lazy.” The hustle was real and I love it. It made me feel important and worthy.

But then one day, without warning, I ended up in the hospital and was told (by a cute young doctor …) that I needed to take prescription medications; otherwise, my condition would just get worse. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was slowly but surely destroying my health.

It’s not like I never thought of it. Let’s face it, I’m smart a woman. I knew that every time I stopped by McDonald’s drive-thru on my way home after work, it wasn’t the best choice for my health. But I’d always tell myself, “Ah, what the heck! Nothing bad has happened to me yet so I will figure this out later.”

Life is a series of choices

I had a choice to make: I could either continue to go down this path of self-destruction and just take prescription pills so I could go at that same pace, or I become a healthier person. I mean let’s face it. It wasn’t a secret and I could hide: I was overweight.

But here’s the real question that you’re likely asking yourself right now: Do I have the time to devote to becoming and staying healthy? If your answer is “no,” think again, because it’s not a question of having the time; it’s a question of making it. This one single realization could be the key to achieving the weight you want, and the feeling of energy and self-confidence you crave.

More time for health: 5 ways to make it happen now!

Try these tips to make more time for your fitness, nutrition, and emotional health and make your health a priority.

1) Change your perspective from “I have no time” to “There is time to be found.”

When I got back to the office after my trip to the hospital, I looked around me and I kept seeing colleagues who looked healthy. They seemed to be able to make time to go to the gym and bring their lunches to work. It was obvious that they had a positive outlook on life. When I asked them how they were able to do what they did, I found out that they all had one thing in common: They didn’t think they had any other option. It was part of who they were. Their perspective was different than mine.

I shifted my perspective from “I have no time” to “There is time to be found.” In most days, if not all, there are underused pockets of time, which you can spend on doing something that can help you become healthier. We all have a choice on how we view things.

Changing your perspective is like changing the window through which you view the world. When you change how you view the world, you change how you feel about it, and life choices become easier.

2) Get your planner out and get creative

Find the time. For me, what seemed to be a lack of time was actually a failure to prioritize. Start by sitting down with your planner. If you don’t use one, get out a notepad and sketch out what every day during the week looks like, including what time you get up, what time you go to sleep, and everything in between.

Then dust off the same problem-solving skills you use at work or with the kids and look for places where you might trade one activity for another. When you have intentions, the universe collaborates with you to make them possible

If you watch 60 minutes of TV each night, can you cut down your TV time to 30 minutes so that you can use the extra time to exercise or put together a healthy meal for tomorrow’s lunch? Perhaps you can walk on the treadmill while you watch. Maybe your kids can take the bus to school a couple of days a week or carpool to get to sports games so you can free up your time to do chores and go to bed early. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

For me, I found pockets of extra time during the evening. I used to just crash on the couch from exhaustion every night. So I made a commitment to exercise at the end of each day and gave myself a month to see if it would help me. Well, guess what? Exercise, combined with healthier eating habits, gave me more energy, not only throughout the day but also at night. Since then, I would exercise for 45 minutes, 5 days a week. I also spent 15 minutes each night on packing my lunch for work.

3) Delegate

Perfectionism will kill you. There’s no doubt about that.

I used to be a perfectionist. At first, I refused to admit it. As matter of fact, I thought of myself as not being perfect enough. I mean having high standards is what pushed me to create the life that I have now. Nothing wrong with that, right?

The problem with having high standards is that you’re likely to not delegate. You tend to take on everything, I mean everything and do everything all by yourself. We think that no one besides ourselves can be trusted to get it done right, which is why we take on too much and have suffered from the “I don’t have time syndrome.” Doesn’t it sound familiar?

However, when I realized that I was making a mistake, I started handing over responsibilities to people around me. I invested time in training others on how to do important tasks and then I hold them accountable. People always strive to do their best, especially when we trust them with something important to us, including children. You might be frustrated if your partner doesn’t fold the laundry exactly the way you think it should be done. But remember: The trade-off is a valuable 10 or 20 minutes of time you can devote to yourself

4) Learn to say no

Do you feel resentment towards certain commitments in your life? I had one client who felt like she “should” be on the board of this nonprofit organization. But she was dreading the meetings and was always exhausted from her job and the commute. She started to feel resentful of the commitment. When she resigned from the Board, she immediately felt as if a huge weight was lifted off her chest.

The key to creating more time is to start saying “no” to requests and obligations that you don’t want to fulfill. It’s kind of like cleaning out your closet. At first, you think everything is necessary. But once you begin getting rid of hangers from the dry cleaners and creating more space, you gain momentum. By the time you’re done, it feels great!

At first saying, no was very difficult for me…Honestly, I was afraid of not feeling needed. The aha moment for me was when I realized that the person who needed me the most was…ME. I needed to give to myself first.

5) Quit wearing “busy” like a badge of honor

“I’m a busy woman.”

“Sorry, I’m booked till next week. Two weeks, actually.”

I used to say these things with pride. I wore my busyness as a badge of honor. My booked schedule was a proof of my value, my worth. But at the end of the day, I wasn’t happy, which led to me not being healthy.

We are part of a culture that increasingly values preoccupation and over-commitment. “Crazy busy” has almost become a statement of validation, reinforcing that I am significant and that what I am doing is important. That’s was me. But this addiction to being busy, as well as my drivenness, came at a steep cost: my health.

The first thing I did was to be aware whenever I said, “I’m so busy.” And whenever I caught myself doing so, I would reframe the situation in my own head. I needed to regain a sense of perspective and control over my own life. I started journaling 3 to 4 times a week in the morning. I did have some resistance initially, but this habit has turned out to be a game changer in keeping me from succumbing to “the rising tide of demands, details, and deadlines.”

The discipline of recording your thoughts will help you gain greater focus, unravel thorny problems, process negative emotions, and maintain a balanced perspective on my work and life.

Dieting is not about the food

For me and 90% of the people who completed my programs, the biggest challenge wasn’t about the food at all. It was changing our mindset. I’m guessing that it will be your biggest challenge, too.

It’s all about what is going on inside your head that influences the choices you make. What you have done thus far has gotten you to where you are now. If you want different results, it’s time to change your approach.

I’m a living proof that the five principles that you’ve just read really work. I have applied them in my own life. I changed my thoughts and this led to me making more time for myself. And gradually, I was able to change my lifestyle. In the process, I lost 100 lbs and achieved optimal health. I’ve never felt this good before!

I invite you to change your mindset and apply the five principles that you just read about. If you are consistent with your efforts, you will soon see positive changes and move significantly closer to your health goals.

Originally published at www.stephaniedodier.com on March 5, 2017.

Originally published at medium.com