Why people lead an unhealthy lifestyle and how to help them be healthier

Many people are very relaxed about the way they eat or how they live their lives. They don’t put many restrictions on their diet or work hard to maintain their weight and similar. I don’t blame them. Life is short and we should all enjoy living, right? Although, no doubt there are consequences of this relaxed living which will come later in life. I know what happens when people don’t look after their health, when they neglect their well-being and don’t focus on healthy habits. It’s inevitable. An illness, a disease. Sorry if I sound dramatic, but it’s true.

I know eventually we will all die of something but why shorten your life when, if you want to, you can live a long, healthy life – with a bit of an effort and consideration from your side. I will never understand why some people just don’t care. But I do understand that some people have all kind of issues (with health being at the bottom of the list), even mental health problems and this is the reason why their lives are the way they are. The reason why they are not very healthy. Ok, I get that.

And I know some people just don’t have the knowledge to be healthier. They’ve never learnt this when they were children: what being healthy means and how to be healthy. I totally understand that it’s difficult to be healthy when you don’t have some kind of basic healthy habits or don’t even know where to start.

Finally, there are people who just don’t have time, they have families to look after or they are so busy with their businesses that they barely sleep. I understand that. I know for some people there is a period of their life when they neglect their health although they don’t want to, but they have other priorities to deal with. This post is not about them.

What I am talking about here is normal working people with good upbringings, with enough time on their hands who have choices in their life. To smoke or not to smoke. To drink or not to drink. To buy that cake or not to buy it. To exercise or not to exercise. Early nights or late nights.

Why are people unhealthy?

We all choose our lifestyle. But I think a part of the problem is the fact that people don’t really know any other way. It could be because of their mindset or the things they’ve learned from their parents. Or it could be even depression or chronic illness. It could be even laziness. Whatever the reason, they just carry on, living life the way they know it. They don’t know any different. They are also not aware of the consequences their bad lifestyle could result in. And they don’t know that simple lifestyle changes could bring a massive difference to their health.

So, is the lack of knowledge stopping people from being healthy? Yes, I believe, in one way, it is.

What about ignorance? Yes, I also think this is the reason. People just don’t want to know. They don’t want to know that the way they live their lives is not good for them. They probably know that anyway. But they choose to ignore it.

Another reason why I think people are being unhealthy is because they just don’t know what misery and suffering their bad lifestyle could result in. If you have any relatives suffering from any of the modern day diseases, you will know. You will know how illness can affect your quality of life and you will know that it can bring pain and limitations to what you can do. This should be a good enough motivation for anyone to change their lifestyle. But it doesn’t always work like that. People don’t change so easily or feel easily motivated. And some people just think that disease won’t happen to them. Especially when they feel healthy and don’t have any issues with their health this moment in time. So they continue with their bad habits for many years, until they get ill.

So how to make people healthier?

You can’t.

There is a saying: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. This saying totally applies in this case.

People have to make a decision to be healthier themselves. You cannot force them.

Sometimes they will be ready to take action when something happens, a wake-up call. Maybe something happens to them or to their loved ones. And all of a sudden they become interested in their health. A heart attack from one of their parents. A bowel cancer from their spouse. Or their friends start to suffer from diabetes.

Once they are interested in their health, the first step is for them to get educated about a healthy lifestyle. What they can do to be healthier, what they should avoid and what they should change. Once they have some basic knowledge, it’s all about starting small and making one change at the time. It may take some time but this is a better approach rather than changing everything at once as this would be too overwhelming and many people would just give up.

If they smoke, the first step for them would be to take up vaping which is less harmful than smoking although this should only be a temporary solution as e-cigarettes don’t come without side effects (vape kits may be useful when going for this option).

I know that there are also other types of people who actually want to be healthier but it’s too overwhelming for them: they don’t know where to start, they don’t know how to approach the whole healthy lifestyle thing or they have other reasons which are stopping them from being healthier. They are stuck in the rut and they don’t know how to get out.

If you know anybody like that, who is willing to and want to change their habits, but it’s finding it difficult, first things first. How is their mental health? Do they suffer from any mental illnesses without even knowing? Is it possible they have depression? Maybe it’s time to see a therapist?

Once people resolve their mental health issues (if they can), it will be much easier for them to focus in their life on things that matter (like health). They will have more motivation to do the things they want to do.

So these are just some examples of the types of people we may encounter in our lives and how to help them on their journey to better health.

While we cannot change people, we can help them get educated about health and healthy lifestyle by encouraging them to read trusted health resources online (whether that’s an NHS website or established and trusted health blogs). We can also share with them any latest health news we come across, just to keep them in the loop (they may not care but at least we are doing our bit).

Finally, there are other tactics to help people on their health journey. If they are your friends you can invite them over to your house and prepare a healthy and tasty meal for them so that they get some inspiration for their own cooking. You can also invite them to come with you to engage with some activities like walking, playing table tennis, etc. (that’s to help them be active and to encourage healthy habits). You can also buy them some health-related gifts when you have an opportunity such as a healthy cookbook, motivational books, health magazine subscription or a reusable water bottle. You get the point.

It’s good for people to get a taste of what a healthy lifestyle looks like or feels like. It will help them realise that some small changes are not difficult at all. Hopefully, they will start implementing these changes themselves soon but as the saying goes: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. And this is how I am going to conclude this post. I hope it’s been an interesting read for you. Please let me know any comments or thoughts you have about this below.

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