Why Diet & Exercise Doesn’t Work and What Does

I recently had a conversation with a friend, talking about our various health issues. I started a new job this past week, and the transition from full-time entrepreneurship to full-time employment was harder than I anticipated! I was waking up in the night with racing thoughts and anxiety, I was hungry all the time, and I noticed my energy changing throughout the day.

She was frustrated with her weight. She started a new diet a few months ago and consistently lost a bunch of weight in the first several weeks. But now, she hasn’t lost a single pound in the last month. She’s been keeping up with her diet and exercise routine, but it’s not having the same impact that it did in the beginning.

This conversation got me thinking about women’s health and wellness. Here we are, two smart, professional, accomplished women, and we can’t seem to get a handle on our health! And the interesting part is that we’re struggling with different aspects of our health – sleep and energy for me, weight for her. What could we do to feel better?

I asked her how everything else was going – her relationships, career, hobbies, etc. She told me she was stressed about work because she didn’t feel totally valued in her role. She lost the passion she once had for her career, and she was thinking about other options, like going back to school. Her relationship with her boyfriend was going great, but she was surrounded by negative friends and family members.

Then it hit me – our health isn’t just about diet and exercise. There are so many other factors that impact how we feel on a daily basis. In fact, our wellbeing is so much more complex and nuanced. Eating well and exercising regularly are great ways to improve our health, but they won’t solve everything.

Here’s why diet and exercise doesn’t work and what does:

I was first introduced to the concept of wellbeing when I was asked to create an educational program around the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath.

I immediately resonated with the concept, which proposed that wellbeing isn't just our physical and mental health. There are other factors that influence our wellbeing throughout our lifetimes. From the book, these are:

  • Career Wellbeing: how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day

  • Social Wellbeing: having strong relationships and love in your life

  • Financial Wellbeing: effectively managing your economic life

  • Physical Wellbeing: having good health and enough energy to get things done each day

  • Community Wellbeing: the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live

Each of these areas interact with each other to give us a fuller picture of our overall health. Pretty eye-opening, isn't it?

Over the last year, I came to understand this concept and see it play out in my own life:

I was burned out from my job as a hospital executive, but when I started working for myself full-time, I noticed an immediate shift in my stress level and mood. We all know the toll stress can take on our bodies, and I found myself sleeping more and feeling more energized. 

In 2017, I overhauled my diet and have been following a low-FODMAP diet to manage my IBS symptoms. It has made a huge difference in my physical and mental health, but it also allowed me to be more present in my relationships. No more avoiding intimacy or bailing last minute because of a flare-up.

My husband and I moved to the DC area, and I LOVE living here. Because of the flexibility I had from working for myself, I was able to get more involved in local organizations I care about, like Empowered Women International. I haven't felt this connected to my community since I moved away from The Poconos, where I grew up.


Why Diet & Exercise Didn’t Work For Me

I had a career I loved, great relationships with friends and family, high motivation and energy levels, and I loved giving back to my community. But a few things were off.

For one thing, when I left my hospital job, I gave up my identity of being the breadwinner of the family. I had always made more money than Blake, and that changed. Even though I was consistently able to pay all of my bills each month from my coaching business, I found myself relying on him for financial things here and there.

The second part? My mindset. I felt so torn down and unlike myself at my hospital job. It took me a long time to change my thought process and my beliefs about myself. I had major impostor syndrome and questioned every decision I made in my business. I never felt good enough. It took a toll on my health and energy levels.

An exercise routine and my new diet would never have solved these problems. I needed a more holistic approach to get back to feeling like myself again.


Whole-Woman Wellbeing

That's why I believe so fully in the Whole-Woman Wellbeing approach:

We start with the number one thing (according to Rath) that has the biggest impact on our overall wellbeing: our careers. In fact, he reveals a study that shows that people get over the death of a spouse quicker than they get over being laid off from work...

We are more affected by decisions and incidents at work than we are in our personal lives. And think about it: we spend so much time at work, sometimes more than with our own family, that our coworkers are almost like a second family. That’s why it’s super important to start with our Career Wellbeing.

From there, we can start to tackle the other major areas:

  • Relationships

  • Physical Health & Nutrition

  • Spiritual & Mental Health

  • Finances

  • Community Involvement & Giving Back

This approach goes deeper than the food we eat and the way we move. It tackles the underlying issues that often keep us stuck in our comfort zones and in cycles of being unwell.

It works because improving one area of our lives often has a ripple effect into other areas of our lives. And in the lives of those around us. 


The Takeaway

Taking care of ourselves involves so much more than a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine. Wellbeing is a highly personalized journey – no two of us will require the same tools and techniques to balance all of the areas of our lives.

When we focus on all of the things that can impact our health and wellbeing, we get a fuller picture of who we are and what we need to feel better. This approach goes beyond diet and exercise to help us form healthy habits, find jobs we love, take control of our finances, and feel like part of our community.

If you'd like to learn more about this approach to Wellbeing, sign up for the free Clean & Healthy 10-day Challenge. 10 days, 10 new habits to help you look and feel your best! Or, if you've done that and want to take what you learned to the next level, sign up for a free Breakthrough Session. We'll create a plan to get you on track with your wellbeing goals. Together. 

And don't forget to join our empowering Facebook community, full of amazing women like you!