Where are you right now?
Are you happy? Are you fulfilled? Are you as healthy as you can be?
Take a few moments presently to reflect on where you are in your life right now. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and consider: where do you see yourself in 2015? How about five years from now? Ten years? Twenty?
You’ve noticed the thoughts that came to mind when you ask yourself these important questions. Living life as you are now, what is your future health status going to be?
You can do everything in your power right now to make that future a comfortable, even thriving one. Even if you’ve tried before and think you’ve failed. Even if you feel like it’s a lost cause and you’ll never get to where you want to be.
You owe it to yourself to try. And try again. And again.
Because eventually you’ll find the right solutions. You’ll function better and better as time goes on. You’ll wonder how you traveled this far. You’ll find joy in the journey.
You’ll be the absolute best YOU that you can be. That’s how I train my clients, because moving steadily in the right direction is better than sprinting in the wrong one.
Wherever you go, there you are. It’s true. I want you to deeply and completely accept yourself as you progress toward better health.
We have a vision. You, in five, ten, twenty years and beyond, knowing you did everything you could and put in the effort that it takes to thrive in this modern world.
So let’s flip the title:
Wherever you go,
there you’ll be.
[Photo: Windy Hill; Portola Valley, CA]
Many habit changes fail. Why?
One important reason: lack of motivation.
Why does motivation fade?
Because you forget the most important, ONLY thing you need to remember in order to be successful.
There’s one key to getting motivated and staying motivated.
What is your why? WHY do you need to change and want to change? What’s your reason, right now?
- Staying healthy.
- Feeling good.
- Looking good.
- Looking good naked.
- Getting married.
- Starting a family.
- Being able to keep up with children and grandchildren.
- Losing weight.
- Keeping weight off.
- Healing disease, or
- Preventing disease altogether.
- What’s your reason?
Find it and HOLD ON TO IT.
Write it down, type it into your phone, look at it every day on your mirror, set it to pop up on your calendar. Imprint it onto your being and tell it to the world.
Whatever it is, keeping your why in the forefront of your mind and heart will lead to your success.
[Photo: Seen @ the Embarcadero; San Francisco, CA ]
What comes to mind when you hear “healthy person”? What do you think a day in their life looks like?
I ask my clients this because I want to understand their thought process. I hear all kinds of answers: “someone who eats right”, is “at the right weight” and “works out a lot”. Women often say “thin” or “skinny”, and men envision “cut with a six-pack”. Others tell me, “I want to lose thirty pounds in six weeks!”. Clearly, many of the answers I get are non-specific (or unrealistic!) and involve physical appearance only. Physicality is a significant part of fitness and wellness, because you essentially ARE your body and I want you to feel good in it—yet, you are SO much more than a sum of its parts. There are much deeper factors at play determining how you look and feel than simply eating certain foods (“dieting”) and doing cardio and weights a few times a week (“exercising”). We’ll be defining—and redefining—what these two terms mean. Food and activity are important. But we’ve got to start somewhere else, and that’s in your mind.
In your mind, is healthy living a burden? Is it a short-term project? Is it about a number on the scale? Is it an undertaking in which you’re set up to fail, committing yourself to live up to an impossible set of ideals? Is it something you haven’t cared about until now? Whatever the case, you might be asking yourself, “What are the most important things I need to know right now?”
In my experience, the following five principles are the basic behavioral pillars that define healthy people:
- Healthy choices are their default priority. The mindset is: “Don’t think about it, just do it.” – This is key and one of the first things I share with clients. Avoid arguing with yourself and sapping mental energy – “will I go to the gym today? Will I park my car further from the store and walk an extra two minutes? Will I skip the drive through and stop by the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken and salad greens instead?” Your future self wants you to say YES!!! Do what you can, and start with what I call a “bite-size behavior”, like working the stairs instead of riding the elevator. We’ll be going into great detail later on this blog about changing the environment around you to engineer better choices. For now, onto the most important healthy defaults.
- Unprocessed food makes up most of what they eat. Vegetables, fruits, high quality meats, eggs, beans, and nuts are a few examples. Generally, “Food” that comes in a bag or a box and has changed form in some way is avoided. The reason is simple: unprocessed food tends to have many more nutrients, which actually help you feel and function better, not worse. Unprocessed food = healthy body that feels great. Crap in a box = feeling like crap. Does that mean no splurging on stuff that tastes delicious but isn’t so nutritious? Of course splurging is part of the plan! More on that later.
- Physical activity is part of their routine. Again, they just do it. Whether it’s going for a walk, a swim or a hike, or cranking out some bodyweight exercises, or lifting weights at the gym, the healthy-living crowd finds a way to stay active. Some people naturally love to break a sweat, and others don’t. That’s completely okay. Either way, the truth is that you will function better with regular physical activity. It’s a fact of human life, and once you make it a habit to move more, it becomes an intense reward in itself : better mood, less stress, more energy, higher quality sleep…the list is a long one.
- They find as much social support as possible. If you prefer more social activities, ask a friend to come with you to try a walking Meetup or Fitmob group workout in your area. Join a local fitness class inside or outside of a gym and get to know the people. Have your partner go grocery shopping with you and help you pick out some health-promoting options that you’ll both eat. Ask a friend who’s into cooking to share their favorite “light” recipe with you, or use the power of the Internet to Google something delicious and highly-rated (or try here). Make your healthy living goals public and know that while some people may not understand, it’s important for you to take care of yourself, and you might influence them to make better choices while reinforcing with yourself what makes you feel your best.
- They sleep enough! Most people need at least seven to eight hours per night, according to my primary care doctor. Most of my clients get between five and seven, just short of what’s needed for prime functioning. The best tip I have is to turn off the TV, laptop, tablet, and phone at least one hour before you go to bed. Ideally, keep electronics out of the bedroom. They’ll be there tomorrow, and with adequate refreshing sleep, you’ll be ready.
Taking care of yourself is a responsibility, an exploration, a source of true joy when you make a choice and recognize that your future self will thank you for it. It’s a personal journey, one in which you’re naturally searching for what works best for you.
These pillars support a process, played out over time. It doesn’t happen at all once, but in some natural stops and starts. Bookmark this list and come back to it often to refresh when needed. Master the basics and do them consistently. Healthy habits equal results! We’ll talk more soon about keeping the motivational fire burning.
[Photo: Autumn tree @ dusk; Sunnyvale, California]