She sat across the room from me, nearly in tears, her head tilted downward and her arms crossed in her lap. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen her like this, a picture of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.
She was a client of mine when I worked as a personal trainer and we were having a conversation that we had had one too many times before. She was making great progress with her diet and exercise, and then one slip would turn into two slips, and all the progress she had made would landslide her back down to where she had started.
When she was first assigned to be my client, she was bubbly with enthusiasm and motivation. She wanted a real change, to finally feel better and to look better. She was sick and tired of walking around uncomfortable in her own skin, uncomfortable in her own life.
She had gotten off to such a great start. While she had basic understanding of good nutrition, I was able to fill in some gaps for her and expand on the science behind her new way of eating. I made frequent check-ins with her outside of our training sessions and did all I could to keep her on track. At first, her progress was slow and steady, exactly what I wanted to see. She would then plateau for a time and stumble, initiating yet another downward spiral.
Everything had seemed to be so picture-perfect when she had first began, which is why I couldn’t understand why she kept having repeated episodes of backsliding (both emotionally and physically). Some time later, it occurred to me that the solution wasn’t to be found in conventional health and fitness tips, but rather in three very simple ideas that are often overlooked.
While sitting at my desk writing this article I’ve got two devices within arm’s reach that give me access to any piece of information and knowledge that I want, and I’m not alone. The vast majority of us stay dialed in to a virtual online world where we can find the answer to any problem that we have, especially when it comes to diet and nutrition.
Countless Paleo blog posts fill my Facebook newsfeed on a daily basis and a quick Google search can lead me to dozens more. The scientific claims regarding proper nutrition may be complex and contradicting, but they aren’t an unknown mystery. Knowing what to eat (or being able to find out what to eat) isn’t the problem.
We all have a vague understanding of what should and should not be on our plates at mealtime, and yet obesity statistics are reaching staggering new heights. So if the problem isn’t knowing what to eat, then what is it? I’ve come to the conclusion that it has a great deal more with understanding why we eat.
Food has become the most abused substance in today’s society. I use the term abused because we are using food for all the wrong reasons and often times in gross excess. Food in its essence is fuel for life, fuel for the only body we will ever have in our time here on Earth. The purpose of food is to supply energy for daily biological processes and physical activity, and to provide essential micronutrients that our bodies need for optimal health, longevity, and quality of life. Therefore we should eat out of loving respect for ourselves in order to fulfill all of those needs for our bodies.
So before you begin your lifelong journey of a healthier lifestyle I strongly encourage you to take a moment to write out why you eat. These reasons should be unique to you and your goals, and should also extend beyond just “feeling” better. Eat to respect your body, to nourish your spirit, and to become the best that you can be from the inside out.
In the rush of excitement and motivation that compels us to start a journey of change, we often forget that this feeling, this inspiration, is going to be short-lived.
“Inspiration is perishable.”
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson hit the nail on the head with this line out of their recent book, Rework. If we want the change at hand to be sustainable and lasting, then we can’t put all of our trust in the simple feeling of being motivated to take us the long haul.
One day the well will run dry and you’re going to have to be prepared. This is the part where discipline and old-fashioned grit become necessary. Understand that this point in your journey is coming, and be ready to meet it and overcome it. There will be no room for excuses here, just plain ol’ hard work.
Even if inspiration expires quickly, it fortunately isn’t a scarce resource. Choose to surround yourself with the right people and ideas that will get you through the lack-luster spells while you’re making your change. I can’t stress enough how important it is to put yourself in an environment of positivity. This may mean making some tough decisions, but at the end of the day your health is worth it.
Living a lifestyle dedicated to the health and well being of your body isn’t all about you, or at least it shouldn’t be. You have a sphere of influence that affects those you are closest to or interact with on a regular basis. Keep in mind that when you choose to live of self-respect (and therefore self-love and freedom from the negativity of poor health choices) you are setting an example for all to see.
Be the example for others and see how it not only affects them, but also bolsters your efforts and will power. It’s amazing how much more effort someone will put into a difficult task if they know they aren’t only doing it for their own good but also for the good of someone that they really care about.
Make this change for your kids, spouse, parents, siblings, friends, and of course for you.
When the conventional wisdom of “eat this, don’t eat this, move more, sleep more, and don’t give up” seem to be lacking, look back to these three tips to see things through a different perspective. And oh, yeah, don’t forget this life is supposed to be fun. Enjoy the journey.