(Hey! Come back! It’s possible, I swear!)
I’m willing to bet that if you have read this far, your diet and body image drive you insane. You go up, you go down, and your year ends up looking something like this:
January: “My New Year’s gift to myself is a new body.” You starve yourself for a few weeks, sign on to a yearlong gym membership and start an “Office Weight Loss Competition” with the lunch crew from work. March: You realize that your friend is actually marrying that guy (don’t worry, we all know she can do better) so you start the dreaded “wedding diet.” May: The beach vacation you already paid for is coming up soon, so you strap yourself in for the “beach body diet.” August: That guy you’ve been dating stops returning your calls. Cue the “single and ready to mingle diet.” November: You remember you are still paying for that pesky gym membership, but obviously no logical person would try to be healthy during the holidays. Ergo, January: “My New Year’s gift to myself…”
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Time after time we do this to ourselves. We get motivated for some short-term event or goal, get locked into some craze (there was a time in my life when I ate seaweed for lunch everyday) and dream of the day that we can return to “normal.” And it never works. We get frustrated. And we eat. And we stop exercising. It is a circle that we drive around and around. Let’s stop the insanity. Let’s stop the fads, the circles, and damn it, let’s make broccoli sexy! Hey, it was worth a try.
I am writing this from outside the circle looking in. I am down 60 pounds, up 100 life points, and have never been happier. I know where you are, and I want to help.
Right now, you might be sitting there thinking, “This feels like something I’ve heard before….” You think I’m going to tell you how easy it is. So let’s start from the top: This is not easy. And it never will be. Being healthy for the next 50 years will be a challenge. But if you are up for it, you can change your life!
Your Rules for a New Life:
Rule 1: From this day on, stop using the word diet. Diet implies temporary change. Diet tells everyone you are just a part of that stupid circle we left behind. Most importantly, diet tells you that you plan to fail. As my lifestyle changes began to show results, more and more people (most of whom were stuck in that circle) tried to talk to me about their past diets. The liquid diets, the no-carb diets, the only-eat-greens diets. They were trying to bond with me because they thought I was going through a phase. They thought my “diet” would end and I’d be back with them soon. It is my style to correct people and say, “I’m not on a diet. I’m on a lifestyle change.” You can politely listen if you want, but don’t you dare think you belong in the conversation.
Rule 2: You have to be willing to forgive yourself. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes you just don’t give a damn. The next morning (when you take the walk of shame past that half-eaten cake), forget about it. If you can’t forgive yourself, then you will be constantly fighting yourself. This is now your new life. You won’t be able to sustain it with a constant battle going on inside. I never try to make up for a mistake I made eating with exercise. Why? Because, I forgive and forget.
Your Steps for a New Life:
Step 1: Find your WHY
It needs to go deeper than an event like a wedding or beach vacation. It needs to drive you forever. Sounds deep, right? For me, my why was two parts. First, when I made this permanent change, I had no job, no girlfriend, and bleak prospects at attaining either of those in the near future. I was depressed. Changing my life gave me something that I knew I would always have. No matter what happens now (yes, I have a job. And almost a girlfriend.), I will always have my health. There will never be a time again where I say I have nothing.
Second, I came to the realization that half of my family will either be dead or have serious health problems in the next 20 years. I don’t have the standing to say, “Hey, we should try to change this,” but I can show them an example of how to live a happy, healthy lifestyle. Call it trickle down health-onomics, if you will. Anyway, I love my family more than anything and I will keep this lifestyle forever because of them. Do you see how that is much stronger than looking good at the beach?
Step 2: Find your HOW
You have probably been waiting for me to tell you exactly what you need to do. Unfortunately, I can’t. If this is going to be your life forever, you need to come up with how it is going to work. How will you plan your meals? How will you exercise? The reason I am not going into more detail is because you have to decide and be honest with yourself. Morning person? If you said “hell no” then following my cooking routine might not be pretty or sustainable. Hate running? Then my exercise program is a no-go for you. Find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Step 3: Find your WHO
When you first start out, this is going to be hard. Find someone you can confide in. Someone who has succeeded before. Send them a weekly report of how you did–eating, exercising, mentality, etc. Be careful! Do not pick someone who is afraid to tell you the truth. I picked my uncle. He is older, wiser, and a champion of seven marathons. But, most importantly, at no time would he hesitate to tell me to get my ass back in gear, to stop feeling sorry for myself, or to call me out if I ever tried to go back to my old life. As you grow into your new life, you’ll find your role will be reversed, and people will start coming to you for help.
Step 4: Find your WHAT
What are you going to do now that you have this new lifestyle? It is important to make sure you actually enjoy the new life you have created. I have picked up distance running–something I could never have done before my new lifestyle–and will be completing my second marathon in March. It is impossible to describe how amazing crossing the finish line feels!
Step 5: Stop the insanity and make your last resolution
January: “I will change my life today.”
Image courtesy of Andrea Navarro.