The holidays have given me the opportunity to reflect on how I have become healthy and fit. This certainly was not always the case, and I have decided to share my story with you today.
It was not an easy journey, but it certainly got easier with time. When I was 19 years old, I was struggling in University, unmotivated, inactive, and eating poorly. One day, I decided that I had the power to change it all up, and become whoever it was I wanted to be. But I had to make a commitment to myself first and foremost.
It wasn’t New Year’s Day. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t “tomorrow”. It was just “now” because I wasn’t happy with the status quo. Step one was literally deciding with the power of my mind to change it all – but not at once….with manageable and achievable goals that I could be proud of.
The first step was to quit smoking. And the only way I felt I could commit to this, was to make a physical fitness goal. In my mind, smoking and exercise were simply incompatible. To quit smoking, I had to change the circumstances that provided opportunity and cravings to do so. No more coffee shops or bars until I was healed. It took a few months, but I achieved success.
Going to the gym was the alternative way to spend my time. No joke, the first time I stepped into a gym was with my mother at 6:00 AM and I vomited without even having done any exercise at all. At this point, the thought of even waking up this early was nearly impossible and made me sick to my stomach. Regardless, I made a commitment to go to the gym only one time per week, and walk on a treadmill. Which I did – I didn’t feel good about myself and felt that I was being judged by being so out of shape – but I remained true to my commitment and within 6 months increased the frequency to twice weekly and started incorporating different exercises.
To make a long story shorter, I did quit smoking and within 2 years was in incredible cardiovascular shape (weight training came quite a bit later in life) and decided to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree. It was at this point that I started to recognize the importance of nutrition on my physical and mental performance and made a commitment to simply quit eating fast food. To date, I have not been to a fast food chain in roughly 20 years, nor do I even have a desire to do so.
I have maintained and enjoyed an active lifestyle over the years. I have experimented with a vegan plant based diet and even learned how to grow and sprout my own food. In more recent years, I have become Pescetarian.
BUT, I’m certainly not perfect, and want to clarify that I follow the 80-20 rule with respect to my nutrition mindset. I have a weakness for Kraft Peanut Butter, licorice and candy, and some baked goods. Do I indulge? Certainly! I could not allow myself to do so throughout the transition process as I was healing – but today I can certainly “let-go” of the ideal to enjoy some of this fare, without any ongoing repercussions to how I feel. I have to admit that my body does however react fairly quickly to these foods which makes it easier to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle in the longer term.
My experiences (and education) have led me to recommend the following main tips for adopting a sustainable healthy lifestyle:
Make a commitment to yourself. Write it down – this tends to reinforce one’s will to achieve.
Baby steps; make a decision to adopt one small goal that you can reasonably achieve. That could be as simple as drinking more water, or making sure that at least one fruit or vegetable appears with every meal or snack you consume. Once you have achieved this goal and are feeling good about your success, add another, with increasingly more challenging goals. Remember, a goal should incorporate specifics. For example; “I will drink 2 liters of water daily and achieve this within a one month time frame”. Another idea is to cut out commercial food products and replace them with homemade options. The benefits are two-fold; first, you will have to make the time to actually make that desired food and second, you control the ingredients in homemade options. Instead of a banana muffin from a café, make one at home that contains less or even no added sugar.
Find ways to add fitness into your current routine, even if you feel that you do not have the time. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Go for a walk with a friend rather than sitting down for a cup of coffee. Download a 7-minute workout that requires no equipment.
It takes at least 3 weeks to break a habit and establish a new one. Give yourself this time. In this period, you will need to remain diligent. With time, you will be able to bend the rules without major repercussions. A food, mood, and lifestyle journal may help you stay accountable to your goals.
If holding yourself accountable is not enough, find a friend, or a nutrition professional to help support and guide you through the process.
I wish you strength in making this commitment to yourself. It would be an absolute delight to work with you and guide you through the process of achieving a sustainable lifestyle change. Please contact me to set up an appointment as soon as you’re ready!