When you think about your own health and fitness, how do you feel? Is it a source of stress? Do you feel guilt? Perhaps apathy? Or perhaps you feel excited about pushing yourself to new limits and achieving new milestones. The way you feel about health and fitness is a reflection of its priority in your life.
For me, health and fitness is a big part of my life. Life is full of problems, concerns and stress. But in the area of health and fitness my attitudes have changed 180 degrees from a couple of years ago. When I was 75 pounds heavier in 2013 I was tired, sick and fat. At that point when I thought of my health I just got depressed. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. I ate treats to the point that I had heartburn every night and would frequently awake with a scorched throat. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin - my XXL clothes were bulging at the seams. Yet despite all of these problems, I hadn't taken any action. It was as if I was in some kind of sugar-induced coma. I knew what I needed to do (duh, eat better and exercise), but I didn't do it.
I was listening to a podcast the other day that reminded me of the situation I was in. The host was interviewing a personal trainer who had a lady client who wanted to lose weight. The personal trainer began to outline a program of eating better and exercise to which she said "Stop. I know what I need to do. I need your help wanting to do it."
There are three parts to the process of improving your health: 1) knowledge, 2) desire and 3) commitment. A lot of what I write about on this blog is about knowledge - how to make healthy choices in your eating and how to start an exercise program. In fact, most of the health and fitness industry is geared around this - thousands of possible ways to lose weight and achieve better fitness through exercise. By dressing it up with images of fit men and women, they think they can also generate some desire as well. Do this exercise routine for 4 weeks and get a six pack! Follow this diet and lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks! The promises are unrealistic and frankly deceptive.
The desire to change
My point is that knowledge about health and fitness is prevalent - you can find it for free on the Internet, you can buy programs, videos and books. But how do you achieve the desire to change? You can have all the knowledge in the world, but without the desire it does you no good. But, you say, of course I have desire, I'm reading your blog aren't I? True, that does mean you have some desire to change. That's great. But is your desire strong enough for you to take action? Or does it just fester and become a continual source of guilt - constantly longing to change, but never mustering the courage to act?
Or perhaps you fall into the category where you have had desire and have acted upon it many times, but lacked the commitment to permanently adopt a healthy lifestyle. These are the yo-yo dieters, the ones who get excited about some new trend, gadget or program that they are convinced will help them become healthy. Then the excitement peters out and the horror of actually eating better and doing regular exercise settles in. Eating what they wanted and abstaining from exercise was so much more enjoyable that all of that fitness stuff.
Ok then, how do you achieve a lasting desire? The commitment to make a permanent change? I am not a psychologist and I don't know you, so my answer is more from my own experience, learning and observations of others. But hopefully what I write in this post will strike a chord with you and help your desire grow and become a commitment to change.
The commitment to change
I think a big part of achieving the commitment to change is honestly asking yourself "Am I ready to change?" That isn't a simple question. Changing the way you eat and beginning to exercise is hard, you have to understand that. As easy as everyone makes it sound, you have to read the fine print. Here are some actual disclaimers I found from a few online programs for weight loss and fitness:
These results are meant as a showcase of what the best, most motivated clients have done and should not be taken as average or typical results.
These testimonials and case studies do not represent typical or average results, nor are they required or expected to. Many people do not implement anything I teach them. I can’t make anyone follow my advice or stay on my programs, so there is no way I can promise that my advice, as interpreted and implemented by everyone, will help everyone achieve the same results.
These results are not typical, but they are achievable, depending on your level of commitment.
So as long as you're committed, you'll achieve results. And they are hoping that their enticing ads and images of healthy people will at least build the desire for you to buy their products, whether or not you actually achieve any results. Don't get caught up in that trap - no gadget, weight loss program, workout routine or machine is going to help you achieve any results unless you are already committed. Don't believe ANY infomercial.
Yes, the products, ideas and suggestions you can purchase or read will help make the process easier. But it is still work. Hard work. Are you ready to work hard? The answer might be "no". You might be going through a tremendously stressful period in your life. If you don't have the time or energy to plan meals and exercise, this might not be a good time for you to commit. Perhaps you are suffering from some medical conditions that would make it difficult to exercise. Be honest with yourself - are you ready to do whatever it takes to live a healthier life?
Take an hour to think about it
This doesn't need to be a huge, emotion-laden decision. Commit to taking an hour to think about your life. Get out a pen and paper and write down a list of what you don't like about your current quality of living. Do you dislike the way that you look? Do you feel uncomfortable doing normal daily activities? Does your current lifestyle limit you from activities that you would like to do? Write it all down, everything about your current health that you don't like.
Next, take some time to envision what living a healthy life might feel like. Picture yourself thin, healthy and active. Picture what you would do, how you would feel. Write down your thoughts and feelings about how being healthy would benefit your life.
Next, make a list of the price you would need to pay for being healthy. What will you be giving up? What activities would you need to adopt? How much time, cost and effort might it take to live a more healthy life? You may not know all of the answers in this area, but understand that there is a price to pay. Initially there are some hurdles to overcome in terms of learning, planning and adopting new patterns of behavior. These will become more clear as you choose an approach.
So it all boils down to a simple equation: does your discontent with your current health outweigh the price it costs to achieve the benefits you envision of having better health? If not, then the time may not be right for you now.
For me, my health degraded over time to the extent that I really didn't notice it too much. I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and do a double take - do I really look like that? Or the doctor would give me a prescription for some drugs to counteract my rising blood pressure and cholesterol. That's scary but I always thought that I would do something about it. Then came the sleep apnea. Once I had that diagnosis, what was the cure? Not living a healthier life, but using an oxygen machine at night. Oh, ok. WHAT? WAIT! What just happened? I finally snapped out of it - I realized that I had let myself go, and that I was living an uncomfortable, low-quality life. At that point the pain of living a low-quality life outweighed the pain of doing whatever it took to adopt a better one. I felt a lasting desire to change and I was ready to commit to do whatever was necessary.
So now that I have achieved the results and have gone through the pain and hard work of becoming a more active and healthy person, was it worth it? Can I recommend it to you? Well, the price I paid may be more or less than the price you will have to pay, but the process felt long and hard to me, and it will to you as well. You will encounter challenges, you will have setbacks and you will be discouraged.
Wow, that's a bleak picture, is there no joy in the journey? Of course there is, and I have written posts about the many wonderful things that happen as you progress. But unlike the ten thousand other ads, infomercials and programs out there, I'm leveling with you. Any excitement over purchasing a 90 day money-back-guarantee program or device will be short lived unless you have lasting desire and commitment to achieve your goals.
The reality is, after a couple of months into my journey I got to the point where I was beginning to see real results. Eating well and exercising were now put of a normal daily routine. I had acclimated to a better way of life. So the real pain of adopting a healthier way of life is just during the period where you are forming better habits. Did I have some program or gadget to help me through that time? Actually, I did. I went to a personal trainer that prescribed eating plans, workout routines and helped track my progress. I still had to do all the hard work myself, but at least I had help.
You will need to find your own path, and many of my posts are designed to help you with your journey. But bottom line I was committed to improving myself. My trainer remarked how many of his clients just didn't follow through on what he told them to do. He didn't instill any desire in me, I already had the desire. If I hadn't gone to him, I would have found another way. The pain I was feeling was so much bigger than any sacrifice I had to make that the decision was clear - I was ready to change, and I had a lasting desire which turned into a commitment.
I sincerely hope that this post and my own story will inspire you to reflect on your own readiness, and help build your own desire and commitment to change.