Some months ago, a friend asked what has made me successful in reaching my fitness goals. With so many New Year’s resolutions in the air, as well as the nearness of the fourth anniversary of my quest for a healthier life, now seems an apropos time to answer that question.
Though over the last 47 months I have shed 65 pounds, an overhead compartment full of personal baggage and more unhealthy habits than one person should have, I don’t consider myself as having reached my goals. In fact, I now believe that envisioning a finish line other than my final breath is self-defeating.
Say my only goal had been to fit into a size four dress. When that first glorious, miniscule sheath zipped from hip to neckline, what would be left to strive for? I would have achieved my goal – likely through deprivation – and would consider my objective attained. Having created no healthy lifestyle in the process of personal diminishment, all that self-denial would likely bite back. I would start permitting little indulgences that would escalate in size and frequency right along with future dress sizes.
Our culture is unforgiving. We are told to crave physiques of the very young and the very thin. I do not believe that anyone can maintain physical changes made solely for the purpose of achieving a societal ideal. Fitness goals must be open-ended, progressive and more than skin deep to carry you healthfully through life. Any real change comes from the love of what is good in our existence, not from the hate we sometimes feel for our current limitations or appearances. In my experience our bodies are secondary. Change your regimen, change your mindset, change your habits and your body will follow.
Love is a great motivator and sustaining force. If you love something, you will work to keep it in your life. Moving my body, working out with friends, training for new physical challenges are all things I have come to love. The loves you find may be different, but their discovery is essential to helping you put in the time and make the best possible choices.
One big reason my health has improved is the encouragement, support and instruction I have received from others…coupled with my commitment to pass on the favor. When any of us really try, we will discover those willing to help. Their intervention will likely not make headlines. But let in the caring and knowledge of well-meaning folks and your life will change for the better. We need only set aside what we think we know to open up to new ideas and new people.
To move forward in creating a healthy life we must place our own interests at the top of our priority lists. Yes, it is difficult to realize that we are worth it. It seems selfish to put our health before nearly everything else. But refuse time to be healthy and you better make time to be sick. The stronger and more mentally positive we are, the more we have to give and the better the quality of our giving.
If you feel overwhelmed before you crawl out of bed, it is time to re-evaluate what you want in life. Making it past the deadline monster to your wellness routine is a tricky maneuver. You must mercilessly sort the important from the trivial and write a new, shorter list of commitments. Such revisions mean sacrifice. I personally choose my health and peace of mind every time when pitted against any success the world defines.
Pursuing your fitness goals takes an uncommon devotion to honesty. The second you meet and obstacle or make an excuse, challenge it. Perhaps you do have the energy, time, money, space or whatever to make it happen. Honestly acknowledge that your actions have consequences that determine your resolve, results and rate of success. When you tell yourself the truth you become stronger and more in control.
When you do bag the workout or reach for an unhealthy snack, don’t let it ruin your momentum. Forgive yourself and move forward. Be willing to do what is necessary to compensate for your detour. Compensation may come in the form of additional workouts or goal revision. You should have a plan that is open to modification. Even if you do everything right, you will likely meet with times of challenge and injury. A rigid plan can stop you cold when it confronts an obstacle. A flexible plan will allow you to absorb the setback and keep going.
A quality vital to my perseverance has been tenacity. Yes, the situation may look hopeless. There may be no indications of improvement. Indeed, many may call what I want impossible. But thanks to a naturally belligerent tenacity, I never believe the naysayers or the odds. Tenacity sees you through such mind games. Your hope may seem a world away, but if you cling to it tenaciously, you will walk – or perhaps run – every mile of that distance.
A friend from South America once told me he most loved people from the United States because of our belief that all things are possible. That optimistic, do-whatever-is-necessary quality is essential to achieving our dreams. Sticking to a lifelong fitness plan requires maintaining a positive short- and long-term outlook. You must believe that life gets better – even by millimeters, seconds or degrees – every day. Yes, live for the future that is shining and lovely. But live more for the present that is evolving…as well as shining and lovely.
I don’t know if I have even come close to where I will wind up in my quest for a healthy life. Our future is unknowable, alterable and usually better than we can imagine. The power to change what lies ahead makes the path exciting, hopeful and our personal responsibility.