The last post that I wrote (I Quit the Gym...) made me reminisce about my fitness journey and what motivated me to make lifestyle changes. Which made me ponder the question "what does it really take to commit to a healthier lifestyle?"
Some individuals are provoked into action by witnessing a close friend/family member have a health scare or having a health scare of their own. I use "health scare" in a broad sense, as it can include realizing that one's Body Mass Index (BMI) score is above the recommended range, being prescribed medicine to control hypertension/cholesterol/diabetes, being easily winded while playing with one's kids, or something as dire as having a heart attack/stroke. Other individuals may see a picture of themselves and are shocked into wanting to make a change. Anyone who's been on a weight loss journey has one of those defining moments, which propels them to make immediate changes toward moving more and eating better.
My defining moment was stepping on the scale in January 2000 and weighing 215 at the age of 21. Yes, it was my own personal Y2K moment: I stepped on it a few times to make sure my scale hadn't been affected by the turn of the millennium. The analytical side of me realized I weighed approximately 10 pounds per year of life that I had lived. What if I continued to weigh 10 times my age as I got older?!? It was a shock-and-awe tactic that was quite effective. The next day I borrowed a friend's Tae Bo videos, started cooking for myself instead of eating out every night, and I never looked back. The scale has never hit that high since then.
Even after someone has a defining moment, it doesn't mean it will last a lifetime for them. 50% of individuals who begin a fitness program quit in the first six months. Which brings me back to that original question of what does it take to COMMIT to that lifestyle?
When we live in a society that caters to instant gratification, it is hard to commit to a program that will take 3-12 months to see the final results that one wants to see. That's why weight loss and improving one's fitness is not for the faint of heart or weak-willed. That doesn't mean that some people can't succeed... EVERYONE can succeed. You just have to have - or find - the emotional tools within yourself to persevere and commit to the work that needs to be done.
I recently came across a tweet that said "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get the same results that you've always got." It's similar to the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
If you've been thinking about making a lifestyle change, eating better, losing weight, starting a fitness program, but you just can't find the motivation to start, you're not alone. But if you keep sitting around thinking about changing but still doing what you've always done, you're not getting any closer to the body and life that you want. So do this activity instead:
1) If you're looking to tone up or lose weight, find a picture in a magazine or on the internet of someone who has features that you aspire to have. What do you want? Strong, toned, Michelle-Obama-arms? Muscular, powerful, Venus-Williams legs? Solid, sleek, Jillian-Michaels-abs? Now, you need to be realistic here.... find someone of a similar height and body frame so that you're not trying to fit a yacht into a marina designed for a canoe. It doesn't need to be a Hollywood celebrity, in fact it might be helpful if it's not... because you don't know that all their body parts were with them when they were born anyway.
2) Cut (or print) out this picture and post it prominently in your bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen. Let it be an inspiration to help you make better decisions. When you feel a temptation for that piece of chocolate cake, you can ask yourself "do I really want cake?" or "do I really want my goal body?" When you have a visualization of a goal, you are more likely to accomplish it.
3) Make a realistic plan to get the body you want. And when I say realistic, I mean one that includes eating healthfully and exercising. Not doing some crazy fad diet where you eat tofu and drink kale shakes for 3 weeks straight. If you need help devising this realistic, HEALTHY plan, consult a registered dietitian or a certified personal trainer. And no, the people selling you that protein shake that promises to make you lose 10 pounds of fat in 10 days as long as you drink two a day and eat a salad for dinner are NOT registered dietitians.
4) Give up the excuses. You will always be busy at work. Your family will always have pressing needs. You will always have things on your to do list that need to get done. But guess what? If you have time to look at Facebook or Twitter, find the latest deal on Groupon, or play Angry Birds on your iWhatever, I think you have some time you can devote to working out. Quit finding reasons why you can't and just do it. Take a walk after dinner. Don't buy the mac n' cheese at the grocery store. Don't eat the fries with that hamburger. It just takes one small *different* choice that will set off a chain reaction of more *different* choices that will get you closer to that goal.
As my brother says on a frequent basis, there are people who make things happen and there are people who sit and watch things happen. Which do you want to be? Find your defining moment, visualize your body-to-be, plan your work, and then work your plan. I promise you, even when you're only halfway to your goal, you will realize it has been worth all the hard work and effort. The pride and happiness that come with accomplishing a goal is more satisfying than any piece of food could ever be.