Last week, one of my group members teed up a question that although on the surface is a no brainer, turned out to be one the was a little more complicated and deserves a bit more of a detailed answer. It’s actually a question pretty much anyone has if they’ve got some goals in mind or at least have a sense that getting onto a healthier lifestyle – or in this case I suspect perhaps already being on that path but wanting to amp it up a bit – might be inclined to ask.
It goes like this …. first part is whether I had gone through any sort of transformation to get where I am now and second, assuming a yes to the former, what did you do to get there. So … here goes….
A decade or so ago, I was in my early 40s, something less than regularly active, on a couple different medications for stuff I chalked up to “getting older” and generally in a fair amount of constant pain and stiffness (knees, low back). I’m guess this sounds vaguely familiar to more than a few folks who’ve reached a certain age.
Today, just recently over the 52 year mark, I take no prescription or over the counter meds, am generally in no pain and am active enough to lead 15 to 20 boot camp style fitness sessions every week (and have been doing that volume for well over a year). All of that in itself might give one pause, but those who know my family have a sense on the chaos that awaits away from the studio!
So what changed ….. there are some very obvious things that we’re big drivers in the path back. The first key was job related. I left a very lucrative but very personally demanding position with a major technology company that had me on the road over 40 weeks a year. It is important I think to acknowledge that lifestyle changes will drive changes in ways we don’t necessarily expect (and for reasons we don’t necessarily understand). This one restored a semblance of sanity to my family life that simply would not have otherwise been possible. I also got my faith life back in order. Although I had not dropped out of my faith community, it was certainly a part of my life that was on the back burner. That I went back to grad school and earned a masters in ministry and will soon complete another in religious studies wasn’t quite necessary to turn the ship around, again, a point to note. When you feel called to do something, even it is seems a little “out there” (and perhaps, especially so….), give that calling thoughtful consideration.
I mention these two first not only because of their relative significance but also to point out that we are all on a different journey. You must get your relationships in a good place and you must be at peace in your spiritual life. I believe those to be essentials. But how each of us makes the happen, well, your journey is your journey. Maybe you’ve been down a path similar to me and will find your way to better things in a similar way … but probably not! Regardless of how you attack these, they will help with managing stress. Part of the human condition in the western world is an awful lot of people go through their everyday lives incredibly stressed out. The impact of poorly managed stress on our minds and bodies is staggering.
Of course there were also the changes you’d expect .. the ones we all can work towards. Exercise is a no brainer, though what that should look like can vary widely (if you’re not sure what to do, please reach out … at the very least I can point you in a reliable direction). Regardless of what you do, realize that while you’ll hear there are quick fixes, they overwhelmingly are neither safe nor sustainable. Same goes for the other biggie — what we eat and drink.
Tomorrow, I’ll follow up with some detail on how we evolved as a household, but here is the nutshell of it… first, eat more real food — you know, that stuff that was either once growing in the ground or (at least for fellow carnivores) once had a face. There are all sorts of little rules of thumb … real food spoils, tends to be found on the perimeter of the market, etc.. Stop drinking soda .. and while fruit is a good thing, cutting back on drinking fruit juice is advised. Processed sugar is some potent stuff, but our brains at least recognize that eating a half dozen powdered sugar donuts is a little over the top. We find it much harder to self regulate the sugar if we’re drinking it.
The net-net is roughly my “blueprint” for getting healthy and maintaining it … put priority on your relationships, including the one with your Creator … tip the balance toward eating real food … exercise with some intensity at least every other day, skip an extra day when you need to but never skip 3 in a row .. be mindfully active on the other days .. and give yourself reasonable recovery (including sleep). It is all stuff that most of us intuitively know but once we stop thinking about, we tend to veer off course. So the last part of my blueprint is accountability. Perhaps you can muster the self discipline and if so, bravo!! Unfortunately, though I along with most people would love to be there, we do far better with a supportive community around us.
Tomorrow .. the nuts and bolts of eating your way to feeling healthier!