Please exhale, I am not writing today to respond to a new safari-themed diet fad. (Heaven help us when we get to that point.) I’m writing to offer a little perspective. Occasionally, when we embark on a mission to be healthier we start with an enviable amount of enthusiasm. We join gyms, we set the alarm for a crack of dawn workout, or we tell everyone about our new fabulous diet plan. This “new endeavor energy” soon wanes (two weeks seems to be the norm) and days and weeks go by with out action. We haven’t been to the gym since we signed our membership papers, we hit snooze for a full sixty minutes or hope no one remembers our diet conversation when it’s time to order lunch. The zest for our new plan is replaced with frustration and possibly some confusion. This loss of momentum is where the real work starts and most often where we tend to quit. If we could pause here for just a moment, I’d like to evaluate the problem.
Maybe, we bit off more than we can chew. Adding a new element or changing past behaviors is hard (anyone who says differently is selling something.) Adding too many elements or too drastic of a change is even harder. Let’s take a step back and assess. Was your ambition greater than what is realistic? Could you have experienced more success with smaller goals? simpler tasks? I’d argue, quite possibly, yes. Being healthy is a multifaceted endeavor. The solution to your quandary is the same answer to the question: How do you eat an elephant? ONE BITE AT A TIME. Keeping our tasks doable allows room for success and that success refuels us, unlike the fleeting “new endeavor energy.”
So, try to stop by that gym once this weekend for a 20 minute walk, or pick one day this week for an AM DVD workout, or cook a healthier recipe for dinner every Monday night. The trick is to slowly, steadily chomp away at those old habits so that these new, simple, manageable changes become routine. Once the healthy behaviors are habitual our progress is automatic and eventually everything starts to feel manageable and rewarding. Eating an elephant isn’t impossible, it just has to be tackled one bite at a time.
Clients and friends know that I have an affinity for personal finance. It appeals to my love of numbers and predilection for planning. As customary, I was watching The Suze Orman Show last week and stumbled upon an enlightening bit of advice.
A 30 year software design veteran had been out of work for a year. After hundreds of resumes and dozens of interviews, she wanted help getting her “money mojo” back. Suze’s advice? Exercise. I’m not kidding. The guru of accessible and common sense financial advice to millions of Americans is touting exercise as a key ingredient in reclaiming your “money mojo.” Suze’s reasoning was simple: “Employers are attracted to energy” and exercise will help you feel energized. She also cited that this woman in particular spent too much of her energy putting others first (uh-uhm.) She took her dogs for 6 mile walks (admirable) but never exercised just for herself (unfortunate.) Suze consistently advises her audience to place the financial oxygen mask on themselves first – this is just another variation of such advice.
As someone in the fitness journey trenches, none of this is surprising. I have watched many individuals achieve professional success in conjunction with their commitment to physical health. Research is constantly passing my desk in support of financial/professional achievement and healthy living. Walking five times a week, completing your yoga DVD every morning or joining a running club (beginner level) could all mean the difference between being an energized person or seeming depleted. As we search for sources of motivation to continue to live healthfully – this is a great reminder that exercise in fact offers many benefits beyond the physical implications.
My girlfriend and I have been doing our best to make periodic yoga dates since the birth of our babies. Our lives are demanding and busy, but by hook or by crook, we have both been able to make it to class and are always happier for it. Recently, our teacher made a comment mid-class that stopped me dead in my tracks: “Honor your body.”
Webster’s defines honor: “to regard or treat (someone) with admiration and respect.” In my estimation, most of us tend to fall into two camps when caring for our bodies. We get wrapped up in the minutiae of caring for our bodies OR we tend to stay lost in the current priority (work/family/stress) and keep healthy living low on the priority list. For all of us in either of these camps, this phrase answers quandaries – large AND small. Here are a few examples:
- When you have goon too long with out eating? Honor your body.
- When you have been debating for months regarding when to start your new exercise program? Honor your body.
- When you have not taken time to move fully? Honor your body.
- When you are considering what to have for dinner? Honor your body.
- When another person is asking too much of you? Honor your body.
- When your low back (insert chronic pain) is bothering you? Honor your body.
- When your mental script is saying hurtful things about your appearance? Honor your body.
- When you are considering cancelling your work out? Honor your body.
This phrase does not encourage indulgent behaviors or neglect of other obligations. You are not fragile or too precious to be pushed. Nor should you break the bank on a gourmet meal every day. “Honor your body” places your health on the agenda and adds a new framework for decision making. Emotion and excuses are removed. Treating your body with admiration and respect is always a good thing. I hope this facilitates easier and healthier decisions this week – you deserve it.