Our health is one of the most important, if not the most important asset we have. And it is probably the one thing that more of us take for granted than anything else. Our family has suffered tremendous impacts with regards to health in the past year and it has been eye-opening and painful to watch family members suffer. From cancer to hormonal struggles to cholesterol challenges, we have run the gamut this past year.
One of the biggest challenges we face today with regards to health is obesity. According to stateofobesity.org, as of August 2017, one in three adults and one in six children are obese. Obesity increases our risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and so many other health issues that could potentially be avoided. Although the rate of obesity is starting to slow down in the past year or two, I still found the statistics somewhat shocking.
My focus for 2018 is very much on my health and that of my family. I want to be around as long as I can and where there are things regarding my health that are outside of my control, there are things that I determine: my nutrition and my activity. I am not a nutritionist, I have no formal education, no personal training - just my own experience to go off of. Maybe this will inspire one person to take that leap and put their health first in 2018.
Obviously we all know that nutrition is important. I mean to even just sustain life - you need to feed the machine. But what I learned in the past several years is that nutrition in and of itself is so grossly misunderstood. Many people don’t know how to eat, when to eat, what to eat. I don’t have the answers but I can share what I have learned and what does and doesn’t work for me.
Do consider a nutritionist
A nutritionist can go a long way to helping you understand food. And what your body needs nutrient wise to help you be a healthier version of you. Yes, it will typically cost a few dollars - it’s not a cheap quick fix. But you are investing in yourself, your health, the parent to your children, the partner to your partner, a future you. Not only do they provide the education about food, they can help you with a diet, get you going in the right direction. If you can scrape up the dough, it’s a worthy investment.
Don’t do fad diets
Listen, I’ve done every fad diet out there and then some. The very definition of ‘fad’ is “an intense enthusiasm for something that is SHORT LIVED”. A fad diet is not meant to last. It is meant to give you quick results and generally is not sustainable. Trust me - from Atkins to the cabbage soup diet to no dairy so on and so forth - I’ve done them all. Stay away from a quick fix because that’s all it is.
I was what you would call ‘skinny fat’ when I started the gym three years ago. I weighed in around 125 pounds and ate maybe 1200 calories a day. Flash forward to today and I’m a robust 137 pounds and generally eat around 2000 calories a day. I had to learn and wrap my mind around eating and I had to learn how to eat. And it took me about a year of learning what worked for me to get there. Which brings me to my next point.
Do learn about macros and calories
Macronutrients are what our bodies use to create energy. Macros are primarily fat, protein and carbs and you’ll see them listed on food labels in grams and that’s where we get calories. Fat has 9 calories per gram, carbs 4 calories per gram and protein 4 calories per gram. And if you consume fewer calories then what you burn you will more than likely lose weight. So in that regard, a calorie is a calorie. However if what you are looking to do is lose weight as well as perform at an optimum level - you need to delve further into learning about macros and what percentage of fat, protein and carbs work best to help with peak performance and weight loss goals. Did I mention a nutritionist???
Don’t live and die by the scale
I am over ten pounds heavier than when I started the gym three years ago. Having grown up a little pudgy then gaining the freshman 15 plus some and then battling an eating disorder, I have had a close and personal relationship with the scale my whole life. Not any longer. Some days I’m up, some days I’m down but as long as I feel good and my clothes fit the way I want them to, I really don’t worry about it. As you lose fat and gain muscle, become healthier, that number is going to change. As long as you’re on the right track, don’t let that number define your journey.
Peepers, you have to move your body. I don’t care how you dress it up, slice it, dice it, what have you - those limbs of yours have got to do some moving. It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your muscles, your skeletal system, your emotions, activity in some way, shape or form is nothing but GOOD for you. Again, been there done that and I can certainly tell you where I had some epic fails and where I had some success.
Do join a gym
If you need to have a place to go, a gym is a terrific option. Think about whether you are self motivated or in need of a little more guidance and make your choices accordingly. Some people may prefer to go and put on their headphones and tune out the rest of the world while they go about their workout. Others may prefer to hit a kickboxing class, do hot yoga or need a little bit more guidance going about their workouts. Many health insurances offer partial reimbursement for qualified health clubs or gyms and there are a ton of studios, gyms and other clubs that offer additional incentives especially in the month of January to get you in the door.
Don’t NOT do your research before joining
You need to check a gym out before you join, peepers. All gyms are NOT created equal. Go take a class before you sign on the dotted line. Most gyms or studios or clubs will give you a free class, a free trial, something of that nature. You need to know the energy of where you’re at and decide if it is for you before you get into something long term. Take the time, talk with the staff, take a class, get a feel for it before you commit.
Do get outside
I know the temps are less than ideal for many of us right now. But get outside! Walk the dog, shovel the driveway, walk around the block. Not only does getting outside give you a much needed breath of fresh air, it gives your body some much needed vitamin D and it helps to clear the cobwebs. Whether you gift yourself 10 minutes a day or a half hour walk, get outside and move!
Don’t be afraid to try a home program
Again, been there done that. I’ve done Shaun T’s Insanity program, Plyometrics, so on and so forth. And for me, especially when my trolls were younger, it was the ideal way for me to go down in the basement and sweat a little. The initial cost was small, the sessions lasted anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes and I got a little bit of me time. They aren’t for everyone but they are for a lot of people. And misery loves company - which leads me to my next Do.
Do grab a buddy
It helped me tremendously early on to have someone to workout with. It’s someone that held me accountable on the days I didn't want to work out (every day) and someone that was just as miserable sweating and contorting their body. There is something bonding about working out together. Find someone that you’re compatible with, figure out your schedules and make the commitment to stick it out together. Spouse, good friend, neighbor - what have you. Find a buddy and make it happen.
Do mix it up
I get bored pretty easy. So I have to mix up my routine a lot. Don’t be afraid to mix and match and change things up. Walk, run, do some weight lifting, take a yoga class, go for a hike, a swim - something. Take a new class at Pure Barre. Do a trial at a kick boxing gym. Go for a bike ride with the kids. Switching up your activities keeps your mind piqued, your body interested and your spirits high. And all of those different kinds of activities are working all kinds of different muscle groups. So if you bored easy like I do - change up your routine from week to week and add a little variety!
The Four A’s
All of this nutrition advice and moving your body, good stuff, right? In theory, absolutely! But how do you get there? How do you stay there? What is the glue that holds the nutrition and the activity together to create the foundation? I call them the Four A’s - Attitude, Accountability, Adaptability and Acceptance. With my journey, these four queens have been in my court and instrumental in keeping me mentally, emotionally and physically connected to my health.
They say attitude is everything and I believe that. And there are days when I don’t want to work out, where I’m sore, tired, feel blah, you name it. And I simply try to turn it back around and remind myself that there are countless people that would love to be able to move their body the way I can. That I am blessed to be able to AFFORD to make good eating choices. That this family of mine - they are a gift and I want to be around to spend as much of my life with them that I can. There are days that I have to fake it til I make it but I can tell you right now - approaching your nutrition, your activity, your life with a positive attitude is not only life changing for you but also for others around you. Positivity is contagious. Attitude is what makes the journey fun, enlightening, humbling or what makes the journey a big ball of suck. Slap on a smile, find your attitude of gratitude and continue to march.
I mentioned this earlier and I’ll stress it again. You have to be accountable. To yourself first and foremost and if that’s too much to start out with, be accountable to a buddy. That is totes okay! I have found that I am a lot less reluctant to let someone else down whereas I can tell myself every excuse in the book. That’s why I’m a fan of the gym - that’s my accountability coach. Find a way to hold yourself accountable, to uphold yourself to the path that you’ve started out on. The accountability factor is what gets you from point A to point B, the driving force behind you. Choose wisely.
You know it’s not going to be easy. There are going to be forks in the road, bumps and twists and turns. Unexpected events where there are simply no ‘healthy’ options. A child that gets sick and is stuck to you like glue. The list goes on and on because life doesn’t stop coming at you regardless of what you had ‘planned’. You need to be able to adapt. Keep a pair of workout clothes and an extra pair of shoes in the car. Load up a cooler with snacks and drinks for those long days on the field. Eat the slice of pizza and drink the beer. Adaptability is life - that’s what you are working so hard for. To be physically prepared to dodge the bullets that life throws at you. Be adaptable to the curve balls and learn how to embrace them and work them into your lifestyle. Which leads me to the final A…
This is not a perfect process. Nor is it meant to be. It’s a journey filled with great successes and epic fails. Don’t get wrapped up in an image, a number, a value that truly isn’t important. Wrap your mind around being nutritionally good to your body, accepting that there are days when the best nutritional fuel might be a sleeve of oreos. And that is awesome. Engage with your body and be grateful for the amazing things it can do, no matter how minute they may seem to you. There are things you will conquer and things that may just not be meant for you. Accept both for what they are and continue to put your best effort forward - whatever it may be that day.
Health as I know it
I mentioned that it has been a tough year for our family. A lot of loss. Some health issues still ongoing. But I have learned a lot in the past several years and the changes I’ve made personally have been significant. I still live my life, got rid of a lot of the sugar, cut out the fast food, love my gym and my accountability partners that I work out with. I have my Rob back at GH and hitting it hard, we eat pretty clean but we still live life and indulge in chips and salsa, Titos and Trulys and just try to find some middle ground. And I accept the fact that I am 46. And that little pudge that has lived loud and proud around my belly button has taken up permanent residence no matter how many ab mat sit-ups I do. And I accept the fact that I am always going to pee when I jump rope. The rest - I’m still working on.
And my brother and his beautiful wife - their journey is a little different but still much the same. They work out regularly at home as with their schedule and a tween and an almost tween and a child and fifty thousand basketball games and dance and wrestling - the gym isn’t happening. They eat very clean although they do enjoy their dinners out. They are highly adaptable because they have to be. Casey and TanDee walk the walk and talk the talk - they do their best to set the example for their own children about making sound choices nutritionally and moving your body.
Life can be hard. Bad things happen to good people all the time and there are a lot of things that are out of our control. How we treat our bodies, how we fuel them and how we move them - much of that we can control. And as much as we might like to at times, we can’t trade them in for a newer model. Health is not about the weight you lose. It’s about the life that you gain. Commit.