TAKE THE LEAP: SEVEN STEPS TO PERSONAL FITNESS
Do you want to feel better about your body? Do you want to give up some troublesome habits, like overeating at night? Do you want to be a better example for your children? Are you concerned about a spouse? Do you have a medical condition that will cost you your life if you don’t adopt healthier habits? Are you concerned about rising health costs and eager to avoid chronic diseases as you age? Whatever reason you have for wanting to change is unique to you. You don’t have to have exceptional willpower or unlimited resources. You do need the willingness to take the following seven steps. Take a look at them. Perhaps then you will join us.
Seven Steps to Personal Fitness
1. Fork in the Road, Not in the Mouth
Decide: Your decision to change must be authentic and self-generated. It may be triggered by a medical emergency or by a traumatic incident, such as a stranger asking you if you are pregnant (and you aren’t). The decision is inspired from inside you, it is nonreversible, and it will change your life. It is also renewable-when you drift away, a nagging sense that you are off track will bring you back. Your priorities are altered.
Wherever you turn, you see validation for the changes you are making. Like the person who learns a new word and sees it everywhere, your commitment to fitness shows up all around you. Timing is everything. If you haven’t had this moment of truth, don’t despair. Keep looking for the opportunity to step out. You will know it the instant it occurs.
2. Tell the Truth
Go Public: Your decision to get fit once and for all must be communicated as widely as possible. You need to tell your family, and certainly your spouse or significant other. Ask for prayers for your project in your church bulletin, or announce your goal at synagogue. You can make your resolve known in your social or service clubs or post it on the bulletin board at work. You can even take an ad out in a newspaper. Have fun! Trust me, you will find all sorts of people who will support your efforts, and some may even join you in getting fit.
3. Find “My People”
Assemble a Team: I recently heard a psychiatrist talk about the importance of separating the people you come in contact with into two groups: “my people” and “not my people.” She said it makes life much more enjoyable if you surround yourself with “my people” and give up guilt about dissociating yourself from the others.
It is easy to recognize “not my people.” They make you feel bad when you are around them; you shrink before their critical gaze. Their unhappiness is toxic. Stick with “my people,” who give you a lift and make you happy to be alive.
Now that you have gone public and announced your decision to make a life change, the next step is to assemble a team for personal and professional support-a team of “my people.” The professional members might include a personal trainer, physician, physical therapist, psychologist, acupuncturist, and/or dietitian. Consider a hospital wellness center that offers a health and risk assessment.
Work with your doctor, and get medical tests to find out if you have any issues or limitations that need to be addressed. Personal support might involve a Weight Watchers group, Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), classmates in a gym group, friends who want to join you in getting fit, your spouse, or neighbors. Remember-overweight or out-of-shape people are not scarce. You can create your support team from almost any group in which you participate.
4. From Fat to Fit
Set Goals and Design Your Own Program: Once you have your team, you need to design your own unique fitness program. You must set goals and then decide how you will reach them. Here are some examples:
- I will lose thirty pounds in six months.
- My eating plan will include foods that I find enjoyable (within limits!) but with a focus on health and nutrition. This means a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- I’ll eat breakfast daily and will record faithfully all that I consume.
- My diet will include a maximum of 1,500 calories a day.
- I’ll learn the calorie content of food and how to read labels.
- Unless I’m injured or sick, I will exercise an average of one hour a day, or a total of seven hours each week.
- I will find exercises that improve my flexibility, build strength through resistance training (weights), and engage in aerobic activities that provide overall conditioning.
- I will explore and find exercise that is intrinsically fun and rewarding.
- I will establish the number of inches I want to lose and measure myself at the start so that I have a benchmark.
- Each week I’ll take new measurements and record the changes. When pounds don’t drop as easily or as much as I want, I’ll take encouragement from my declining inches.
- Each week I will report my results to my fitness coach and will set new goals.
- I will make a list of healthy habits that I regularly need to observe to take good care of myself. My first items are staying hydrated, flossing my teeth daily, wearing a seat belt, getting sufficient sleep, and balancing my commitments between work, family, and self.
- Regarding my mental health, I’ll find an opportunity to laugh each day, give attention to my spiritual needs, and maintain a fun, upbeat outlook.
- When people notice changes in me, I’ll use the opportunity to encourage them to join me in choosing a healthier lifestyle.
5. In the Card Game of Life, Honesty Trumps Denial
Establish Accountability: Two kinds of accountability are necessary. Self-accountability means daily journaling of what you eat, how much you exercise, and what your attitude is. For this you need your own personal journal. One way is to manually log in daily information in a notebook that you have created. An alternative is to set up your reporting system on your computer. Or you can use a free Web-based program like the one you can find at http://www.fitday.com. For a small fee, you can also use a popular commercial site: http://www.myfooddiary.com.
Keep handy a pen or pencil and something to write on, like a pad of paper, next to your favorite chair. Or buy a small notebook that you can fit into your purse or pocket. This makes it easy to journal wherever you are.
You also need to report weekly to an outside source. This could be a team member, a supporter, or a personal trainer. Left to our own devices, we tend to deny unpleasant realities. Consequently, this last step is absolutely essential to reach your goals.
6. Become a Student Again
Learn, Experiment, and Celebrate: Be prepared for a major learning curve in all areas of your life. You will need to learn new ways of cooking and dining out. Make notes of how different foods affect your body. Make a ritual of eating, paying special attention to portion size. Experiment with different forms of exercise. Celebrate progress. As you lose weight, make adjustments in your wardrobe by donating clothes that are too big. (I found consignment stores great places to find an interim wardrobe while I was going down in sizes.)
Continue to research fitness through a variety of sources-books, magazines, Web sites, your physician and pharmacist, and your local fitness center. Learn to accept and enjoy change, variety, experimentation, and the joy of celebration. The journey of learning, growing, changing, and adapting is one that will last for the rest of your life.
7. Recruit or Regress
Promote and Institutionalize: “Sell” fitness to your family members and business associates and to members of groups you belong to. Become the self-appointed fitness advocate in your circle of friends and neighbors and in the larger community. Find a group of people who will reinforce your new lifestyle, and make them your new friends.
To institutionalize your own changes at home, keep only one size of clothing in your closet. Show guests the kitchen cupboard along with the refrigerator. Their contents reflect your new way of eating. Use every opportunity you can to encourage others to join you in leading a more healthful life.
One Last Word of Encouragement
Don’t feel you have to accomplish each of these seven steps perfectly. None of us moves flawlessly toward our goals. We take spills and detours along the way. Besides, there is no destination, only the journey. All we have are day-to-day, moment-by-moment decisions to make.
And you don’t have to wait for the perfect opportunity or the perfect words to encourage others. Instead, share yourself and your enthusiasm for your new lifestyle in your own unique way.
You may be surprised that as you begin to reinvent the new “you,” latent interests and talents begin to surface. Once you permit yourself freedom in one area of your life, that freedom becomes available to you in other areas as well. In ways you least expect it, your newfound freedom will begin to transform the rest of your life. Fortunately, we don’t need to understand how it works to appreciate the wonderful outcome when we begin to make healthful changes in support of our bodies.
From From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction by Carole Carson.
Copyright © 2007 by Carole Carson. Reprinted by permission of Hound Press.
The book is available from your favorite bookstore, www.houndpress.com, or (866) 337-7836.