Finding a Healthier Lifestyle – Committing to Change
Everyone wants to live a healthier lifestyle and everyone wants to look better in their swimsuit. However, many people don’t know where to begin or what questions to ask.
Six months ago I was in that very position with not a clue as to what I should do to lose weight. Today I have lost 40 pounds working out only five hours of every week and the weight is still going down, despite the fact that my occupation as a student and web developer is largely sedentary.
I am eating healthier, I look great, I am much stronger, and I am in better shape now than when I played football in high school.
Here are the steps I took to begin rebuilding my lifestyle:
- Acknowledge Self Destructive Behaviors: One night I went out with a handful of my college friends and drink beer at a popular bar in Nashville. By the end of the night I had put away two pieces of pizza and seven pints of thick German beer. If that had been the first time I had splurged on food and drink I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but it wasn’t. The following day I thought about why I let myself go at the bar, and it hit me: when I’m with my friends, I drink and when I drink, I eat. But that wasn’t the only thing I was doing wrong. Here are some other troubling behaviors that I recognized:
- I was always “too busy” to take the time to exercise
- I was always “too busy” to prepare my own healthier meals
- I didn’t eat salads, fruit, or whole grain bread because I liked how cheese burgers, potato chips, and white bread tasted better
- I ate whatever I wanted without regard to the toll it took on my body
After honest introspection I found the causes of my problems. The thing is, these patterns of self behavior all boil down to a few simple causes:
- social pressure to eat and drink in excess
- time pressure to skip exercise
- time pressure to skip preparing my own meals
- personal preference for unhealthy food
- ambivalence to my own health
So take the first step, take a moment to think about your daily routines and identify some of your habits and behaviors that create problems for your self image. Make a list of your bad habits or even the pressures that force you into those habits. This will help you identify which areas of your lifestyle need to change.
- Realize the Succumbing to these Pressures is a Choice: One of the most influential books I have ever read is Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and the first thing I thought about after my introspection was a little theme from the book, which I’m going to paraphrase:
Every thing in your life affects you only in the way that you choose to let it affect you.
Many people, myself included, feel that they are unable to escape their self-destructive behaviors because society compels them not to through various pressures imposed upon them. This is false.
To quote The Seven Habits directly:
“People who exercise their embryonic freedom day after day, little by little, expand that freedom. People who do not will find that it withers until they are literally ‘being lived.’ They are acting out scripts written by parents, associates, and society.”
The choice I made was to recognize that I was being ‘lived’ by the pressures I had mentally placed upon myself. This was the most important and crucial discovery I made, and it is what has empowered me to be a healthier, more confident, and a more successful man.
From this point onward, accept that in your previous lifestyle you choose to let these pressures live your life, and commit that from now on, you and you alone decide what will and will not affect you. Commit to embracing and expanding your embryonic freedom everyday.
- Resolve to Change and Commit: Once you acknowledge that you have the power to be proactive and improve your lifestyle, you have to commit to changing yourself. The best way to create a moral foundation for your new lifestyle is to write down your goals and your commitments.
Here is my list, which I keep on my cellphone so I can look at it whenever I think I may waiver:
- I resolve to make my health, fitness, and happiness my first priorities, above my school work, above my career, and above my social life.
- I resolve to be strong enough to resist the temptation to drink beer and alcohol in excess, even in the company of my greatest friends and loved ones.
- I resolve to exercise frequently during the week, regardless of the amount of work I have to do and regardless of other time commitments. I commit to making time to exercise.
- I resolve to overcome to resist the temptation for quick and easy meals; instead I commit to eat what is best for my body and I will eat it in moderation.
- I resolve to understand my body’s needs and to maintain it with utmost care.
I highly recommend that you make a list like this yourself and keep it with you. Reading these words has helped me through many times when I felt like giving up. Make your own list, and read it when hard times arrive.
- Prepare to be Self-Motivated: A lot of your friends, especially if they are also out of shape, may try to talk you out of changing your life simply because they are afraid to do it themselves and don’t want to be left behind. Perhaps your friends will make fun of you for being the only guy eating a salad when all of them eat steak or burgers when you go out for dinner. Your own mother may tell you that you “look fine” even though you don’t feel “fine.”
While most of your friends and family will likely be supportive, you have to rely on your inner strength and resolve to work through something as drastic as a lifestyle change. So you have to do two things:
- Live without constant positive reinforcement from genuinely supportive friends and family; it will not always be there when you need it, so learn to stay motivated without it.
- Ignore negative or discouraging thoughts, comments, and remarks; people who tell you that you can’t do something are wrong and should be ignored. If you succumb to negative influence and lose your motivation then you will never be able to achieve the lifestyle changes you want.
By no means should you ignore your friends or family, but you need to remember that what you want and what you think matters more than what anyone else thinks of you. YOU are the only one who has the power to change yourself. You have to motivate yourself to stay involved.
Now you have the moral foundation you’ll need for the long road ahead by identifying the pressures that produced your current lifestyle, you’ve recognized that you have the power to choose not to be affected by those pressures. You’ve made your list of resolutions and commitments, and you’ve chosen to rely on yourself to get through the changes. You are ready to take the first step in a long journey towards self improvement.
Next week we’ll discuss making the first cuts: initial diet, daily routine, and exercise improvements.
This post’s author is Aaronontheweb and he blogs about ASP.NET, Web 2.0 Development, Online Marketing, and Online Business at AjaxNinja. His most recent article is Blogging for Business: Blogs are not just a fad.