The Path to a Whole New U
By: Julianne E. McLaughlin
Why is losing weight so hard and gaining weight so easy? Why is it so difficult to motivate ourselves to go for a walk but easy to walk through a shopping mall? Why is good health never appreciated until it’s jeopardized or, even worse, gone? For every question about losing weight, getting healthy and living a happy life there are countless answers for how to achieve these ideals. But if everything we need to know is out there, why are so many of us overweight, depressed, anxious and living a less than whole life?
Here’s why: living a healthy life isn’t easy to achieve and sustain. Often we are told to take this fat-flushing pill, buy this piece of exercise equipment or try this diet and all of your problems will be solved. If we do all this we will become lean, sexy, vibrant and perfect human beings, right? Unfortunately these promises usually don’t work, in the short or long term, which is why we spend billons of dollars each year on weight loss and health products, searching for that holy wellness grail. So what can we do? Hang on, there’s hope. Let me share my story with you.
I was a personal trainer, Spinning and Pilates instructor for years. I even owned my own fitness studio. I pushed my clients and worked them hard day after day. Some were able to transform their bodies but many experienced minimal physical changes. During our sessions I noticed these clients would tell me about their personal difficulties and emotional roadblocks. Some would confess going home after a workout and eating a steak bomb or a sleeve of Oreo cookies. I realized then that exercise alone would not get them to their goal; nutrition and emotional support was essential to their success as well. I became a holistic weight loss counselor to help my clients change and live healthier lives. In the process, I began to notice changes in my own life. The changes were never big or pronounced. They came in small doses and over the long term.
Five years ago:
I would buy candy from any store I went into. I usually ate it in the car and hid the wrapper in the trash so my kids wouldn’t know I ate it. I love sugar.
I regularly ate highly processed foods such as Goldfish crackers, Wheat Thins, potato chips, sugary cereal, white pasta, Lean Cuisine frozen dinners and even Slim Fast shakes.
I drank at least one Diet Coke or Fresca each day.
I exercised to the point of illness, exhaustion and even injury.
I put the needs of everyone else before my own, rarely taking time for myself to refresh and recover from life’s daily grind.
I bought cookies, cakes and ice cream during my weekly grocery trips. I told myself they were for the kids, but guess who ended up eating most of them?
I haven’t bought candy from any store in over a year. The last one I bought was a bag of Peanut M & M’s and after eating them I felt sick for the rest of the day.
I buy organic, whole foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible. I no longer eat crackers or pretzels but I will enjoy a handful of chips once or twice a week.
I never keep cookies, cake or ice cream in my house on a regular basis, only as a very special treat.
I completely gave up diet soda and instead drink water flavored with fresh fruit.
I regularly spend time doing activities I enjoy such as meditating, reading, gardening and writing.
I still like to exercise hard, but I have incorporated gentle yoga and walking as a regular part of my fitness routine.
Five years ago I couldn’t imagine living without candy, cookies or Diet Coke. These were part of my daily life, my habits and my world. How did I change? By taking slow, small and achievable steps when it felt right for me. I became educated about the dangers of sugar and slowly began to wean myself off the candy and sugary treats. I learned about the importance of giving your body time to recover and rejuvenate and incorporated yoga and walking into my exercise routine. I learned about the processed food industry, about organic vs. conventionally grown foods, why it’s important to eat whole, real food, mindfulness and so much more. It was with this education that the changes began to take effect in my life. Slowly but surely, they came.
Now don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t always been easy or without trials and tribulations. Many times I have craved and desperately wanted something that I knew wasn’t healthy for me but over the long term, with time and patience I was able to drop these daily habits from my life.
Working with my clients has taught me that the most effective way to a life of optimal health is by making small, achievable changes to your daily routine. The first step on any journey is simply that: taking a first step. So where are you going? What do you want and how do you want to get there? What do you want for your physical health? Do you want to lose weight? Be healthy enough to no longer need blood pressure medication? The ability to walk a mile or ten? What about your mental health? Do you wish to live peacefully without anxiety and depression, to sleep well and feel happy? And how about your emotional health? Do you wish to love yourself, be in loving and supportive relationships, and to fulfill your wishes and dreams? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then you need to start with small, daily changes that can make these goals and desires happen. Anything in life that is truly worthwhile takes tremendous effort, time, determination, self-discipline and self-love. There is no “quick fix”. Make no mistake, this is a journey that will challenge you, but it will also change you. Start today with a list of what you want for yourself and then start educating yourself about how achieve those goals.