I last posted about how I am going to post more about my personal health journey and things I learned that worked for me. This is very fitting being New Years Eve today, with a whole host of resolutions to be made by a big chunk of the world to start tomorrow!
And most of them fail.
That is because a lot of the goals aren’t realistic, and besides, people don’t really want to do them, they just know that they should. When I was a smoker I tried quitting a dozen times. The first 11 I didn’t even really want to quit, but I knew that I should. So I’d say I was quitting, make it anywhere from a day to a month, and then do what I really wanted to do. I really wanted to smoke. It wasn’t until I truly wanted to quit smoking that I did – and deep down I knew it was time, and I was looking forward to stopping. I quit and never lit up again. I don’t even remember being a smoker now.
That is what happens during resolutions. People say what they think they want, or what they think other people want for them, and make that a goal. If you don’t feel it deep down in your core that you truly want to do something or make that change then don’t say that you will. Be honest with yourself.
All that being said, if you want to make healthy changes, here are my three simplest tips:
- Start tomorrow. The next day is always Day One. You don’t need to plan for a year from now. You can set a longer term goal, sure, but really, just set a goal for the next day. That way when you slip up and “fail” a day (which you eventually will!) you just reset and go the next day. Some days I would wake up and plan on working out but didn’t have it in me and I would play video games instead. You have to let yourself have the room to enjoy the things you love, but don’t use them as an excuse to skip your goals.
- Wake up early. Even those times when I meant to work out and didn’t, I still got out of bed. I know that can be hard for a lot of late night gamers but I started waking up at 6am, then 5:30, and now 5:00 – and I still go to bed at the same time. When you are healthier you sleep better. I get 6.5 hours a night and it feels like I get 9 hours that I used to take. When the rest of the world is asleep your time is yours. No kids, no spouse, no work. That is your time to rise and shine.
- It’s the journey not the destination. You read about these huge changes that happen “overnight” but those are often years of dedication. Don’t get caught up in the end goal, get focused on the next day, Day One.
I am going to post by “before” and “after”. I didn’t take a proper before (honestly, I didn’t feel good enough to!) and before I do, I want to make one thing clear: I am a bit uncomfortable posting this (I always have been in my own skin) but also this is not to be vain or “look at me” – but it is just to show what small steps lead to. Besides, I don’t even care about how my body looks now – what I do care about is how I feel about myself now.
On the left I was 38, 230 lbs, smoked a pack a day. I did some sports like Hockey, but I’d play for an hour and then drink 4 beer and eat 2 pounds of chicken wings. (I still play hockey, and I still drink beer after the game.) On the left, I was incredibly unhappy with almost everything in my life. I was borderline depressed. I smoked first thing when I got up and last thing when I went to bed. I wasn’t attentive to my child. I was unhappy and self absorbed. I ate out a lot.
On the right, just a month ago, I am 41 and 180 pounds. I don’t smoke. I still love wine with dinner and beer with friends, but I eat better. I love cooking and make sure I have leftovers that I can take for lunch the next day to work so I don’t eat out. I eat healthy but delicious food. I actually like Broccoli.
The left to right transformation wasn’t overnight, it took three years, and I took small steps along the way.
First step (year one) was to work on my diet and try to be more active. Just 2-3 times per week. That’s it. At that you aren’t going to see any big changes anytime soon and that isn’t the point – the point is to create new habits. Go out for an hour walk, get on a treadmill, elliptical, etc. Just make sure you start moving more often every week. Start finding good foods to eat that you like and cook with less butter and salt (less, not none!). Make small steps.
Second step (year two) was to increase the intensity and frequency of my workouts. Instead of cardio, I started doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) such as Insanity, etc. They lasted 45 minutes and I could barely finish them, but I did the best I could. I also started doing some weights (what I felt I could handle). I still had a sweet tooth but didn’t deny myself anything – I just made sure I balanced it with good workouts.
Third step (last 12 months), where I am at today, is a 5 day a week 45 minutes per day mid to heavy compound exercise routine, with hockey 2x a week (on top of it) AND I do cardio a couple times a week if I feel like it. Always under an hour. It doesn’t feel like work it is complete ME time. I get up at 5:00 am, have a coffee and read news, etc. until 5:30, and then work out until 6:30 – and my family doesn’t get up until 7:00 – 7:15. By then I have breakfast ready for everyone, lunches packed for school, dogs fed and taken out.
And I feel amazing.
My outlook on life has changed. I eat what I want when I want, including sweets and eating out, but I balance that with being active and eating healthy foods (that I now LOVE! – I never thought I could eat broccoli. now it is one of my favourites. It took a lot of time to get there.)
At times, especially end of year one and into year two I would get frustrated. I didn’t feel great. I didn’t look different. It took me a while to change my perspective that I’d have abs and pecs after light workouts and cardio. I’d beat up on myself when I became lazy or skipped workouts. I had the wrong perspective. I am really glad I stuck with it because at some point my perspective about everything changed and I realized I was doing this to be healthy, live a longer, more fulfilling life, and be happier – not to look like a fitness model. After that things became a lot easier. Getting up was easier. It became fun. It became routine, and once it was routine it became easy.
It took three years. You won’t change overnight and you won’t change on a resolution – but I promise you if start taking small steps you can get to where you want to be.
Day One is tomorrow.