It doesn’t matter if you are a burly biker, a crazy cowboy or an Indian chief—one thing we all have in common in this world is the desire to feel good. When you wake up each morning, do you feel good? Do you feel good about who you are, the choices you make and the person you have become? Do you have the desire, the energy and the means to accomplish the things you’d like to do today?
Healthy living is not an accident. It has to be a conscious choice. Being healthy isn’t easy, quick or convenient. It requires thought, time, work and a commitment to your better self. It doesn’t happen because you pay a trainer or invest in a diet program. You don’t just make a decision to be healthy one day and wait for everything to fall into place by itself. You have to decide to be healthy every day, all day, for the rest of your life, and then you have to do the work! If that sounds exhausting to you, then I have a promise to make: Living your life with your unhealthy choices will be the more exhausting, unfulfilling path of the two.
Every single one of us has or has had a fantasy idea of who we would like to become in our lifetime—the places we’d like to see, the experiences we would like to have. And then we have a lifetime of opportunities, obstacles and choices that have shaped the reality of who we are now. For the most part, we are the product of our decisions. As a trainer, I believe that the only person that should change who they are or what they do is the person who is truly unsatisfied in their heart with any aspect of who they have become. But if we are to be honest, we all have some aspect of ourselves that we are not completely satisfied with. So what would it take to make you want not only to be happier, but to commit to taking the steps required to get you there?
If you are overweight and happy, then it is OK to be big and proud. But if you are overweight and tired, sick or unable to participate in the activities you’d like to, then you should consider losing weight. If you really like smoking, then smoke until it no longer suits you. My mother quit the day the doctor said, “Cancer.” If you feel that doing drugs makes you a better, more creative person, then perhaps it does. But if you suspect that it leaves you unmotivated and unfocused or makes you do things you actually regret, then maybe you could be happier without them. And if you fall into the category of thinking that everything is OK in moderation, then only you can come to the realization that maybe your moderation isnt so moderate anymore. Maybe your choices are no longer suiting you. And even if you are able to have certain vices and still hold it together until tomorrow, would your life be better without those vices? Could you feel better without them? And if so, why wouldn’t you want to? Why wouldnt you want to feel your optimal best? Addiction, any addiction, can and will stand in the way of you actualizing your goals. How can you have control over your life if you dont have control over a piece of pie, a cigarette or that next drink? Only a clear mind can make healthy choices.
Any and every choice that takes you farther away from who you desire to be is the wrong choice to make. Our world today is moving so fast that we operate on overdrive. We do things without thought. We make choices by not making choices. We need to slow ourselves down enough to analyze each thing we do and how that has contributed to where we are now. Where the mind goes, the body follows. We are an immediate gratification society. Think chocolate, eat chocolate. Think alcohol, drink alcohol. Think drugs, do drugs. The first step to changing any negative aspect of your life is connecting the dots of the fact that your thought produces your action, and your action produces your result. Until you connect those dots, you will continue to swim in the sea of denial. But don’t worry, you won’t be swimming alone. I bathe there often, and it’s a busy body of water!
Being aware of your thoughts is the first step to changing them. If you have a consistent thought that is producing a consistent negative result, pay attention to how many times a day you have that thought. Then imagine yourself as the person you want to be, and decide what that person would think instead of that other annoying thought you devote so much time and energy to. Find the best possible replacement thought, and make it your new obsession.
As an example, if weight is your problem and you sit at work every day thinking about french fries every 10 minutes, by the end of the day you are probably going to go to McDonalds and get those french fries. But when you catch yourself dreaming of french fries, replace that thought with one of you fitting into your skinny jeans or whatever your goal is. Visualize your ultimate image of yourself. Then imagine doing whatever activity you enjoy that might get rid of the last french fries you ate. If you like walking or hiking or biking, imagine yourself doing that with over-the-top high energy and a smile on your face. Every single time you have the negative thought, replace it with the better choice. If you have to be addicted to something, get addicted to the gym or your bicycle or juicing.
As the wild and crazy biker nomad who has traveled the world attempting every dream I can conjure up in my mind, I have become known for being a fearless free spirit. The letters I receive from people all over the world touch my heart. But the one theme that has repeated itself in many letters is that too many human beings suffer in their hearts from not realizing their dreams or true potential. They wish they were living, experiencing, traveling—they wish they were feeling something more or different. They wish they didn’t have the roadblocks of time, money or fear. And they wish they could control their compulsions of eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, drugs, sex, TV, Facebook. They want to know the fastest and easiest way to lose weight, but when I begin to answer by addressing addiction, no one wants to hear that. They want a magical, simple, life-changing secret. I have no such secret, only this truth. Anything you do that becomes a colossal waste of your time is a bad choice.
As a trainer, it is my deepest desire to motivate people to want to live a healthy life. I can come to your house and clean your refrigerator and cupboards of all that is toxic. I can teach you how to eat right at home or on the go. I can design a workout program that you will actually enjoy so that you might continue doing it forever. Then I can come to your house three times a week to help you enforce that. But what happens over the course of a year in training with someone is a constant dialogue where my job is ultimately to teach that person to want it for him or herself. You have to learn or relearn how to respect yourself and your deepest dreams for the best possible you. And ultimately, that is not something anyone can teach you—you have to want it for yourself.
If you were riding out on the highway and came to a fork in the road with a sign pointing forward that said “Feel Better” and a sign pointing backward that said “Feel Worse,” would you have to stop and think about it? I think it is fair to say we would all choose to feel better. Yet every single day many of us will make a series of choices that will take us backward, down the road to feeling worse. I can tell you that when you are at your optimal weight and free of drugs and alcohol, you will feel better. You will run faster, jump higher, sleep better, think more clearly and get more done. You will give yourself the gift of clarity and longevity. Being alive is your greatest gift, and you can spend that gift any way you choose. You can choose to cut it short or dull it up. You can choose to create so much chaos that changing your life or even thinking about it won’t even be an option.
A wise woman (my mother, of course) once told me that you cannot get what you want in this lifetime if you don’t even know what that is. If you are constantly distracting your mind with substances, TV, computers and chaos, you will get so far away from your true self that you may lose sight of who you really are or who you want to become. You’ll also lose the energy you need to work toward your goals—once you’ve figured out what they are!
When I am in dialogue with a client about why he or she feels the need for alcohol or drugs, chocolate or french fries, the person most often rationalizes by saying these things take the edge off or quiet the nerves, or that they help him or her relax during times of stress or provide the courage or confidence the person doesn’t normally have. But you cannot know yourself, your heart, your feelings or your dreams if you continue to dull them. If your mind or body is shouting something that makes you reach for any vice, it is telling you something! Something is askew. Something is wrong. Something is not making you happy. If you find yourself walking into the kitchen every time you feel bored or empty, perhaps something needs to change. Perhaps there is a void beyond the one in your stomach.
By continuing to feed the problem with food or dull the problem with substances, you are only fueling the version of you that you don’t really want to be anymore. Reaching for your vice to turn off those feelings is at best a very temporary fix. And with every temporary fix, you’ve made the journey back to your goal that much longer. Your temporary fixes have added up to your permanent dissatisfaction. Every bad choice is another nail in the coffin you are not ready to lie down in. Rather than seek a temporary manifestation of euphoria, why not create your own structure for a permanent place of peace? Take responsibility for your everyday choices, and realize their results now.
If I have any advice to share from my own experience, it is to take control of your own destiny. I was 19 when I realized I wasn’t a very good drunk. I was even worse at doing drugs and usually ended up puking in the bushes or behaving like a moron and doing things I felt embarrassed about later. So I gave up drinking Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink, along with every other alcoholic or illegal substance. I guess I could have worked on building up that tolerance thing, but I realized early on that I didn’t have to do what other people did—and that I actually felt better sober. I learned the power of saying no, and I learned that with the power of no came a self discipline that allowed me to shape my own future existence. Self control is the ability to steer your own vessel to the destination you want to reach. On the road, I do suggest detours! But in spirit? Keep the destination clear. Be the designated driver of your own vessel.
Years ago I wrote the following words, which still ring so very true: “I am a woman who has made a lot of bad choices and mistakes. You don’t become strong, independent or fearless any other way. I am strong because I am not afraid to fail. I am not afraid to fail, because I have faith. I have faith in God to take me where he wants me, even when I don’t understand it or like it. Anyone who has ever seen me ride my motorcycle knows that I like to live life on the edge, because if you are not, you are missing the view. I live every day like it is my last day on Earth. When I ride the canyons, I like to lean so far that I can smell the pavement. And perhaps it shall be that one of my crazy activities will bring about my last day on Earth. But I will never fear living or loving. What I do fear is boredom and unrealized dreams.”
If you are overweight, underweight, out of shape or lacking muscle mass, you do not feel as good as you could feel. If you drink, smoke or do drugs—prescription or otherwise—you do not feel as good as you could feel. If you eat fast food, frozen food, canned food or processed food, you do not feel as good as you could feel. How you feel is going to determine how every moment of the rest of your life plays out. What could be more important than how you feel? Say yes to feeling good and no to anything and everything that will lead to feeling anything other than good.
Don’t be discouraged because you have made mistakes and bad choices! That is the price you have to pay to learn everything that you don’t want. But once you know what you don’t want, quit doing it. Put your heart on what you do want, and let your actions reflect what lies in your heart. As a woman now in my 50s, every wrinkle is a lesson, every gray hair a loss, my eggs are rotten and menus are fuzzy. There are some things in life we cannot change, and for that reason we must find acceptance. None of us are getting out of here alive. Life happens. So accept the things you cannot change, but change whatever you can that’s keeping you from your dreams. Every single morning when you wake up, you are born again. Every single day is a new opportunity to make better choices for tomorrow. We don’t get to know how many more tomorrows we have. Why would you want to waste even one?
For more information on where to start with diet and exercise changes, read my article “Just Do It” from the WRN archives. Also feel free to email me with any questions you have regarding health and fitness. Happy, safe and healthy trails!