10 Things I Need for Sustainable Change

I started a walking/jogging program a few weeks ago.  My goal is to go out for 45-60 minutes 6 times per week.  I just go around my neighborhood – no need to pay fees for a gym.  I am a bit short of the goal.  I get the right duration, but am only averaging 5 days per week.  I am working on improving.

One advantage of all this time is that I have opportunity to think about what I am doing and why.  When my wife goes with me, we talk about a range of topics and she always helps me to clarify my thinking.  I hope I do the same for her.  I look forward to the times she goes with me.  I love those talks.

Anyway, as a result of my extra contemplation, I have developed a list of 10 things I need to have in order to have sustainable change, get on the road to health and take back control of my life.  I have to admit that I have come to this list through my recent journey and through study of blogs, podcasts and books.  I am sure that other people’s thoughts have led to my understanding of what it takes to change.  Nonetheless, this is my personal view.

I am not a doctor, a psychiatrist, a personal trainer or in any way qualified to give advice on this matter, so be aware that this list is just what I think.  Use with caution.

Exercise – No matter what I eat (or don’t eat), I don’t think I will feel good without some kind of frequent exercise.  I have not exercised much in previous attempts at weight loss – and none of them lasted.   After just a few weeks of my new exercise program, I already feel like I am missing something when I skip a day.  I really look forward to this time.  Any type of exercise will work.  You don’t have to kill yourself lifting weights or kickboxing.  Just move around and get your heart pumping.  Humans are meant to move, we get sick when we are sedentary.

Time – The hardest thing to come by at first.  Unless you decide that you will spend time exercising, cooking, eating with your family, reading about fitness, etc. you will not be successful.  Think about what you currently get done every day – going to work, getting the kids to their activities, and watching your favorite TV program.  When you set aside time for something and make it important, it gets done.  Make these new healthy habits important by giving them time and you will succeed.  Ironically, once you start to set aside time for working on health and a simple lifestyle, you will find ways to gain time by identifying and eliminating time wasters.  A positive snowball effect.

A Schedule – If you want to accomplish something, you have to make a specific appointment to do it.  If you are going to work out at the gym, put in your calendar – 5:15 – 6:15 Tuesday – or whatever.  Unless you make the commitment to the task and schedule other things around this one, you will not do it.  Schedule everything you want to change.  Include exercise, dinner with your wife, 20 minutes to write a diary.  If you manage to free up an hour and don’t have a plan, the hour will melt away and be wasted.  Commit and get it done.

No TV – The biggest waste of time in the history of man.  An irretrievable hour of life wasted to find out which fictional character is sleeping with which other fictional character.  Further, almost nothing on TV is uplifting or positive – it is drama about sorrow and suffering.  Even the few positive shows that aren’t full of death and pestilence can be replaced with books or blogs that are deeper, more descriptive and enjoyable.  If you must watch TV, limit yourself to 2 hours a week.  However, you are better off reading a book – or even better – talking to your wife while sitting on the deck enjoying a glass of wine.

Education – No matter what you try to learn, you need a community of experts to advise you.  In my case, I turn to blogs, books, podcasts and people I know who are better at something than I am.  The amount of free information available is staggering.  Not all of it is good, but a lot of it is.  It will not take long to find 4 or 5 sources of data that will help clarify understanding and keep you motivated.  In my case, I am studying nutrition, exercise technique and time management among other subjects.  Continuous learning is the only way to keep your brain healthy.  Once you quit challenging your mind, it will atrophy and decay.

Knowing how to cook – Almost anything you make at home from fresh ingredients will be better for you than pre-processed store bought versions.  Plus, cooking is fun!  Chopping, slicing, dicing, seasoning, sprinkling is a blast.  Once you make your own version of a dish from scratch, you will start to wonder why the food companies need to fill their products full of preservative and chemicals.  If you make something with 6 ingredients, why do they need 27?  Plus, cooking will bring you together with your family.  You will able to spend time with your kids learning something new together.  You will empower your kids to be able to feed themselves well after they are grown and gone from my home.  Your family will probably eat together and spend more time with each other and less time with the TV or computer game.

A positive attitude – No negativity allowed.  Expect to succeed.  Never complain, always find something good in a situation.  Legs sore?  Muscles are growing!  Tired at the end of your walk?  You went 100 meters further today!  Weight loss plateaued?  At least you are eating more vegetables!  If you only talk about failure, why are you surprised when you fail?  It does not matter what your complaint is, there is always a positive spin.  Focus on the positive and plan to succeed.

Honesty about your situation – There is no way to sugar coat it.  The truth is that I am overweight and sedentary.  Admit it, deal with it.  Get back to the positive side.  I need to lose 30 pounds.  That does not mean I am a failure or worthless, it means I am fat.  I made choices that got me here; I can make choices to get somewhere else.

Do not have an adversarial relationship with food – Food gives us life, we will die without it.  Food is not to be feared or hated, but to embraced and enjoyed.  It is not the cheeseburger that made you fat; it was your hand shoving it in your mouth.  Eat what you want, but understand the cost of your choices and be willing to pay the price.  I ate 3 donuts, not 2 and I had a taco – time to go for a jog and better eat salad and fruit tomorrow.  If I want to drink beer Friday night, I better run 3 miles Friday morning.  If you want a hamburger, get one, but get the small one, not the 2000 calorie heart attack plate with extra cheese.

Be accountable – My lack of health costs my family.  They get less of my time because I have less energy.  I am short changing my kids and my wife by not keeping myself healthy so I can interact with them and continue to provide for them.  If all I teach them is to be fat and lazy, I do them a great disservice.  I owe it to them to be in good shape and to be able to pay attention to them and share their lives.  It is selfish to rob my kids of a good father by not making sure I will be there for their lives.

So there it is – my top 10 list.  I will succeed.

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