I have spent over half my life in the fitness field, a totally surreal milestone considering I spent the first half dreaming of being a lawyer, lying to get out of gym class, and sneaking unhealthy food.
I am happy to report I have learned firsthand that evolution is possible − that with consistent effort and awareness your “health personality” can evolve. Your food and exercise habits can evolve; your “health taste buds” can evolve!
Not only have I personally created a different version of Kathleen I have had the pleasure of witnessing hundreds of transformations. My clients range from teenage athletes to individuals rehabbing injuries to those wanting to modify their lifestyle or lose weight.
The interesting thing: There are few health “truths.”
Work to be consistent, not perfect
Match your health plan to your personality and life realities. Thrive in your own lane.
No one can consistently do a program they hate. Sure, you can make yourself do the “best new” diet or workout for a few weeks. But if you hate it (or it is too advanced) you will eventually quit and/or get injured.
I used to hate my body. I hated being in my own skin. If I could have divorced myself from my body I would have. When I was about 16, my mom got me a membership to the YMCA and my entire life changed.
The experience helped to form the cornerstone of my fitness philosophy and the premise behind my first book, Finding Your Fit. You have to frame daily motion as nonnegotiable. My mom got me the membership because it matched my personality and my life realities.
How? I hated being active with my peers, but the demographic at the YMCA was mostly people under 5 and over 40, so I felt comfortable to at least go and walk on the treadmill.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle requires finding something that you enjoy (or at least don’t hate) and something that is convenient so that you can do it consistently.
Consistency is key. The mediocre plan you do consistently is much better than the “best” plan you never do.
You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to get great!
Start small. Something is always better than nothing. Make the “requirements for entry” manageable.
I started by walking. Walking snowballed into weights and running, which snowballed into exercise classes, which led to teaching fitness classes, part-time personal training, full-time personal training and a desire to make health and wellness a life passion and career.
Just start. Stop thinking about it.
The power of the pause.
Too often, we don’t reach our health goals because we let our impulses and desires − what I call our “negative brain propaganda” − cloud our judgement, resulting in decisions that are ultimately unproductive.
The more space you can create between “desire” and “response,” the more likely you will be able to say, “no, thank you,” to thoughts, behaviors, and actions that will not serve the future you.
Use the pause as an opportunity to break free of your destructive thought. Play a game, go for a walk, get involved in a fun conversation, or put together a puzzle. Anything that disconnects you from the thought. Use the pause to reflect on the choice in front of you to ask, “Does this choice align with my personal health value system?”
When I don’t want to exercise I pause and say, “Kathleen, your future self will be happier and healthier if you work out. Do it!”
Think “the pause” “productive self-talk” = health success!
Motivation is not enough
Motivation is akin to an emotion; it ebbs and flows. When you feel motivation, use the emotion to create systems that will set up your future, less-motivated self for success.
Systems are implemented in advance and nudge you towards the behaviors needed to achieve your goals.
Examples include scheduling workouts into your calendar, getting a fitness buddy, not bringing junk food into the house, and using smaller plates.
Own your process
You have to become the hero of your own health journey.
We all feel the pull of unhealthy choices. The health hero has simply learned how to “struggle well” − to struggle and learn versus struggle and give up.
In the BBC series, The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers interviews Joseph Campbell, the author of books such as The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
A main takeaway is every hero’s journey is a transformation of consciousness, a transformation from dependence to self-reliance. The health journey is a hero’s journey because long-term, sustainable health change requires this transformation of “self” − goodbye “passive observer,” hello “agent of change.”
To paraphrase Wonder Woman’s aunt as she motivates Diana as a child: “Stop expecting the battle to be fair. Stop doubting yourself. Nothing matters until you believe in you. You are stronger than you know.”
The future is created by what you do now. Now is the only moment you have direct control over.
So, get going. Make your next best choice!