The secret to losing weight and keeping it off is not willpower. Any seasoned dieter can tell you that! Willpower only lasts for a season. The secret is getting yourself hooked on health. My experience suggests that anything you want to sustain over time, be it weight loss or anything else, has to be fun and inspirational. Read on to learn more.
“Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind. In this sense the most insignificant writer can serve peace, where the most powerful tribunals can do nothing.” (Julien Benda, quoted by Herman Wouk in The Winds of War, 1971)
It may seem strange to begin this Provision on health with a quote regarding war and peace, but the same could be said for illness and wellness. “Health, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of disease, but on the love of health. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind.”
I discovered this truth firsthand in 1998, after losing 65 pounds following a classic heart scare. The year started out with a stressful development: my work as the Senior Minister of a large Protestant church was to be unexpectedly and suddenly concluded. Armed with a thick binder of photos and notes about how much people would miss us, my family and I were sent on our way. In a matter of weeks, I went from being the head of operations to being unemployed.
With the retrenchment of the economy in the years since 1998, that scenario has become more rather than less common. Whether you are among those who get to leave or those who get to stay, the stresses and strains of life have become more intense and, in turn, more taxing on our health. I know they took a toll on me.
During my years as the pastor of this church, I seldom exercised and I gained approximately five pounds per year. I was always too ambitious and busy to find time for personal self-care. My one consolation was that my doctor was even more overweight than I was. “If I look better than my doctor does,” I told myself, “then I must be OK.” That’s why I kept going to this doctor!
It didn’t matter that all my vital signs told a different story. As my weight crept up and my fitness crept down, I was inching my way into the danger zone when it came to blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and prostate size. There was reason to be concerned about disease and to make some appropriate changes • my doctor had spoken with me more than once about diet and exercise • but my adolescent mind still thought of itself as invulnerable.
In 1998, my mature body finally got the attention of my immature mind. Within six weeks of leaving my position, I was having chest pains, shortness of breath, and numbness in my right arm. Two days of distress finally sent me back to the doctor with a new sense of urgency. Was I having a heart attack? Had my family history of cardiovascular disease caught up with me at the age of 43? If it had, I certainly had no one to blame but myself.
Following multiple tests, the news was fortunately the same as my doctor had been telling me for years: there was nothing wrong that losing weight and getting in shape wouldn’t cure. This time, however, the doctor issued an ultimatum: “I want you back in six months. If your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides are no different than they are today, we’re going to start medication.” With that, he sent me home to wonder and wander through the maze of an emerging midlife crisis. Who was I? How did I want to live? Why did I want to live? What did I want to do? It was a daunting and troubling time.
But it was also an incredibly creative, inventive, and fertile time as I began to act on impulses which I had never felt or paid attention to before. Without any particular plan or target in mind, I joined the nearest fitness center and tentatively started to try out the machines. To my surprise, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was kind of fun to build up a sweat and lose some pounds, even if they were mostly water. With the luxury of a generous severance package, I started going to the fitness center every day. Once I had lost more than ten pounds, in just a matter of weeks, I was hooked on health. There was no going back.
Each day brought new adventures in eating, exercising, and living. I sought to learn all I could about health, nutrition, fitness, and wellness. Having never read a health newsletter in my life, I soon found myself subscribing to seven a month and devouring one book after another. I also started going to different stores, trying different recipes, exploring different disciplines, getting different feedback, making different friends, and incorporating different exercises. I had a voracious appetite for all things healthy and good. My children’s friends said that it used to be fun to come to our house because of all the junk food. Now all they could find was carrot sticks, tofu hot dogs, and organic ginger snaps!
Six months later I returned to the doctor 65 pounds lighter. All my health indicators were not only in the normal range, they were optimal. “What did you do?” asked my doctor. “I just did what you told me to do,” I said. “None of my patients do what I tell them to do!” he exclaimed. After a good laugh, he sent me out the door as a new man with a clean bill of health. It was a heady, intoxicating, and exhilarating moment that has irrevocably shaped who I am.
As I drove away in my car, my eyes got moist. “I did it!” I said repeatedly as I banged my hand on the steering wheel. “I did it.” But even as I celebrated my victory I realized it was time to get serious about a critical question. “Now what? I can’t be forever trying to lose weight. Moreover, I have to get back to work. What’s going to keep me from going back to the way I was? What’s going to keep me in my present state of mind? How can I find the motivation, support, and occupation that will enable me to joyfully, consistently, and effortlessly maintain my newfound healthy habits?” I decided to go to a coffee shop, where I could have a cup of green tea, in order to relish the moment and ponder the question of what came next.
“I can’t live in a constant state of denial,” I reasoned as the steam rose from my tea cup. “Abstaining is not sustaining, to body, mind, or spirit. I need to find something affirming of who I am, what I’ve discovered, and how I want to be in the world.” Such reflection gradually produced profound shifts in my identity, lifestyle, and career, shifts that led to my becoming both a long-distance runner and a LifeTrek coach.
So emerged my passion for health, no longer based on the fear of disease, but on the love of feeling good and living well. So grew my new state of mind, no longer based on abstinence, but on indulgence in my newfound pleasures, practices, and principles. So too may it be for you.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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