My healthy living journey was re-sparked in early 2012. I’m sitting on the bench in the gym change room after about six weeks of some pretty dedicated work. I’m dripping with sweat after a good workout.
Adrenaline and excitement are pulsing through me from both the exercise and the thought of stepping onto the scale to see if my hard work has paid off. I deserve this I thought. I worked really hard and it needs to be for something. I am excited and nervous as to whether or not I hit my “maintenance” weight loss goal.
I step onto the scale, take a deep breath, and slide the weight into place – tapping it slowly until it balances. Holy shit. I did it. I hit 198lbs. A number that I hadn’t seen since close to University. Success! I thought. I just lost about 20 pounds in the past 6 weeks. I hit the weight I wanted to. It was over.
I walk back to my car to head home for the evening in a rush of excitement – I’m still blown away that I hit my goal. I need to celebrate, obviously. I sit down in my car, pick up my phone, make a call and… order a pizza.
I ordered a freaking pizza. Want to know what I did later that week? I ordered another.
Yup, sure did. Nothing changed.
Fast forward a year and our family dives into a “90 day challenge” of sorts. Basically our way of coming together to get the family a little more healthy, lose some weight, and have a bit of fun in the process. I podcasted about the process right here on this website.
Personally, I ended up losing over 40 pounds within those three months. I did create some real habits in the process and my approach was certainly much better than it was in the previous year. In fact, I ended up running my first marathon in May of 2013 after losing the weight. This was probably a much better way to celebrate.
But the journey didn’t stop there. Although I lost 40, I put back on 20. I avoided the scale because I didn’t want to know this but I can tell by pictures and how I remember feeling that I just wasn’t healthy anymore. I stopped exercising. Wrong decisions were made when it came to nutrition and eating.
I didn’t go all the way back to where I started, but I certainly fell off the wagon and had to pick myself back up again.
Want to know what I realized then? I needed help. Sure, I hired personal trainers before and had people in my life tell me what to do but for whatever reason it wasn’t really sticking. I needed to talk to people who have done it – gone through this journey, challenges and hurdles and all, and are still continuing to push forward.
In October 2013 Devon and I launched our podcast, The Lifestyle Accountability Show. It was a great way for me to pick the brains of people who have done just this. Get their insights, mindsets, and habits on what they do to ensure success and how they’ve overcome the so many challenges that life throws at you along the way.
In the past year I have talked with over 200 people about healthy living, what it means to them, and how they continue to move forward in this confusing space.
A lot has changed in and with me in the past year. I wanted to put together my top 10 take aways that I received from having the amazing opportunity to chat with over 200 people about healthy living:
1. Motivation isn’t going to last, so I would need to really find out why I want to be healthy.
You’d think this would be a no brainer. “Find your why” is a saying that’s thrown around so much and for good reason. At the surface you can almost laugh it off, “why wouldn’t I want to be healthy?” but time after time that wasn’t enough.
Everyone’s why is different and everyone has a different approach to finding it. Some people love sharing it while others keep it to themselves and use it as their fire. It takes more time than you think to figure this out, which is why it’s one of the topics we cover extensively in our new upcoming training program.
This is my first take away for a reason because what I found is that too many people just use something general as their why. “I want to be more active for my kids.” Of course you do. But far too many parents say this and then come up with every other excuse to not exercise and to continue to eat poorly. In this case, that why isn’t strong enough.
Personally, it took me a long time to find my why. The reason I do what I do now. The reason I will never go back to yoyo’ing in health, the reason I am making healthy living my career and life. Regardless of what’s happening, whenever I think of my why I am able to pause and smile and realign my focus to what really matters. The process of figuring all this out, along with the shifts in mindset took me over two years, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get it right away.
So how do you find your why? There are a number of exercises out there to find your core motivation for something. The 5 Whys is a popular exercise to use. Although it is typically used to find the root cause of a problem, it’s also very popular to find the root motivation and drive behind potential action.
If you want some help finding your why, send us an email. One of us would love to help walk you through the process.
2. This journey never ends.
The first time around I had a weight end-point. My second approach had a fixed date. Neither of those were completely successful at changing the way I thought about my health and wellbeing. That’s because I put an end on them. Living healthy isn’t something that ends. Once you decide to embrace it you don’t just shut it down. It’s a continuous process of learning, trial and error, ups and downs, exercise, food, and hopefully fun (if you’re doing it right).
But it never ends.
It doesn’t end when you have kids. It doesn’t end when you get a new job. It doesn’t end when you move to a new city. This journey, if you decide to actually care enough to live your life healthy, continues forever.
“But Adam, that sounds exhausting.” It isn’t as exhausting as living 50+ pounds overweight uncomfortable in your own skin. Believe me.
Just because this journey is forever doesn’t mean it needs to be boring or repetitive, that’s a sure fire way of falling off the wagon and going back to old habits. I like to take the approach of short “sprints” throughout this journey. Do something you really enjoy for a while – maybe a few months – and do it until just before you start to get into too much of a routine with it and then switch it up to something else you enjoy doing.
Having this shift in mindset and knowing that this isn’t something temporary has really made me focus on trying to figure out what I enjoy and what is sustainable.
3. My healthy living journey looks the same as a lot of people’s (very strange), and that’s okay.
This is basically what my journey has looked like so far:
Does this look familiar to you? “Two steps forward, one step back.” Well sometimes it’s actually two steps forward and three steps back. The real trick is not to stop moving. Don’t get discouraged and certainly don’t be embarrassed. Everyone’s journey is like this and you are not alone. If you read the intro to this post you’ll know that I’ve been all over the place in this journey as well.
For the most part people only share what’s going well, especially on social media and other popular outlets for this sort of thing. I know I was guilty of this. I didn’t want to tell people that I put back on 20 pounds. It made me vulnerable and that’s scary.
Who would have thought that letting yourself be vulnerable actually isn’t so bad. Asking for help is okay. Understanding that this is a process and that you aren’t so different than anyone else will go a long way in making sure you live a happy and healthy life.
Also, as a little caveat: I really don’t think anyone truly figures it all out when it comes to healthy living. Rather, I think they figure out what works best for themselves. The process of listening to your body, adding balance and moderation, keeping it fun, etc. is all part of this journey.
I know this was the case with me anyway. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ve gotten really good at the process involved to find them and I do feel as though I’m starting to really learn what works well and what doesn’t when it comes to my own body and lifestyle.
4. I can’t go at it alone.
Honestly, far too many people think that living a healthy lifestyle is a solo-thing. What an incredible change in attitude I had once I started letting people into my healthy living world. Sharing my stories and my struggles with people that I care about (and even complete strangers) has not only helped me get a better understanding of what’s involved in this journey but it has also made it possible to be here right now, in a great mindset, writing this post to share with you.
I needed to surround myself with people that were doing this. The podcast was a great step but I also needed people close to me. I needed to restructure my life to prioritize my health. To be able to really lean on people when I need to, and offer the same help and support for them.
Accountability partners, workout buddies, friends, family, call them whatever you want. I call them all of those things.
I couldn’t do this alone. Chances are you can’t either.
For me, I rely on a couple people on a day-to-day basis to keep me aligned with my lifestyle goals. You have no idea how much this helps. Being able to send texts, call, or sit down and chat about how things are going in life and health is a very good feeling.
Finding these people and creating relationships in general has taken a bit of work and time. Fortunately, my brother, Devon, is a big part of my healthy living circle and is one of the core people I rely on.
Surprisingly so, it may not always be the people closest to you in your life. Your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend may not be the right fit as someone to keep you accountable and on track throughout the journey. Not to say they wouldn’t be supportive, and I would only encourage open communication about a healthy lifestyle with your significant other, but they might not be the go-to person for this. That said, they might also be the best possible person.
There are so many people sharing their stories and journeys out there that you can interact with it’s incredible. Take the time to reach out to people that inspire you and tell them that. It’s easier to reach and chat with people than you think.
Taking a friend or family member who you know is involved with health and fitness out for coffee is a great way to connect and build relationships. Be respectful of their time, add value when possible, and take action on advice when freely given.
If you feel lost and would like to discuss how to reach people feel free to get in touch with me – I would be happy to discuss what’s going on in your healthy living world right now and help however I can.
5. My true friends will be there regardless of the choices I make with my life. But some people may not stick around while I embrace this lifestyle.
We’ve talked about this dilemma on the podcast a lot, especially in the earlier episodes. Social settings and events and routines with friends can be a big obstacle for people when they decide to live their life healthier.
Happy hour with beer, chips, and pizza doesn’t go hand and hand well with getting fit. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel as though it’s important to live and enjoy life, just with a little moderation.
What I realized is that there are certain relationships in my life that I had to step back from. I’m not saying that you need to remove friends from your life completely, or that I did that, but different relationships have different routines, dynamics, and habits associated with them.
I know that there are people in my life that when we get together, drinks flow and bad food is consumed. Although it’s possible for me to be in those situations and make the decision to not drink or eat poorly – there are groups of people in which I simply don’t fit in well with anymore.
The exception to this I find are your true friends. Regardless of what your routines or habits are with them – healthy or otherwise – they will be supportive of your decision and help you in your journey. Most of the time they will even be inspired, encouraged, and motivated to join in on the process. These are also the people in which you will likely choose to let loose with every now and then but that you won’t feel pressured or obligated to do so all the time.
As Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Sometimes you need to take a close look at the habits of these people and make decisions based on that.
6. Consistently eating well is much better than sporadically eating perfectly.
When I focused on optimizing my diet instead of simply trying to exercise more and more I saw more gains than ever before. I really do think that the breakdown of a healthy lifestyle is 70% nutrition and 30% exercise, if not more in favour of nutrition.
There’s a popular saying with respect to this, that you can’t out exercise a bad diet. It really is the truth.
But to add another layer on this, I have found that consistently eating well is much better than sporadically eating perfectly. This is one of my biggest issues I have with some most diets out there today.
Almost all diets out there in the popular media will work at what they set out to do (most of the time that’s for weight loss) but the biggest issue with most of them is that they are extremely difficult to adhere to.
Now there are a few exceptions to this of course, and I won’t use this post to dive into the popular diets right now, but you can certainly experiment with things to figure out what works for you.
Personally, I started with the approach to simply stop my body from putting on more fat. Managing my blood sugar throughout the day is the primary goal of how I eat. From here, I developed and follow a pretty loose set of “rules” when it comes to what I eat. There are some foods that I just never consume anymore because I know how my body and blood sugar will react. There are others that I save for certain times throughout the day or week depending on exercise, time of day, etc.
I learned to never count calories and never limit my food. If I’m hungry I’ll eat.
The one thing that I did notice that was a good approach to get started with eating well is to add in food instead of subtracting it. Add more vegetables to every meal, choose healthier cuts of meat or vegetarian alternatives, and add healthy fats. Once your body starts getting healthier foods it will slowly want less and less of the bad stuff.
From here I found replacing processed foods with their better choices was an easy next step. It’s not long from here that you start craving the junk much less.
Finding something that works for you when it comes to proper nutrition is really important. It took me a while to figure it out and it truly is a trial and error process.
I think regardless of what “diet” or lifestyle one subscribes to there are some very specific commonalities:
- Eat more healthy vegetables and fruit (easy on the fruit if you’re trying to lose weight).
- Remove processed foods from your diet and eat real whole foods.
- Add healthy fats from things like seeds, nuts, and avocado.
- Choose organic, free range, and grass-fed meat and eggs if you eat these things.
- Avoid sugar, and fast acting – “white” – carbohydrates.
I want to make a point here though. I still drink. I enjoy my craft beer and wine. But I do so in moderation and make conscience decisions about where and who I drink with. The same goes for bad food. I know that pizza has always been my crutch in this process, so I don’t deny myself pizza or ice cream. I just do it more wisely and not as often. I probably eat as much pizza in a year as I used to in a month or two during some phases of my life.
7. Fitness Needs To Be Fun
This is something I used to always say but only recently started to practise. If you aren’t enjoying what you do to stay active and healthy than it’s going to be much more difficult to stick with it. I do know people that get up every morning for the gym and completely hate it but their why has been defined extremely well and overshadows their dislike for doing what they need to do to stay healthy – but these people are few and far between.
Far too many people give up after their first attempt at fitness and exercise because they didn’t like what they set out to do. Devon and I recently talked about this in a recent podcast on why people fail to get healthy. If you don’t like to run, don’t try to convince yourself that that is how you should get fit.
Now, finding something that you truly enjoy doing can be challenging. There were two things that worked for me:
Firstly, try everything. I was very resistant to this in the beginning. Group fitness class? No way, not for me. CrossFit? Heck no. You want me to run how far for what? You get the picture. But after chatting with so many people on the podcast there was a piece of advice that kept being brought up over and over again – trial and error. Figure out what you like and what works best for your body.
I think once something you think is true starts to be told to you over and over again by different people you start to finally accept it. I know I did.
I ran a marathon, and multiple 5ks and 10ks. I tried CrossFit and really enjoyed it. I tried group fitness classes and fell in love with them. I changed up my workouts more often at the gym and that helped keep things fresh. I mixed and matched a lot of different things until I figured out what I really enjoyed. I wake up every morning now knowing exactly what I’m doing (even if it’s rest) that day as far as fitness and exercise goes and I truly look forward to doing it.
Secondly, and this goes back to point number four, I found people that I truly enjoyed doing these things with. I am extremely fortunately to have people in my life that want me to succeed, reach my goals, and actively help me get there whether through accountability or otherwise. This was a game changer for me. To be able to discuss what’s going on with my nutrition, fitness, or mindset with these people has really propelled me forward in this journey.
I won’t repeat how to find these people because I touched on that above in point four, but I really believe this has helped me immensely.
8. It needs to be less about the numbers and more about watching my body’s ability change
About four weeks ago I crushed both my 5k and my 10k personal bests. I ran a 22:58 5K and a 52:38 10K. I took 3 minutes off my 5k and 10 minutes off my 10k. I did this while running these races within 12 hours of each other.
It blew me away to see what I was able to do once I stopped focusing on the numbers and started focusing on my body. I’ve been learning that it’s less what the number on the scale says and more about how I can push my body to do new things, reach new limits, and go beyond what it was previously comfortable with.
I’m learning to let go of the scale and watch my body change. To listen to it and feel how it’s performing, when it’s reacting positively to exercise and food, and when it’s telling me to slow down or stop eating something. This has been an incredible learning experience for me. It wasn’t easy to get into this mindset but it makes a world of a difference with how I feel on a daily basis.
9. Sugar is a real addiction and I need to respect that
Sugar is a powerful thing. It makes us do crazy things and it certainly makes our bodies do crazy things. I have learned that sugar can certainly be an addiction and learning to manage my cravings – especially in the beginning – has been a very difficult task.
Fortunately I managed to get things under control and sugar and I have a healthy relationship now. But I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and I know both sugar and eating is a very big emotional and physical addiction for so many people.
People sometimes think they can just “give up sugar” and all will be well. Just be ready for a few side effects in the beginning and more difficulty than you likely thought.
10. Habit change is at the core of being healthy
I’m sitting at a table with a pen and fresh notebook a few days prior to New Years eve. I just start writing to get the blood flowing. I jot down a few things about life, love, learning, business, money, health. The normal annual review stuff.
I’m stuck on health. I need a plan to get things moving this year. I scribble a tentative exercise plan – workout 4x a week doing this that and the other. I add in a day or two of running and I start to get really excited about how healthy this year is going to be.
I start to write a bit on nutrition as well: I need to cut out sugar from my diet, it’s the devil. I can go cold turkey with that starting on new years day, well, maybe the day after. I need to buy and eat more vegetables. Lean meats and fish are a must as well I think, probably organic. I wonder where I buy that.
Six days later I wake up with a wicked stomach ache because I decided to consume all the left over Christmas chocolate, a small fine, large tub of ice cream and an entire bottle of wine.
Probably sounds familiar right? I’m not sure how many years this happened but it wasn’t just one. This happens so often and one of the main reasons for it is that people try to change and add too many habits at one time. Not only did I need to add in exercise to my routine, I had to overcome a sugar addiction, wake up earlier to fit everything into my day, get comfortable again at the gym, buy new food, learn to cook that food, and so many other little habits that you don’t even think about.
No wonder I failed so many times.
Changing old habits and creating new healthy habits is almost as important as finding your why. Making things a habit is what is going to make sure you’re successful. It’s a great feeling once you stop forcing yourself to do something and simply know that you are going to do it because that’s what you do.
Living a healthy lifestyle will become habit. You just need to keep doing it.
What are some of your struggles with this journey? What are some things that are going well for you? I would love to hear what sort of mindset changes you have made so far – leave a comment below.