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A Change of Direction: How I Improved My Physical Health (Part III)

Most of us humans have a desire to want to eat better, work out more, be generally physically healthier. The third part of this blog series is about how we can incorporate physical health improvements into our daily routines, and also more about the why.

I want to share my personal journey, in hopes it will support and encourage another’s journey (it's a very long story, so I'll try to stick to the highlights):

From the time I was a kid until around my mid-20s, I hated the forced feeling of having to exercise (ugh).

I mis-took the act of exercise as a form of punishment. I also felt like I was not "good" at it. I remember middle school P.E. classes where I would fake an earache to get out of playing flag-football. And there were times when I would hide behind other kids because I was trying to avoid the inevitable-ness of being picked for a team sport. I felt completely embarrassed about my lack of athleticism. I felt like everyone was judging me. I felt inadequate.

As a young adult, I had not yet learned what my forte in physical activity was. Instead of keeping my body healthy, I would instead avoid food for 24-hour bouts a couple times a week. And then I would choose the "wrong" foods when I became hungry again.

I developed physical health issues, and would blame other people for my health problems -- hair/skin issues, cholesterol/blood pressure issues, thyroid issues (not normal issues for a human in her 20-somethings). Not to mention a total lack of self-esteem.

I was blaming because it was easier than simply accepting that I had to pay attention to my body and keep it healthy. I was wallowing in my own self-pity. I wanted someone else to "fix" it. I was in the role of total victim. It was an uphill battle I was fighting with myself -- and I was losing.

Like with any self-depricating action, a certain point is reached where one decides whether they want to continue on the path they are going down, or change directions.

I had finally reached that point of change around my mid-twenties. In reality, I had been coming up to this point for some time; in my head, it seemed to happen all at once. It was one particular day that I looked in the mirror and did not like what I saw. It was an incredibly defeating moment.

I was super unhappy, and finally realized it was all my doing. And, since I had gotten myself down into this rock-bottom point, I was going to have to be the one to pull myself out of it. Changes had to be made if I wanted to feel better about myself.

The process of change took me a long time to figure out. I was still in a bit of denial but accepting my new reality a little more each day. It was especially difficult because I was trying to fix it by myself instead of reaching out for support. I was too embarrassed to ask for support from any of my friends or family.

These are the things I had to learn in order to reach my goals. The body operates off of three elements -- bio-psycho-social:

- physical (bio) -- I made an appointment with many M.D.s until I found one that I liked and that I trusted. I was put on different medications, for high blood pressure, hypothyroid, etc. Medications "helped", but were still a band-aid covering up the actual problems. So I set in place goals to eventually stop the need for med refills. I developed an at-home workout routine because that's where I felt most comfortable at the time. I started learning more about healthier food options, and I learned appropriate times of day to eat.

- mental/spiritual (psycho) -- I had to ask myself why did I want to make these changes? What were my underlying motives? And why did I feel uncomfortable to begin with? At first I told myself it was because I didn't like the way I looked, which was true. But eventually that excuse wore out and I had to find a better answer. My deep-down answer was that I wanted to feel happy. That meant having realistic expectations and goals to meet those expectations so that I didn't disappoint myself in the long run.

- environment (social) -- To me, this meant I had to also stay vigilant about my goals when I was in a public setting, like at a restaurant. I learned how to make better menu choices so I wasn't sacrificing my social time. Eventually I was able to find people who I felt comfortable taking walks with and then making trips to the gym with. This was a baby step in "working out" with a buddy. I developed new daily routines, including planning my meals, setting aside time for a workout, and having a new sleep schedule. (At the time, I did not share my goals with anyone, lest I feel like they would judge me, but later I would find out that sharing probably would have helped me.)

To meet these new expectations, I tried a handful of different methods. They weren't working how I wanted them to. My downfall was that I expected instant results of change for a point that I had taken years to get to.

Turns out it wasn't about perfection -- it was about progress and effort. Overall, I took baby steps until I felt like I had reached a new point where I needed to challenge myself even more.

After much trial-and-error, I found the new habits and workouts that worked for me. I found my stride, so to speak. And, I had to realize that this was not a one-time-only fix. I have fallen into bad habits since my new-found knowledge. I have slipped back into my comfortable victim-y role. I have experienced my past feelings of defeat and self-pity. And I have had to re-do my routines to continue to work for me.

I have to remind myself that it is okay to have flexible routines and necessary changes. I attempt to keep noticing my motives and emotions through the changes. This adventure was, and still is, an everyday effort.

Are you asking yourself what changes you want/need to make?

Consider these things -- what kind of new habits will work for you and your ultimate goals? What will feel natural to you? If you feel like anything feels "forced", it will not work out in the long run. What are some emotions you are feeling, and how can you understand and improve them?

So what did I do to improve myself? I had to make physical changes, as well as mental/emotional/spiritual ones. An important reminder: this change took time.

I had to keep in mind that it took however many days, months, years to come to my point of change. I had to remember that the changes I wanted to make were not going to happen overnight.

Am I perfect at my routine? Nope. It was really hard, and I went through some at-times overwhelming emotions. And, I had to decide my level of commitment. These tools helped me drastically:

- at-home workout videos, that include cardio, strength-building, and stretching -- find ones that you enjoy and that you can watch on repeat

- healthy recipes

- food knowledge -- know what foods will work for your body

- new workout clothes, to help re-build your self-esteem

- patience!

A lot of us have heard the saying, probably from that one commercial, "A body at rest tends to stay at rest; but a body in motion tends to stay in motion". It's science -- and it's true. This is not a one-time fix for your body. This is an everyday commitment to keeping yourself healthy!


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