Friday, February 18, 2011

Health is selfish

It has been about a year since I decided to lose weight.  In that year I’ve lost ten pounds and kept it off.  I am a dedicated CrossFit disciple, I work out consistently five days per week, and if I spend a week or three away from the gym and a scale, I’m confident that I’ll get right back into the swing of things once I get back to my routine.  I know I won’t have gained any weight. This is an amazing achievement. I’m proud of my hard work and I’m proud of my accomplishments. But I’m more proud of what I learned along the way.

Personal health is selfish.

Firstly, personal health and wellbeing means making yourself more important in your mind. It means deciding that you won’t work extra hours because you need to go to the gym. It means the rest of the family eats more veggies than they’re used to because what you were all eating before was crap and you’re trying to change that. It means your house might not be spotless because you need more sleep. Being healthy means that on your list of priorities, you rank high. Not higher than family members, but definitely on equal footing. You are as important as everyone else in the household, and you make choices that reflect that.

Secondly, personal health is personal. In terms of methodology and approach, the only thing that matters is what works for you. Studies may well have shown that a certain eating pattern is most effective for 98 percent of the population, but if you aren’t seeing results or you can’t adhere to it then studies be damned. It is not always easy to take care of your physical self (or your mental or emotional selves, but I’m concentrating on physical now). Losing weight is hard. Exercising is hard. This is not a battle you’re going to win on brute force willpower because you’d need an endless supply.

The biggest thing I learned in this past year is that if I tool I’m using doesn’t work, the failure is with the tool, not with me. If I try on a pair of jeans and they’re too small, the fault is with the jeans. Similarly, if I try a diet and can’t stick to it, it’s the wrong diet. The secret to success with health is the complete devotion to the idea that if something doesn’t work, you should change it.

I wanted to wake up early and go to the gym before work. I’m a natural night owl but I thought I could force myself up a half hour earlier just through willpower alone. Hah. That lasted a week. So I took a bright light, put it on an automatic timer, and set it to turn on 20 minutes before my alarm every morning. It was like magic. I could get up easily and pump myself up for a gym workout and I haven’t looked back. The point here is not that light will help you get up. The point is that I tried to change something, it didn’t work, so I tried other things until I succeeded.

This sort of constant tweaking is the way to build a sustainable lifestyle. If I see some aspect of my life that dissatisfies me, I fix it. I don’t blame myself. I just find a better way.  


  1. What a great way to feel about health. I'm hoping your enthusiasm rubs off on me.

  2. It took a while to get to this point. :) And there is frustration along the way. I know rationally that some hip issues I'm having right now are due to poor lifting form and I should be grateful for this very direct feedback -- when I lift correctly, nothing hurts. However, it's still really annoying. You'll get there. Always be on the lookout for things you can change. Once you get into it, it's really fun!