Choice. Something we were given and are repeatedly given every single day. Choice. From the most valuable moment in our lives to our most fundamental needs as human beings, we are impacted by the choices we make. When we open our eyes as the sun begins to greet us, we have the choice to turn off that alarm clock to begin our day or hit snooze to rest just a little bit longer. We have the choice to start our mornings off by integrating movement, whether it’s yoga, running or weight lifting. Or we can choose to save our fitness regimen for an open slot later in the day. We have the choice to grab a donut (or two) and rush out of the door or we can choose to reach for the piece of fruit and protein bar as we take on the day. We have the choice to be angry and anxious as we wait impatiently in traffic or we can choose to simply accept where we are at in that moment and realize that the traffic is out of our control. We have the choice to ignore the pain we feel, or we can choose to start overcoming the pain through healing. The point I’m trying to convey is a simple one. Choices, whether they seem major or not, influence our lifestyle, our habits, and our next choice following the last. The choices that seem mundane and minuscule are typically the choices that will become habitual and affect us long term. For example, if I chose to eat one donut every morning starting today, the likelihood of just one (sugary) decision would begin to wreak havoc on other areas of my life as time goes on. My cravings for sugar would increase, causing me to want and/or eat more sugary commodities during the day, which would cause my blood sugar to increase, eventually leading to insulin resistance, and ultimately leading me to develop type 2 diabetes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “This chick really thinks that if I eat one donut a day I will develop type 2 diabetes?” To which I respond by saying, “No! Well, kind of.” I firmly believe that our choices, especially health related decisions, are influential on our overall wellbeing, which determines the quality of life we will be living. “But what if I make the wrong choice!?” you may ask. The greatest realization when it comes to the choices we make, is that we always have the choice to choose again and choose differently. Sometimes we don’t always have a clear indication of which choice is the right one; however, each day in every moment is a new opportunity to learn from the past choice and make a better decision moving forward. Being mindful about making healthy decisions or even just choosing the healthier option for what is available to you in that moment, is a simple way to begin creating healthy habits and self-discipline that end up being a beneficence to our health, wellbeing, and overall experience. Here are a few tips that can help you begin making healthful, impactful, and mindful choices:
1. Choose to prepare your belongings the night before, so you can wake up the next morning without feeling rushed and anxious, but rather content and energized which can lead to more mindful choices as the day progresses. That 5-10 minutes the night before can often turn into 15-20 minutes of spur of the moment decisions when rushed.
2. Choose to ingest a tall glass of refreshing water first thing in the morning to rehydrate your body after it worked so hard to heal you as you slept.
3. Choose to make the healthier decision when it comes to that moment where you don’t have time to eat lunch, but you know you need to eat something, and your face-to-face with a vending machine, and you only have $1.50.
4. Choose to avoid taking things personal, but rather, maintain composure and a sense of peace knowing that you don’t have to be affected by outside negativity. This change isn’t just mental. Your body will literally produce less stress hormones and more happy neurotransmitters by this changed thought process.
5. Choose to prioritize your health so you don’t have to sacrifice your time later in life dealing with the consequences of what initially seemed to be harmless choices that turned habitual. Bad choices in the present tend to lead to exponential increases in time, money, and effort to undo later.
6. Choose to give yourself permission to take care of what you need. That might mean saying “No” to plans with friends and saying “Yes” to plans with you and yourself (or vice versa).
7. Choose to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Growing pains typically precede major life changing experiences.
8. Choose to move often. Try new forms of exercise to challenge yourself and tune into how your body begins to feel the more you take care of it through frequent movement. Maybe it’s lifting weights, running, tai chi, yoga, sports, walking, or chasing your two -year-old around the park.
9. Choose to be grateful for at least three (preferably more) different things each day. Gratefulness leads to mindfulness and mindful choices benefit your health, ultimately leading to a quality life for you and those around you, and help you prepare for the next opportunity to choose again.
I love being a dad. I've always known I would enjoy it, but I never imagined how much love I would have for my little boy. I grew up with babies constantly around me as I have a dozen nieces and nephews ranging from 2-20 years old. It's true what they say. You just can't understand the love until you have your own. Being in the health and fitness field, it always felt like my son would be my own personal experiment. I can finally take someone, literally from the first day of life, and implement everything I've learned to create the optimal human being. I think we all do that in some way or another. If not in relationship to our child's physical well-being, we often make vows to make sure our child is raised in a way that gives them advantages in other areas of life. Advantages that we wish we would have had. We make vows to make sure they never go through what we went through. To let them learn from our mistakes and our accomplishments.
I made it my mission to give my son the best possible chance of having a healthy physical body through the nutritional and fitness knowledge I've gained over 28 years of life. I'll have to write another blog on exactly what my wife and I have done and why we have done things this why, but that's not what I want to share this time. For now, I will just say that we have walked the perfect line (to our knowledge) in terms of nutrition and movement. And after 10 months, this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned:
You can never 100% control the outcome of another human being.
Here's what I mean. As health and fitness professionals, we strive to improve the lives of others. Sometimes that means helping someone lose weight. Other times that means helping an athlete reach peak performance. Yet other times, it's helping someone learn how to walk and feed themselves again. We fitness professionals pin our reputation, our self-worth (for right or wrong), our livelihood, and even our measure of life success (again for right or wrong) on helping others achieve positive outcomes. This, at times, is incredibly rewarding. It feeds our soul to serve others.
But the reality is, not everyone reaches their goals. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes commitment levels aren't high enough. Sometimes people can't afford the type of service or care that they need to truly reach their goals. Shoot, sometimes goals just aren't realistic. This is a true day in the life of every health and fitness professional you know. For various reasons, we can't always get people to their goals and it crushes us when we don't. It keeps us up at night. It racks our brains and drives us into hours of research searching for an answer. It causes us to question nearly everything we know and do at times.
But after 10 months of fatherhood, with a seemingly perfect setting with nearly every health related variable controlled, my son still battles regular skin issues and digestive irregularity. Now, there is of course the reasonable possibility that we are missing something. He's eating too much of this or not enough of that, or whatever. Say we're even off by 10%. Really? So 90% "perfection" isn't enough to keep his skin clean and his poos regular? C'mon! Herein lies the lesson; you can never control the outcome 100% and we should be okay with that.
We fitness professionals should be satisfied with the fact of doing everything in our power to help someone. That's all we can do.
I think this message is most valuable for every parent or future parent out there. Especially all you moms who often carry the heavier load. Please listen to me on this. Not everything that your child struggles with is your fault. Should we question our actions in the event of struggles? Of course. Educate yourself. Ask more questions. Try everything you can. But don't carry the burden of guilt or shame for your child's struggles. I can't tell you how many parents have come to me heartbroken because of various health issues in their children. You can feel when they blame themselves. They've tried to live up to a standard that they were never built to uphold. If you've done everything in your power and ability then you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Life happens. We must accept that we are not perfect and parenthood is quite an easy reminder of that.
In a day where every kid gets drilled in their head that life's success depends on a 4.0 GPA, a college athletic scholarship, or worldwide fame, we need to accept and teach the reality that: 1) Not achieving those things doesn't define you and 2) Achieving those things doesn't necessarily equate to the "perfect" life they sometimes envision. You can do everything you think is right and still not get what you truly want. It's not always in your hands.
Parents, health and fitness pros, children, and well, everyone; Can we stop beating ourselves up with impossible expectations? Can we strive for perfection while being prepared and satisfied with nearly missing the mark? Perhaps that's "unamerican". Or perhaps we need to redefine what it means to be American in this sense. I think the happiness and health of the younger generation may depend on it
If this has reached you on a personal level we would love to hear your thoughts!