Optimal Health

Optimal health. What comes to your mind when you hear those words? A certain image? Lifestyle? A look? Perhaps it’s what happens inside of you that you can’t see… like all systems working great. Is it the “perfect” picture of health? Energetic and vibrant looking? Rosy skin? Clear bright eyes? A lack of illness or disease? Strong with the ability to do all your daily tasks with energy?

As I’ve noted before there are a lot of buzz words out there today that “health” companies use to make their product sound more appealing to potential customers, to sell you on it.  Usually the words are descriptive and designed to make you think that by taking/using their product this very thing will be given to you.

Magically. No effort.

The marketing of these products is nothing less than impressive, but the times I’m choking and rolling my eyes over some of the claims….

Keep in mind these company claims are in turn, regurgitated by the sales people who largely don’t really know what they are talking about either. It has been interesting to note the fine print showing up on many labels now that these products aren’t FDA approved or endorsed.

Ok  I digress… but my current thought was generated from the catch phrase on some products promising this ….

Optimal health

First of all, what does optimal mean ? Webster defines it as most desirable or satisfactory.

Health is defined as the condition of being well and free from disease.

So optimal health could be defined as a desirable and satisfactory state of being well physically ( and mentally) and free from disease or illness.

Sounds good, right ?

Isn’t that something we all desire and should seek to keep? Or if we have health issues shouldn’t they ( if possible) be something we strive to improve or reverse? There are many conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, blood sugar issues etc that can be changed or reversed with improved health.

But here’s where I get tripped up… every. single. time.

Why am I going to take a man made product to help me achieve optimal health? Why am I going to spend my money on a product when I could buy healthy food with it?

It does amaze me that people are willing to do so many things other than what they really should be doing which is focusing on eating real, whole foods and making changes in their nutrition and exercise program.

A focus on better food quality will go a long way to achieving optimal health.  That will show up inside and out on you.

So how does one achieve optimal health?

First, it has to be something we desire and intentionally pursue. It will require consciously choosing a different lifestyle. You will have to be purposeful in your choices and decisions.

Learn to move more. Our bodies need exercise and are made to move. Active, vigorous movement allows our blood and lymphatic system to flow the way it’s designed to.  Not only that exercise benefits our mental well being as much as our physical. Exercise is good for lots of reasons but that’s not my focus today 😉

Food. Obviously, your diet should be loaded with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. They should be present at all your meals.  I don’t think I can stress enough the huge benefits of adequate fresh produce. To me, optimal health is achieved with good quantities of  produce.  Your daily food intake should also include whole grains, lean meats and dairy products.

It should be light on empty calorie foods that offer not a lot in the nutritional category. This includes of course, sugary drinks, alcohol, refined processed foods like cookies, crackers, chips, sweet breads, fast foods, salted foods etc.

Water. Our bodies are made up of a lot of water. Water transports waste from our bodies and hydrates us. Water is essential for our health. It helps our skin do it’s job of regulating body temperature through sweating, water is essential for circulation of nutrients through the body, it aids in digestion and creates saliva. Drink your water.

Your mind. Read. Learn to play an instrument. Take up a new hobby. Go back to school or take a class on something that interests you. Be willing to learn and grow your mind.  Find something that interests you and become an expert on it.

Your soul.  Whatever nourishes your soul, find time for it. Prayer, meditation, scripture reading, devotionals, whatever your personal preference is, find something that feeds your inner being.

Optimal health has the potential to be achieved with a balanced lifestyle that feeds the body, soul and mind. It will also vary from person to person as to what needs to be addressed to reach that goal. It requires us to be intentional in the pursuing and maintaining of it but it will be well worth our efforts.

 

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The Benefits Of New Habits

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So I got to my fav coffee cave before a crazy storm broke loose. I love sitting and watching the clouds gather and hear the thunder rolling in.  I love watching people come running in, even with the skies emptying around them.

It definitely makes for interesting people watching.

I sipped my hot coffee watching the dark sky,  thinking about what on earth I wanted to talk to you about in this post… shocking … I know…as I’m never at a loss for words 😉

I mean, really, there are so many topics I could discuss with you.

I thought I might discuss the topic of habits with you and how important those are in your quest to lose weight and get fit.

Let’s just review the definition …

Habit: is a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously .

Habit formation is the process by which the behavior, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual.

Now let’s think about that in terms of how you eat, what you eat, when you eat. Let’s think about it in terms of exercise and if you get it done.

Your life is smack full of habits.

The time you get up for work. The things you do in the exact way getting ready in the morning.  How you brush your teeth. How you take your coffee. The things you do in your day, many are habits. What you eat. What you don’t eat.

So many of the things you do in your life are driven by habits. Things you’ve done over and over until you do them mindlessly without thinking about it.

This… is where you want to get with the disciplines of exercise and eating well.

If it’s not something you’ve done then you will have to practice at doing it. It means if your “habit” is walking into a convenience store and buying chips and a coke, you’re going to have to intentionally, purposefully, restructure a new habit to replace that negative one.

And trust me, you will have to be completely intentional to make it happen.  And it will take time. But each time you make a better choice you get further along building that habit in you.

If your habit is to go through a drive thru for fast foods, you will have to intentionally keep your car driving on by.

You can remind yourself, you won’t be dead from hunger before you get home. You can remind yourself that you won’t accomplish your health goals if you feed yourself that.  You can also be proactive and maybe keep some healthy snacks in your car if you feel you need something .

This will be an action you are proactive at doing.

When it comes to exercise, again, it’s not a natural thing for you to go out and do activities that make you sweat or breath hard. Most people want to avoid it.

This is where you will have to be absolutely intentional about getting up and getting out.

Perhaps, in the beginning, you might just get yourself to the store and get some good shoes and some athletic clothes to do your thing in. For me, the very act of getting in my athletic clothes and slipping my shoes on puts me in the mental place of what I’m about to do.

Maybe, it’s looking at your week and planning it out and determining what you are going to do and when. What are your days like? What times are best for you?

Then you make a commitment to it. And you will have to be intentional. Purposeful.  No excuses.

New habits don’t happen.  Remember our definition ….

“Habit formation is the process by which the behavior, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual.”

If you want to build new habits ( like exercising and eating better) you will have to practice and keep repeating until it becomes automatic for you. You won’t think about it.

You will do it. You will want to do it.

I often get asked how I do it? I’ll tell you.

It’s been several years of constant repetition that has built new habits in me.

I can’t IMAGINE not exercising now. I feel worse when I don’t, than when I do.

It has been days of making myself get geared up…get out.. and do it. It has been overcoming any goofy excuses that would distract me.  It’s knowing I’ll feel better if I do follow through, mentally and physically.

When it comes to food, I know how much better I feel, how much energy I have and how good I feel about myself when I nurture my body and feed it good food.

It makes passing on junky food or not so healthy food lots easier.  I feel more “off” now if I do eat foods I’m not used to.

It’s a good place to be.

It’s taken time. It’s taken practice. Lots of practice building new habits. But they are habits I’m glad to have now.

I wish I could tell you there’s just this “quick fix” that shapes up years of negative behaviors in you.

There isn’t.

But I’ll tell you this, if you are persistent and make intentional choices to do positive things, you WILL build new habits, and that is something that will make a huge difference in your life. Just like you’ve built negative habits, you can rebuild new positive ones.

Tell me, have you built a new habit in your life that’s good? How has that impacted you?  What habits would you like to change or improve on ? Remember, having a plan and intentionally following through puts you on the road to new habits.

 

The Right Diet For You

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Say what? Did I just use the word “diet” in my title? Maybe you’re thinking… “you don’t do diets… what’s up? And what do you mean the right diet??”

And you’re correct, I don’t subscribe to any particular diet or current trendy food movement that’s going around.

8 years ago I decided when I was going to finally do it ( lose weight) and be done with it this time (for good)  that I needed to figure out what worked for me.

I had to first acknowledge what DIDN’T work for me.

I knew that I didn’t like having to follow some set daily food plan telling me what I could eat and how much. I didn’t want to be locked into something ridged that kept me from living my life and enjoying it.

I didn’t wanna be miserable. I didn’t wanna be deprived. Basically, I wasn’t interested in suffering.

Isn’t that what diets are about? You jump into something for 6-8 weeks, hope for the best, and count down the days till you can return to “normal” life and eating. You just get through it.

And well, I’m honestly a bit of a rebel at heart and just  don’t like having to follow the rules of a set diet. Like… don’t tell me what to eat and when….. everything in me rebelled against that.

That’s when I decided… I’ll just do my own thing…. and you know what? it’s worked for me.

I wanted to lose weight, not be hungry, and eat what I enjoyed while I did it.

Let me give you 3 tips or suggestions on building your own daily “diet” ( and I use that term to describe what you consume in your day)

 

Safe.  Whatever you decide to do, it needs to be safe in a health way. Don’t overly restrict your calories or live off nothing but bananas or some crazy stunt. Understand what your basic daily caloric needs are and operate within that zone.  If you actively exercise don’t forget to adjust your needs for higher active days. If you need help understanding your calorie needs, consult with your doctor for a good base line starting place. It also needs to have all food groups included.

 

Simple. For me that meant being able to eat foods I enjoyed and could easily prepare. It also meant having a working plan that I could stick to and follow. It also had to be flexible. If the family went out for a burger, I certainly didn’t want to sit there picking at a salad while they had fries!  ( although, now days, a salad is almost always my preference simply because I like them and feel better eating them over a heavier meal) If I had a burger, it was an intentional choice that I enjoyed and then just moved on with life.

 

Sustainable.  I think this is the most important point. Whatever you set up for yourself has to be what works for you. That is the only way you will stick with it and be successful long term, and for the rest of your life.  It doesn’t have to be what your co-worker is doing or your neighbor. They aren’t you… you aren’t them. It’s time to set aside cookie cutter diets and not try to fit into molds that aren’t designed for us.  I think that’s why so many fail in this process of losing weight.  Trying to fit into something that is designed to fail from the beginning .

 

Other suggestions to this would be:

Make sure you include all food groups in your plan. If you aren’t crazy about something ( like veggies) then just start taking small steps to incorporate them.

Eat enough food to satisfy your appetite, but don’t stuff yourself.

Listen to your bodies natural signals… eat when hungry…don’t eat when you aren’t.

Don’t restrict foods. I think that was a huge thing to my success. I basically told myself that I could have anything, nothing was off limits, and it really takes the power out it knowing you can have it…if you realllllyyy need it…  but it gives you the freedom to leave it alone too. It puts a huge level of control on your side.  Understand.. this wasn’t open season for me to just eat crappy food. I knew that was stuff that needed to be limited for my success. It just removed its power over me by mentally by not restricting it from my life. We always…want…what we cannot have.

Structure your meals to where you eat larger ones early on in day…tapering to lighter at the end of day.  Really, think about when you need the most calories and energy…it’s not before you go to bed in the evening with a huge meal.

Get to know your body! Know what foods make you feel good and energetic and which make you feel like crap. Don’t shun foods groups just because it’s the latest trend. If you have a valid allergy issue or if you don’t feel great when you eat it, fine. Otherwise aim for balance of all foods.

By developing and building your own plan, you will be able to stay on it for a life time and not just a few weeks.  Making your own rules will keep it sustainable and doable for you which will lead to your success.

 

Parades, Small Towns, And County Fairs

So this past weekend we celebrated Labor Day weekend in the good ‘ol  U.S. of A.  This holiday weekend typically signals the end of summer, the start of fall and school activities, and a general wind down of simple, lazy summer days.

The town I’ve lived and grown up in has its county fair all weekend long and on Saturday the streets are literally closed off for the fair parade. This was the 111th year for all the shenanigans.

The parade, like the fair, has definitely changed a lot over the years, but then so has the town. It’s not so small anymore and some of the small town things have given way to a bigger town growth and ideas.

One thing that remains with the Saturday morning parade is the gathering of families, a relaxed fun morning and an opportunity to run into friends you might not see all the time.

Oh, not to mention hanging out at the local bakery, drinking coffee and indulging in a rare pastry 😉

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Hey! I’ve got coffee and that’s most important 😉 and don’t miss that I caught a kid in the act of shooting a basket, quite by chance haha

 

The parade has it’s usual variety of local business advertisements, some actual and real parade floats, bands, dance teams, military representation, and of course a plethora of clowns.

I’ve found over time people fall into two camps with clowns.

They love them… or hate them.

 

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They look harmless enough, right ???

 

Then you have grown men that speed around on things like this…. this is what scares me… well not really… not anymore as they’ve made them kinda tame down their crazy speed circles they used to do…. right at the crowds…

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This is what happens when dads are left unattended on weekends. Their version of a sports car 😉

Ok and you only see a few pictured here… there  really are like… thousands of them… in their loud lil cars, doing donuts and stuff…

Of course it’s not really a country parade without… you know….tractors….

 

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Old school tractors.. complete with the farmer….

 

 

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Why yes, that is a life size fake elephant on a little trailer 😛

 

 

 

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Reppin’ old military

 

It is worth mentioning, we actually roll up the streets like, three times a year, for parades. June is a German heritage celebration, then in December of course it’s a Christmas parade.

I will freely admit the Christmas is my most favorite. Our town is full of white lights and is so beautiful. Every entry in the parade is light covered and there’s just a fun spirit in the air.

Well, wait. Maybe that’s the kettlecorn I’m smelling. And oh my gosh, if you’ve never had it… I’m sorry…. really I am.

It’s this amazing combo of sweet and salty and I always want them to bag it for me right after it’s finished. Truthfully though, it’s always fresh as there’s a line waiting for it.

Some years the weather is the right amount of crisp, cold. Other years, you can wear shorts 😛

Gosh, hard to imagine we’ll be at that parade in a few shorts months…

Ah yes. Small town USA. Even though we’re not so really small anymore, during parades and town celebrations it still has that wonderful vibe.

And no matter what, it’s home, and everything always feels good when you’re home.

Go Big Or Go Home

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Go big or go home. It’s an expression the speaker says to the listener to encourage the listener to be extravagant, to go all the way, and do whatever you are doing to its fullest – and not flake out. 

It’s an expression used on many different occasions. Sometimes, it’s in a funny context, other times, it’s thrown down as the challenge it’s meant to be.

I’m kinda wired in that way. If you give dangle the carrot in front of me… I will be going after it.

Example, when I was in a yoga class ( my first to be exact) she neatly showed several ways for a move all designed to be modified for the individuals level of ability.

Then, the final move, was the hardest way to do it. Yeah, you know which one I went for.

Or the fact my first race was a half marathon. I found out later…most people… just start with a 5K.

Go big or go home.

As a competitive person I don’t find this bad. It challenges me, motivates me, makes me not be content sitting where I’m currently at knowing there’s always room to improve, grow, get stronger.

There’s one area that I don’t think it works well. Weight loss.

Yet, it seems to be how people often take it on.

Do or die. I’m gonna lose weight. All or nothing.

Go big or go home. No. Just…. no.

This isn’t a time to apply this approach.

Why? Because I know of no one who dives into altering their food/nutrition and turns into an athletic junky overnight.

Or, if they decided to go all out, they burn out within a week, maybe two.

Unfortunately, what is fed to us today are quick fixes and schemes to convince the average person they can be fit and strong in 12 weeks and all their problems are fixed.

It’s just not true. Well, I mean if you’re working out for 12 weeks I know you’re gonna be stronger, heck you might even be feeling a bit fierce about yourself. But it’s gonna take some time to get to where you’re going. It takes time to build new habits and behaviors in your life.

Slow and steady becomes the game plan that works. I firmly believe doing small things, every day, leads to bigger things.

I know… it’s not glamorous or instant gratification like so many programs offer… but I tell you it will be way more sustainable for you.

Here’s what I mean. People don’t want to be told or hear that small things add up. We are to used to the modern day hocus pocus on weight loss. We’re told small isn’t enough…doesn’t matter or have as much benefit for us.

But what if you began a practice of parking further out at the store to walk a bit more? or taking the stairs instead of elevator? standing more and sitting less? being active outside? Cleaning house or doing more of your own yard work? What if you just looked for ways to move your body more?

Then what if you added in some sensible and sane eating? Practicing moderation and balance while learning to eat healthy and more nutritious foods?

What if each day you slowly, and steadily lived a life that was active, balanced and powered by mostly wholesome foods ( hey, I still like chocolate cake too!)

Because of the huge weight loss industry we are (sadly) wired to think if we don’t have a go big or go home mentality we might as well give up before we start.

Beginning in a slow steady way, allowing your body to lose 1-2 pounds a week is a healthy and long term approach to being successful. It also allows you to build your confidence as you move from day to day being successful in your achievements.

There will be good days, and there will be not so good days.

The point is …pay attention to this boys and girls… continuous forward movement.

As you gain confidence and see that you have everything in you to be successful, you might begin to look at more specific goals for yourself. That’s when you might have to consider what physical activities you need to add to your plate as well as how  your nutrition might need to be balanced towards that as well.

On my own health and fitness journey, it has been a constant, forward movement. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’ve taken a huge step all at once, other times, I feel like I’m in a holding pattern.

Right now, I’m excited to be in a new activity that’s pushing me more out of my comfort zone and definitely making me take new and bigger steps. But you see, all of this fits into my personal goals. None of what I’ve done has been accomplished quickly.

It has been small steps, small goals, that quickly became fueled by loftier goals. My athletic goals challenged my nutrition ( it is really hard to be a good athlete and eat garbage) see how it all kind of fits together?

You may have some big goals for yourself athletically. Or you may have big goals for yourself to lose 20 pounds. Maybe it’s to be able to walk up stairs without being winded or chase your kids around without feeling like you’re dying.

No matter what your personal vision is, remember slow and steady is the name of the game.

Save the go big or go home ideal for those crazy things that kinda scare you 😉

Tell me.. have you ever taken the idea of go big or go home with weight loss or fitness? Did that work for you? What thing helped you be most successful?

 

 

 

Obstacles And Opportunities

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Have you ever noticed conversation is just better over coffee with a good friend? I had the opportunity recently to have coffee and conversation with one who is special to me and when we get together, well, our conversations last hours. We both have a passion for people and helping them be successful in fitness, health and wellness.  We compare notes and brainstorm ideas off of each other.

It’s a refreshing time to encourage one another in the callings we have.

At one point she told me how I was an encouragement to her. She knew I had been off running due to an injury and she also knew I had picked up other activities to keep me moving.

She was admiring the fact I hadn’t just quit  since I couldn’t run.

Honestly, at this point, I’m so used to some high level of activity it seems crazy to me to not have something to fall back on. Not to mention, I’d totally go crazy not doing anything.  I’m  used to having that physical movement in my life now.. it’s not only a habit, it’s an outlet, and a place that is just for me to go to.

And well… I don’t quit.

My friend had been dealing with an injury herself and was encouraged to try and find other outlets or activities she could pursue while she recovered.

I was thinking about our conversation later that day. Thinking how if I had become discouraged about not running and just did nothing, all I would’ve missed out on.

Before my injury, running was what I primarily did. Oh, I did structure in a few days strength training and I’d toss in an occasional day here and there on my little mountain bike to take the place of an easy run and to give my legs a break from running.

Running was my love. My passion. A place that made me feel strong and powerful.

I eventually started adding a little more cycling in to my routine, but again, nothing serious.

My injury made it a seamless move to more time on the bike. It gave me the mileage, time out on the road,  and being outdoors that I craved.  It filled that hunger in me.

Last year I “upgraded” to a cheap road bike from Walmart. I proceeded to ride the wheels off of it.  It was during this time I realized how much I was really enjoying this other sport, and not just as a supplement to my running.  I realized with the strength I had built running that I had the potential to be good at cycling.

Somehow the obstacles I had encountered actually brought about new opportunities for me.

Opportunities to experience new things, grow, and challenge myself to try things I hadn’t done before.

There’s a lot to learn about cycling! Therefore, I talk to those who are knowledgeable, I read, and most importantly, I’m just out there on my bike doing it.

I can hardly wait to find a race to challenge myself with.

Was my injury something I wanted? No. I can hardly wait to be out on the road really running again like I want to be.

Allowing myself to move in new directions has allowed me to grow more as an athlete, but also it lets me see that I can do anything I set my mind to.

But then I’ve kinda always approached obstacles in this way. I don’t let them stop me from where I’m going. I just look for ways to get around them to keep heading the direction I want to go.

Obstacles are limiting and I don’t want to be limited. Obstacles are simply new opportunities.

What about you? How do you view obstacles that come to you? Do you find ways to get over them to keep pressing on to your goals?

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Committed Or Just Interested ?

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Habits.

I talk a lot about habits mainly because in the context of successful weight loss and making a lifestyle change, developing new ones to replace negative ones are key to a permanent change.

Habits are often ingrained in us from a life time, whether they are good or bad. When it comes to our eating behaviors and exercise  a firm hand often has to be taken to those habits if we want to move into more positive choices.

WHY is it so hard? That topic comes up often with people I talk with and most recently with my client.

In discussing her week and some of the difficulties she had her response was “I know what to do in my head, why do I go back and do what I know I shouldn’t do?”

Oh indeed. Why do any of us ? Why are we pulled back into a poor choice when we ( intellectually) know better and have even been doing better with more positive habits, yet, in a moment, we seemingly skip right back to what we know.

Why? Because it’s comfortable and familiar to us. Because it’s easy, it requires no effort to bounce back to the old and familiar. And once there, it can almost be a sandpit to crawl out of again and begin our forward progress. The key thing is to crawl out and keep moving forward, not give up and allow ourselves to be sucked back into the negative habits we seek to change.

I can say that because there are times I can still do the same things.  I understand what that’s like. I do get those struggles.

To change negative habits requires a willingness to commit to the journey. To own it. To allow ourselves not to make excuses to go back to old ways. Yeah, we will slip, but there must be a determination and ownership to want that change and not stay where we are.

I read this today and it’s just so true. I’ve never thought of it quite like this, but it’s true.

  Are you “interested” in a healthy lifestyle? Or “committed” to having a healthy lifestyle ?

Yeah. Just think about that for a moment.

When you’re interested in doing something you only do it when it’s convenient.

When you’re committed to something you accept no excuses, only results. You follow your established rules and get it done.

The difference between interested and committed is a big jump to permanent success.

If you approach weight loss and your health journey in the light of when it’s comfortably convenient, you can see where you will encounter constant setbacks.

You must make a commitment that takes you beyond just being “interested.”

Committed means being willing to be honest with yourself, where you are and addressing what needs to be done.

It means not justifying reasons why you allow yourself to keep eating or drinking things that don’t contribute or lead to your goals

It means not finding other things that are “more important” to do than purposeful exercise. Or coming up with reasons to not do it.

I’m NOT saying you’re going to take it and get it immediately. You won’t.

Habits take time to change. If you have a lifetime of doing the same things, they won’t change over night.  It will require a consistent commitment to making it happen. That means in good days and bad days you keep going with the intention of improvement.

Those habits you’ve developed of going through a drive thru for fast food? or buying coke and candy at a gas station? Or eating seconds even when you aren’t hungry? Or procrastinating on getting some exercise in? Or watching tv with a bag of chips or whatever treat ? Spending that hour or more in front of the tv or computer?

You’ve trained yourself to do those things and you can train yourself to do new things. Really.

I recently went on a road trip. It’s about 4 hours of driving. I usually take a little bag with a few healthy snacks and some bottled water. As I was grabbing the water I saw a carton of blackberries that I decided to toss in too.

A couple hours down the road I was nibbling those and washing them down with water. This isn’t how I used to do trips. I might make a run in to a convenience store for some chips or candy. It’s been a work in progress that my thinking is different now… I made a commitment to wanting to live healthier and that has carried through in lots of areas of my life.

I just don’t want to do that anymore. I feel better about myself making good choices.

This has taken time.. and a reshaping of negative habits for improved ones…. and a commitment to being the strongest and healthiest I can be.

If you get with it and stay with it each day you will make progress. Understand tough times will come and you will feel discouraged. Hang in there and stay strong.

Commit to the process, don’t just be interested in it.

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Have you truly committed to wanting to live a healthier lifestyle through activity and good nutrition? Or are you interested in the idea of it ?