This is the season of dreams. If last month was for giving to others, January is the month to give to ourselves. We make resolutions. We change the way we eat. We join a gym. We make a plan for the new year to better ourselves, our relationships and our lives. It’s an exciting time to be in the health and fitness industry — not to mention on my own weight-loss journey — but it’s also a bit maddening.
Case in point: The uptick of marketing weight-loss pills, cure-all diets, and fitness gadgets promoting less work and faster results. (See Jen Sinkler’s “Expert Advice” column for the real deal.) I’m a sucker for these commercials. I’m a busy woman. If there were an easy and safe pill or tool I could use to lose weight, why wouldn’t I want that?! So over the years I’ve acquired a few gizmos: the Thighmaster, a type of “ab rocker,” a mini stair stepper and an ab roller. In my defense, the last two are legit, although the stair stepper broke and no longer has any resistance, thereby making it worthless. Oh well. I have two kettlebells now that give me a much better workout when I’m at home.
There are many out there that profit off our collective naiveté, and they have every right to market. Paula Deen can push her Lady’s Brunch Burger, a hamburger topped with a fried egg and bacon set on a glazed doughnut, around the same time she’s diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a secret she’s kept for three years, if she so chooses. Like I said, she has every right to market. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. But we all have a choice to eat the food or not eat the food.
Choice, in relation to food, has been a hard concept for me to grasp. And to clarify up front, it doesn’t always exist: Many communities around the U.S. and world still don’t have access to healthy food let alone organic food. But the more advocates and policy busters out there that petition to help neighborhoods survive via a farmers’ market or community garden the better. I could go on about how said food needs to be less expensive, but this isn’t a political diatribe. I’m in a position where I can easily find healthy food, so this is a commentary on my own choices.
When I think about my past food choices, they’ve been poor until recently. My choice is usually to sit on the couch and watch TV versus walking outside or going to the gym. Or in the past I’ve usually chosen to go to the bar with friends instead of joining them in a yoga class. Last fall, when I began my work with Lauren Zander of The Handel Group, I got called out. (Lauren spoke at TED Talk Amsterdam; see her interview below to get a better picture of this very cool and honest woman.) And even though I felt I could improve in several areas of my life (The Handel Group defines 18, which I’ll explain in upcoming blog entries), the main focus for me kept coming back to my body.
The Handel Group’s method focuses on personal integrity, on making and keeping promises. When we started talking about it, I laughed a bit. Of course I keep promises. Don’t I? As we spoke, I realized I make more excuses than promises. And the first promises I break are always with myself.
Think about it. It’s easy to break a promise to yourself to, say, eat right or not go to the gym. You’re not going to get in trouble, so to speak, because you’ll let yourself off the hook. But you keep your promise to meet a friend for coffee, go to work, or attend a family event. All those broken promises to myself had made me worse off, and I realized I maybe wasn’t even able to keep promises to others. Since I wasn’t keeping a promise to myself to do healthy activities and thus be healthy, I felt sick often and missed work, or had little energy to spend with friends and family. Lauren recommended a more intensive route: Dream Body.
Dream Body is a group teleseminar led by a Handel life coach over the course of 4, 8 or 12 weeks. I chose the latter option — I figured I had a lot of work to do.
I recently concluded my work with Dream Body and had a lot of great insights that I’ll be sharing over the next several weeks. Tonight, however, I wanted to focus on the theme of dreams. The core concept of promises and consequences, along with personal integrity, are the roots of the workshop, but the base of the tree is all about the Dream Body statement, one I struggled with all session.
When I first wrote it in October, I kept envisioning my former self, a blend between my svelte 18-year-old and 24-year-old bodies. Then the advertising entered: the Victoria Secret models and the bikini-clad fitness models on women’s magazines. My dream was getting clouded by what others deemed “sexy” or “beautiful,” not what I really wanted. And I needed to be clear about my own goals, and my own thoughts about beauty — because it’s much less narrow than it was years ago.
I started realizing that my “dream body” was first and foremost a healthy body, one that felt and looked strong. It was one that was full of vitality and energy, a body that was flexible and resilient. A powerful immune system. A clear and focused mind. It started to be more about what my body could do than what it looked like. After I spoke with Handel life coach Christine Young, who led the teleseminar, about this new vision for myself, I felt good. The Dream Body statement was different for everyone, but for me, the promise to reach optimal health has been a huge motivator. It’s behind every choice I make every day for my body.
I also keep in mind one of my favorite quotes from this month’s greatest dreamer, motivator, activist and extraordinary man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The time is always right to do the right thing.” For me, that means the right thing as a citizen, in my work, for my family and for my health. And the right time is always now.