Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's not a life sentence, but a lifestyle

May 31, 2007

By Lisa Gough

I recently shared a glimpse of my personal life with you in order to give you an honest look at who I am so you can know that I understand what it's like to live in an unfit, unhealthy body. My weight problem long ago is what drove me into a bodybuilding lifestyle, and my weight problem today is what fuels my desire to stay in the game and learn to remain faithful to a life of exercise and good eating habits.

I make my living helping others stay motivated to do the same thing. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with many different people - male and female, overweight, underweight, athletes, seniors, boomers and teenagers, all driven by different goals. The one thing everyone seems to have in common is the inability to be fully committed to a lifestyle of fitness, no matter how badly they seem to want it.

If this sounds familiar, you'll appreciate what I'm about to tell you. I heard an interesting statistic at a fitness conference one year that really shed some light on things for me in this area, not only from a fitness professional's standpoint, but from a very personal one as well. Apparently, in America the percentage of our total population that is made up of those who exercise and eat right on a dedicated, consistent basis only amounts to 20 percent. And guess what? Personal trainers, fitness instructors and the like are included in that number. So that means unless you are one of the gifted ones who came into this world running after everything, jumping hurdles and pole vaulting your way through life with the passion of a natural born athlete, most likely you're not in that 20 percent. And I don't know about you, but that makes me feel much better about my own pitfalls and inconsistencies.

Having the dedication and commitment required to lead a fitness-related lifestyle is a chore. Never mind what the media will have us believe. There are many paid fitness models out there today selling the latest "20-minutes a day, three days a week" ab gadget, home gym set up that promises extraordinary results in three easy payments. Capitalism at its best. What they should be selling is a no-fail remedy for our "I'll start next week" or "that takes time" attitudes that stand in our way of managing our health.

The truth of the matter is we all need to take care of ourselves. If we don't take responsibility for ourselves now and make a healthy lifestyle a priority then we certainly can't be taken by surprise when our bodies start breaking down and doctors are telling us later that we need to treat our lifestyle-related diabetes or other obesity and sedentary lifestyle related problems through - you guessed it - diet and exercise.

We all need to realize that living a healthy lifestyle yields huge returns on our investment. Improved quality of life is something you can't buy on any infomercial for any amount of money. If we were willing to trade our unhealthy "life sentence" attitudes for a much healthier "lifestyle" attitude and make small changes in our habits of daily living, we would find that those small changes would soon add up to big paybacks over time.

So how do we do that? Well, it requires change, and that's the hard part because change has to come from within and it requires work. A good place to start might be taking an honest evaluation of your self. Acknowledge you may be hardwired to take the easy way in life. That's OK. Give yourself permission to be human and recognize you'll have to spend a little time and effort developing new habits. Set some realistic goals for yourself and get a game plan that you can live with. And by all means, whatever you choose to do, make it fun. Set yourself up to succeed and before you know it, your fitness-oriented lifestyle will become second nature and you will be amazed at how good you look and feel.

Lisa Gough, a Fallon resident, is a lifestyle weight management coach and co-owner of Total Fitness Athletic Club.

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