These days I find myself fielding two types of question quite regularly: 1. how to organize and create more beautiful homes, and 2. how to become physically fit. The two goals are not unlike one another, each requiring knowledge and commitment for long term results.
After many discussions about both home organization and personal fitness, I suspect for the most part people overemphasize the “how” while disregarding the “why”. I think because tackling the “how” is an immediate actionable inquiry, while researching “why” requires a frank and honest self evaluation of self, one is stressed while the other is glossed over. But this is a mistake which leads to a cycle of “cleansing” or “decluttering”, whether in regard to keeping home or staying healthy.
About a year ago I began asking myself a series of questions focusing upon “why”:
- Why was I tired on a daily basis, both physically and mentally?
Why did my back hurt so often?
Why had I allowed myself to reach an all-time heaviest weight (a sobering 183 lbs of back aching blogger behind)?
Why was I not pursuing a life I knew would make me happier, and in turn healthier?
Why were previous attempts to become healthier failing to stick beyond a few weeks or month?
Only after some honest introspection I realized I didn’t need a diet nor a specific workout, but an actual attitude change…a lifestyle similarly aligned to my habits as a committed practitioner of home keeping. I began recognizing my waistline shares similarities to the kitchen sink: the more I ignored the dishes and left them unwashed, the more difficult task it became to clean yesterday’s indulgences as those stains dried. There was no big “a-ha!” moment, just small decisions here and there with cumulative effects which I needed to change. When I began always challenging certain decisions with the question “why?” it slowly transitioned into “why not?” and now is happily in the realm of “why, of course!”.
The impetus for much of this realization was the results of my first physical examination at the start of last year, my first since college. I came away with a clean bill of health, but a warning I was exhibiting early signs of high blood pressure. It wasn’t a life or death wake up call, but a polite tap on the shoulder that as we get older, “tomorrow” becomes “today” all too quickly (and “today” is a damn needy, whiny pain in the ass); the habits we establish in our 30’s really demarcate our behavior and lifestyle moving into our undeniable adulthood. Unlike our 20’s where the body is seemingly endlessly forgiving like a kind grandparent, when you reach your 30’s the wear and tear of making bad decisions begin to show up almost immediately with the unforgiving
In late January 2013, after reading The 4-Hour Body, I began to “hack” my body, tinkering, and experimenting with week or month long changes in diet, sleep and physical activity. I bought a set of kettlebells and began using HIIT and Tabata protocols instead of focusing on total amount of repetitions. I began replacing meals with Vitamixed concoctions of fruits, vegetables, and sprouted vegan protein which satisfied hunger and nutritionally fueled workouts (not to mention delivered delicious, precious chocolate – unsweetened – into my diet). What worked, I noted and kept in my database; what didn’t bring results was jettisoned and replaced with new ideas to test. I became completely agnostic when it came to trying exercises, foods, and lifestyle habits; nothing was “just for women” or “for vegetarians/vegans”…if it seemed to have some merits, I would try it. And perhaps most importantly, adjusting activities to coordinate caloric expenditure with maximum effort with minimum time invested eliminated the excuse of “not enough time”.
What an epiphany to discover more efficient, effective, and affordable methods, targeting the largest and most engageable muscle groups. I focused on the activities I liked and made them the foundation of all my workouts. What I didn’t like or avoided was also important, as they indicated possible weaknesses to address as I got stronger. But every decision began and ended with asking “why?” and the results became undeniable.
In the last several weeks a handful of friends have inquired about personal training (and it appears I’ll be beginning a side gig as a personal trainer soon!). Because many of my friends have known me in times of literal “thick and thin”, they’ve seen how incremental changes in lifestyle, diet, and activity can culminate in a healthier and happier life firsthand. This gives me confidence and authority to preach the importance of asking the right question before adopting any answer, perhaps more so realizing I’ll soon be helping others answer their own personal questions rather than just my own.