I like to picture my own personal journey to better health as a series of gently rolling hills which rise up in front of me. My goal is to get over each subsequent hump, one at a time. As I reach the crest of the first hill I find a level area to rest and prepare for the next hill, which is still a little ways in the distance. I can see that the next hill rises just a little higher. I don’t rush to the next rising slope. I find the time to stop, relax, take a deep breath, and look back on the hill I just climbed.
I measure my successes and failures. I also determine areas where I can improve. The mistake I used to make is that I used to look at improved health as a climb up Mount Everest. As I struggled up a steep and perilous slope, I would inevitably lose my footing and slide back down. I would keep slipping and falling. After awhile I would either hurt myself and have to start over or get disgusted and give up. Most of the time I couldn’t even see the top of the mountain. Remember some of the previous rules. In rule #4 we learned about realistic goals and expectations. Later on in Rule #9, we’ll learn the importance of taking small steps.
I can tell you from personal experience that the hardest hump, or hill to get over is the first. The funny thing is that this first hump is usually the smallest, and at first glance, seems like the easiest. This hump hits you anywhere from one to three months into your journey to better health.
I’ve personally hit this hump on a few of the weight lose programs I’ve been on, including Weight Watchers. On most weight lose programs the first few months are exciting. You’re trying new programs with healthy foods. You’re counting your calories, eating more fruits and vegetables, and taking the first tentative steps into an exercise program. The pounds start melting away, you’re losing up to five pounds a week, and you’re looking and feeling better. People are complimenting you on how good you look, you’re starting new exercises, joined a gym or started walking.
Everything is going great, and then boom; something happens. Your weight loss slows, you have a week or two when your weight increases, you go out-of-town to your cousin’s wedding or go on vacation, and your program slips. You may even suffer a minor injury or pull a muscle at an aerobics class and have to stop exercising for a few weeks. So many things can happen. You may even have a stressful job that forces you to work long hours, and you find it hard to eat right. You find yourself getting dinner by putting quarters in a vending machine. The list goes on and on. It’s at times like this that it appears that the entire world is conspiring to ruin your health plan.
I remember years ago when I took up a running program. I did everything right. I started slow, and worked my way up from jogging to running. I gradually increased my mileage and speeds. I ate right and got enough rest. My problem was I was having trouble getting over that first hump. After a few months of running I was always tired, and my legs always hurt. I also had a bad case of shin splints, and I was pulling leg muscles no matter how much I stretched.
I almost gave up. Then one day I was on a long easy run. The first few miles were a gradual up-hill run which led me to a hill overlooking a scenic valley. I took a few minutes to catch my breath and enjoy the view. The climb was hard, but I had made it. As I was starting to head back down the hill for my return trip I realized that I actually felt good. The pain in my shins was gone. It’s hard to describe the feeling. I almost felt like a kid again. I had overcome my first hump.
The million dollar question is how do we get over that first difficult hump, and subsequent ones? You should remember that barriers or humps to get over aren’t necessarilly physical. Many of them can be psychological. I remember when I was sixteen, had just gotten my learner’s permit, and my Father took me out on the road for my first driving lesson. The first thing he said to me was,
”Son, you need to take a deep breath, relax, keep a steady hand on the wheel, and take it nice and slow. There’s no rush. We’ll get there when we get there.”
His words have always stuck with me. The key is to relax, and to never get too high or too low. I’ve said this in other rules and I’ll say it again. Weight loss and looking good are important, but they aren’t the most important things. Who you are inside, how you feel about yourself, how you treat others, how you live your life, how you face adversity and if you like the person you see in the mirror, are what really matters. The other things are just icing on the cake. The sooner you understand this, the easier it will be for you to overcome all those barriers you face.
Another important component of getting over your humps and barriers is understanding. You have to learn to understand what’s happening to your body. Get on the Internet and study how the body reacts to dramatic changes, including weight loss. Then there won’t be any surprises. In the first few weeks of a weight loss program the weight you lose is mostly water. Weight loss will begin to slow down as your body tries to compensate for the changes you’re making. A gradual slowing of weight loss is natural.
I learned through experience that as your weight loss slows you’ll face the first barrier. To get over it and on your way, you’ll need to build muscle and boost your metabolism to keep the process of weight loss going. The key to facing and making it over your humps is to continue to think long-term. Make this a lifetime program with long-term goals. Also, keep in mind the big picture. When most of us our trying to lose weight our entire focus is on our caloric intake and our scale. We become so focused on these two things that if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to, we panic. Don’t worry. You’re facing your first hump. How you handle it will determine your future success. I wish you all well.
25 Rules For Better Health
1. Don’t diet. Change your lifestyle.
2. There is no such thing as perfection.
3. Honestly evaluate yourself.
4. Set realistic goals and expectations.
5. Believe in something.
6. Put away the scale (Save for special occasions).
7. Facing Barriers (Getting Over Those Humps).
8. Make the right choices.
9. Small Steps
10. Reach out to those around you.
11. Get a pet.
12. Walk before you run.
13. Build Muscle.
14. Push yourself, but know your limits.
17. Have balance in your life.
18. Know yourself (physically and emotionally).
20. Try to be a good person.
21. Boost your metabolism.
22. Don’t be afraid.
23. Realize that life is hard.
24. Laugh at yourself and the absurdity of the world around you.
25. Reach your potential.