MY HEALTH JOURNEY – WHAT FITNESS GURU’S WON’T TELL YOU
I didn’t want to write my personal health journey for the longest time. I thought I had nothing new to say, there are people smarter and more educated than me who are already giving a lot of fitness and health-related advice. But I’ve noticed that a lot of advice floating around is unreal and toxic, so here I am, sharing with you my story anyway, in hopes that it’ll maybe inspire you to change your life for the better and what’s more important – not give up.
I grew up in a loving home, with lots of siblings and play time. We always cooked so as to have seconds for each one of us – and we took seconds, too, at almost every meal. My mother had the philosophy that ’’my strength is in my last bite’’, so I was encouraged to always eat the entire portion that was served to me, regardless of my hunger. And because I played with my brothers and sisters so much, and because I was an active kid that played a lot of sports, I was never overweight as a child, or in my early teens.
But as I finished high school and went to college, I decided not to dedicate as much of my time to sports and ’’live my life’’ whatever that meant to the 20-year-old me. Turns out that lifestyle translated to a lot of late nights, drinks, parties and food, which I would usually eat way past midnight. I’m not talking about some tame salads od healthy home-made cereals, as I’m sure you already know. I ate a lot of burgers, pizza, microwave mac and cheese – you know, the healthy stuff.
So naturally, I started gaining weight gradually. It didn’t strike me in a week, or a month, or three months even – I thought I looked fine still, although I was a bit chubby, I had a girlfriend and I faced no social criticism – us guys have it way easier in that department, but I still felt like I’m very, very far away from the typical Men’s Health Cover Guy physique. I just ignored my weight gain at the time, thinking I’ll have time to deal with it later, and just kept doing the same things over and over again: eating junk food, not sleeping enough and having no real activity. It’s not that I wasn’t aware that my lifestyle was unhealthy, it’s just that I always thought „well, ONE meal won’t make you fat nor fit, it’s only that one meal“, but the problem was that I had these thoughts on a daily basis, and as a consequence, I ate badly every single day.
The moment I realized that I really let myself go was when I visited my hometown, and my childhood friends invited me to play ball with them, as we always did when I was in high school. And damn, was running and jumping hard. I thought I’m never going to breathe without pain again, I couldn’t change pace, or move in general. I noticed having less energy in my everyday activities, and mood swings that were directly related to the food I ate. By the time I’ve realized that I had to change my habits ASAP, I’ve already gained 30 pounds of fat, and I knew that getting back on track won’t be easy at all.
Naturally, I turned to the internet for advice, seeing how I didn’t have a budget for a nutritionist or a personal trainer. Now, if you’re a healthy person without any medical condition, I truly believe that you can find everything you need to achieve your health goals online. The problem I found the most tantalizing, is that the fitness and health ’gurus’ and before&after pics make you feel like you can achieve your goals fast. You’ll find tons of those 90-day fitness programs, 30-day challenges, and what not. Most fitness trainers will tell you to expect to see changes in 4-6 weeks from starting your new workout program. I tried a lot of diets and fitness programs, with little result. I always gravitated towards the food that my body has been used to and working out ’’like a beast’’ just left me feeling stressed and inadequate. One additional problem I faced was the fact that I didn’t learn how to listen to my body and eat until I’m full in my childhood. As an adult, I had a big problem with portion control and restricting whole food groups was a downright torture for me. So I quit and started again, and quit again, getting more and more frustrated, without being any healthier.
The truth is, yes – you can achieve your health and fitness goals in a short period of time, if you put your whole life on hold, and become obsessed with meal-prepping, conscious of every single bite you eat, don’t eat out with friends and work your ass off. Or maybe I’m lazy and incapable of organizing my life – that’s an option, too! Be it how it may, I knew I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment, and I was discouraged with people online telling me that ’’if I want to succeed, you have to go all in and give it your best’’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s unhealthy, but I feel like that’s just one of many ways to lead a healthier life.
One Friday night I went for a few beers with a college buddy of mine, who was always the active type, but never a fitness freak, I found him to be very real and relatable, so I casually mentioned my health struggles to him. What he told me became my mantra from that moment on: „It’s really not that complicated Mike, just do what feels good and don’t be a jerk to your body, basically“. With that ’philosophy’, I decided to start making small changes every day, and move as much as possible.
I implemented a few rules, that I now live by:
- Take seconds only on special occasions. No buts.
- Eat a balanced diet. If I crave something, I’ll consider substituting that food with a healthier version, BUT if I feel that won’t make me satisfied – I’ll go ahead and indulge, just won’t be a jerk doing it, as my friend would put it That means I won’t indulge every day, and I’ll follow rule no 1.
- JUST MOVE. You really don’t need a special program to succeed. As soon as I started adjusting my workouts to my mood, I found it much easier to train 4-5 times a week. When I’m full of energy, I’ll do a HIIT routine, and switch to yoga the next day in order to give my muscles time to recover. On the weekends when I have the time, I’ll hit the gym and lift some weights. Other times I’ll walk my dog and call it a day. My greatest achievement is that I stopped feeling like a failure if I missed my workout day, as I did when I did all those pre-scheduled programs.
- Give yourself time. Human body adjusts to change, yes, but if you’re not 100% focused on living healthy and training every day, that change will come gradually, in a period of 6-12 months. But guess what? What takes longer, lasts longer. You’ll slowly adjust your body to changes in diet and exercise, and soon enough, they will become your new normal.
I’m thirty-something now, living a healthy, balanced life, without a particular diet or a fitness plan. And yes, I’ve lost the 30 pounds, and gained considerable muscle mass, but most importantly, I can move and run and jump without feeling like I’m going to die, I feel happy and energized, and I enjoy my health journey.
There are a lot of advice online, and a lot of good ones, too. I’d just like you to read my story and realize that it’s okay to progress slower than expected, the only important thing is not to give up, to find what you enjoy and give yourself some slack. Small things add up in time, you just stick with them.