Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
In last week’s post “Why Health Integrity Matters,” I suggested that owning your own health journey comes down to willingness – how willing you are to accept full responsibility for each choice you make. I appreciated everyone’s comments and – as always – loved to see how people extended the idea with their own experiences, wisdom, and admissions. Quite a few declared it was a post meant for them and where they were in their personal journey. For various reasons, they needed the reboot, so to speak. I imagine we’re all there at some point – at the skeptical beginnings of major changes, the less than stellar times we lose our footing or the crises of confidence that can settle in when we’re going through a rough patch of life. How do we cultivate health integrity? Let me offer some thoughts – some wholly practical and a couple a little unorthodox. I hope you’ll add your own additions to the list.
Put it all out there – every last whine, reason and justification you use for not living healthily. Make columns for eating crap, chronically skipping exercise (everyone legitimately needs rest days), going to bed late, drinking too much, stressing yourself sick, etc. Every time you use one of those excuses, give yourself a gold star next to it. At the end of the week/month, see how much you’ve excelled at cheating yourself. Harsh, yes, but effective.
Let’s not gloss over the fact: there are times when we don’t feel like showing up for ourselves. Every one of us probably would pin a different reason on that one, but we’ve all been there. For some, it comes out in our health related choices. For others, it can take a different form (e.g. money, alcohol, etc.). But here’s the rub. We don’t have to like “showing up.” Seriously. You don’t always have to relish making the healthy choice. If you’re generally living well – eating Primally, moving frequently, challenging yourself enjoyably, sleeping soundly, destressing regularly – you know the benefits. Likewise, if you’ve ever backslid – by choice or circumstance – you also know how much you can pay a price. Still, we move through however many moods and challenges each day. Accept that you’re going to be more willing some times than others, but still stick with your basic intention.
Sometimes there are deep and difficult reasons behind our tendencies toward self-sabotage. Be honest with yourself about the internalized messages and ongoing compulsions that keep weighing you down. Get the help you need to sort it out, and grant yourself permission to believe you’re capable of a better life. Surround yourself with the support and engage in the self care you need to see yourself differently. Accept that it may be a life long commitment and not a single “fix.” While it’s not your fault you were left with the baggage, it’s a choice whether you let it hang around your neck each day.
Keep some Primal worthy snacks at work for the days you have to work late. Put a list of last-minute simple recipes on the fridge for mornings you don’t have time to make what you’d planned. Don’t let the weekend pass without cooking your stash of meat and chopping veggies if you know it means you’re setting yourself up for failure come Monday’s dinner. Keep up on your life enough that you’re not testing yourself unnecessarily. Some things won’t rattle you. Other things will. Be mindful of what will, and be preemptive however you reasonably can.
As good as it is to plan and prepare, it’s important to not make the journey one massive control trip. Loosen up, lighten up, and cultivate enough self-possession that you don’t go nuclear if you forget your lunch one day.
It’s hard to argue with hard numbers. Seeing the concrete rundown of all you’ve done (or not done) in a day can be affirming – or sobering. Either way, you’re facing empirical fact, and that’s a level of accountability itself. There are numerous programs and gadgets you can use to do this: everything from pedometers to sleep monitors, FitDay to the CHRON-O-Meter.
It can be easy to skip an open ended group like a run club (not that they aren’t great for other reasons). Skip your team’s basketball match-up with a rival office, however, and you’re gonna hear about it. Likewise, you wouldn’t leave a friend hanging by herself ready for your a.m. run at the park while you hit the snooze for the fourth time.
I’ve mentioned before an old friend who used to leave notes for himself that aren’t suitable for a general audience. As severe as they were, it was his brand of motivation. I’m not suggesting leaving profanity laced post-its around your home (especially if you have children), but write two letters to yourself and keep them where you can either see them or easily find them. Keep a copy at work or in your inbox. One is to congratulate yourself on taking care of yourself (e.g. “Thank you for not feeding me those awful sugar bomb donuts Phyllis always leaves in the break room. And, by the way, there’s always dog hair on them.). Put a picture of yourself happy and healthy in the letter. For extra emotional tug, put the kids in there, too. Make the other letter a “plead your own case” letter. Make it as imploring, guilt-inspiring, or ruthless as befits your personality. Attach the label of the prescription drug you finally got yourself off of or an old picture you’d rather not remember. If you’re tempted to stay up late for the third night playing Candy Crush on Facebook (No, I do not play this.) or eat the bag of Doritos your brother-in-law left in the cabinet at his last visit, it will be your job to read this letter. You’ll know what you need to say.
So, let me turn this topic over to you. How do you cultivate self-honesty and responsibility in your Primal life? Share your thoughts, reflections, and good humor. Have a great end to the week, everybody.