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Being healthy means being honest with yourself

February 22, 2014

“Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” ~Walter Anderson

At the start of this new year my boyfriend and I sat down and wrote a list of our fitness related goals and we came up with a plan to follow leading up to the CrossFit Open (The first stage in a three-stage worldwide CrossFit competition) and what it comprised of, to help get us to the next level. We have similar competitive goals, but we have our own unique weaknesses and issues that are holding us back.

One of the things that I decided I need to change (which is something that I feel affects me and my training negatively) is staying up too late at night on my laptop, whether it’s surfing the internet or watching TV shows. It has been affecting my sleep, and I am extremely sensitive when it comes to sleep. I need to get a full 7 hours at least to function and train properly. I’ve had a hard time admitting this to myself as I enjoy relaxing at night on my laptop. I’ve kept trying to justify it in my mind, saying that I need the downtime to relax and wind down. But in actuality, when I am truly and completely honest with myself, I realise that it’s doing me more harm than good and it’s a bad habit that needs to go if I want to reach my goals. I decided to replace that “downtime” with reading instead. I have committed to put electronics away half an hour before bedtime and read a chapter or two from a book instead to help me wind down.

What I’ve discovered about my own little vice that I didn’t want to give up, is that we all have them. Mine’s staying up too late on my laptop, but yours might be something else: a secretly bad relationship with food, drinking too much coffee, that nightly glass of wine or two, constantly procrastinating on your work, being a perfectionist, wasting money etc. You keep trying to pull the wool over your own eyes and convince yourself that it’s not affecting your life, your health, your goals, or your relationships negatively, and that it’s actually something you need to help you "enjoy life a little". And maybe it is, maybe it’s not, but unless you look at your life and your habits with complete honesty, you will live in delusion. Only YOU know what you want to accomplish and what you might need to give up or do more of, to get there. And only you can change what is needed to reach those goals.

What I’ve learned through this is that for me being healthy is ultimately about being honest with myself. It doesn’t mean I can’t ever relax and enjoy myself. It doesn’t mean I have to give up all the "pleasures" in life in order to reach my goals. It’s not related to that in the least. Rather, to me it's being honest about what I can accomplish and what I can expect to accomplish in the short- and long-term, with my current lifestyle habits.

Try it. Take a good hard look at yourself and be honest. And I mean completely honest. Because you are the only person you can forever count on. Is everything pretty much the way it should be/you would like it to be in your lifestyle, or should things be improved? Only you know the answers. Be honest about what’s right in your life, what you are genuinely willing to accept, as well as what you're not happy with and what needs to be changed. Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become. Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there.

Ask honest questions. The answers might sting a bit, but it’s a good way of staying true to yourself.

To get yourself over any hurdle you first need to acknowledge that it is there. You need to be honest and admit that there is even a problem. That you're maybe not the best at something; that maybe you need to improve in some aspect of your life. Otherwise you’ll just keep running into the issue over and over.

I read this poem the other day and it resonated with me:

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault… I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

And to finish off this post, here’s a portion from a post I read from Mark’s Daily Apple, on the same topic. He explains the idea of health so eloquently. It’s so much more than just fitness, weight, avoidance, working hard and showing self-discipline and saying "no" to things in life, etc. This line says it so perfectly: You live with health integrity when you truly own your journey, when you realize it’s yours and yours alone.

"We can talk physiology until we’re blue in the face. We can read and learn what’s really healthy until we could fill a book or a blog ourselves. We can have a kitchen full of healthy cookbooks. In the end, however, it doesn’t come down to know-how or how-tos. It’s about how willing we are to accept personal responsibility for our health.

Responsibility. It’s a hard and, for some, harsh word. In a culture that glorifies rampant immaturity and immediate gratification, the concept can seem like a major buzz kill. When it comes to health, I think the association is especially true. It’s okay to work out, for example, but no one wants to be seen taking it too seriously. Even major athletes joke about the junk they eat and rake in the bucks starring in fast food ads. It’s okay to shell out for grass-fed beef, but the minute you turn down dessert, you’re a killjoy who’s trying to make other people feel bad.

Sure, the massive health problems in our country are in part fueled by false medical messaging that leads well-intentioned people down the wrong roads in search of health. Much of it, however, can simply be attributed to an unwillingness to buck up, take responsibility choice by choice, and live with health integrity. By health integrity, I mean an honesty to one’s self, a commitment that begins and ends with one’s self, an inner compass that has nothing to do with the outside world.

To cultivate that kind of health integrity, we have to acknowledge that everything counts. There are no games, no hiding, no pretending, no excuses. That doesn’t mean people with health integrity don’t eat a dessert sometimes, but there’s no emotional ruse or hand-wringing to it. You own it – for all the good and bad. You don’t blame outside pressures or people. You don’t deal in regret.

Part of the problem is a misplaced fascination with the transgressive. Somehow cheating ourselves is the ultimate gratification. We mistake indulgence for decadence, discipline for deprivation. Healthy behaviors are assigned the boring, white-hat, “moral” role in our culture. Being healthy is about hard work and asceticism. Choosing health is about saying “no.” At least that’s the message we get. On the other side of the spectrum is the Mountain Dew adventure and Doritos-inspired hilarity that could fill our days – if we were only so bold and rebellious.

You live with health integrity when you truly own your journey, when you realize it’s yours and yours alone. You stop living the old blame game and buying into the false dichotomies, the pedantic guilt trips, the bullshit marketing messages, the cultural labels, the past-imposed limitations and identities. There’s a real freedom in that decision. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the beginning of your journey with a hundred pounds to lose and a collection of lifestyle conditions to beat or if you’re at your ideal weight and healthy but want to know what it is to thrive in new ways. It’s your journey, and from here on out, you get to define it. You don’t make the rules of physiology, but you do get to design the vision you will live out each day.”

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