It Feels Good to Take Care of Yourself

I’ve had a couple of really interesting conversations in the last couple of weeks.  Each of them was with someone who has serious momentum behind their fitness, nutrition, and overall health.  Two were clients who have lost significant weight and are now in amazing shape.  Another was a buddy of mine from the Marine Corps I was catching up with recently.  My buddy Carl has taken a big step away from the hard drinking and terrible nutrition that typified our younger days in the Corps.  Busy with his a two year old daughter, he’s extremely focused on many facets of his self care.  He’s eating well, sleeping well, and is in the best shape of his life.

What was the common thread with all three of these success stories?  They all kept saying “I just feel better when…”  They have become extremely in tune with how every minute decision in their day makes them feel.  When something makes them feel crummy, they do something about it.

I just feel better when I…

1. Get my workout in.  On any given day you will be busy enough that you will have plenty of excuses to skip your workout.  But pay attention.  How do you feel on the days you skip it vs the days you get it done?  Skipping a workout may provide temporary relief in a busy day but whatever small relief it brings is ruined by the loss of confidence you have in yourself and loss of momentum.  How you look at your workout makes all the difference.  If its this laborious chore on your to-do list, you are going to struggle to stay consistent.  If it is the thing you need to feel good, even when you are busy you will do something to move your body, make it happen, and enjoy the benefits.

2. Eat the right food.  Here is a broken paradigm: you reward yourself with junk food.  How do you feel after you do that?  Terrible right?  If your reward makes you feel terrible, you are subconsciously telling yourself that is what you deserve.  Yuck!  You deserve much better than that!  Sometimes you even feel guilty while you’re eating that tasty treat because you know you shouldn’t.  Guilt and food are a tricky thing because there is a lot of unhealthy attitudes around food that easily give way to disordered eating.  If you are in great shape and want to have a homemade cupcake at your kids birthday party, you can do that guilt free.  If you have weight to lose and you want a donut from the box someone brought to work on a random Wednesday, you should listen to that little angel on your shoulder telling you to skip it.  So if the broken paradigm is rewarding yourself with stuff that is bad for you and makes you feel bad, here is what a better paradigm is: I get to enjoy how I nourish my body and mind.  Instead of forcing yourself to eat terrible tasting “healthy” food until your next surrender to a craving, you will enjoy eating great tasting food that also makes you feel fantastic and moves you towards your goals.

3. Skip the booze.  Drinking tends to be a social activity but that doesn’t mean you have to drink to be social.  Carl and I each had one beer over the course of an afternoon and evening when I was catching up with him.  One beer and then we both ended up switching to water.  Why?  “I just feel better when I don’t drink as much.”  It wasn’t hard at all for either of us to do.  We weren’t itching for another.  We were both in tune with how multiple beers on a week night leads to more stress, less sleep, less energy, and less patience for a good 3 days after.  When you pay attention to how things make you feel, it doesn’t take any will power to make the right decision.

4. Do what I need to do to get good sleep.  Everyone wants to get better sleep.  According to Matthew Walker, Author of Why We Sleep, 70% of modern humans are not getting sufficient sleep.  Carl invested in a wearable that measures his sleep and overall recovery.  He could clearly see what decisions undermined his recovery and what decisions fueled his recovery.  Again everyone wants more and better sleep, but will you put your phone down two hours before bed?  Will you cut the caffeine after 10am?  Will you get up at the same time every day without hitting snooze?  All these things do require some discipline but again if you get focused on what makes you feel better, it takes far less discipline.

Discipline and forcing yourself to change can only get you so far.  At best, it will give you a couple weeks of change.  If you want long term success, you have to take your routines from to-do list style things you force yourself to get done and transition them to your secret weapons for success.  When you get focused on how things make you feel in the moment and after, you change your way of thinking and making the right decisions becomes effortless.  If you continue to choose between what you’d rather do and what you should do, you can only last so long.  If you flip that script and start choosing between what makes you feel good and what doesn’t, you will have long term success.  Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the momentum from this is truly transformative.


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