3 key steps to your Health-Over

Your Health-Over: dissolving bad habits --- 3 key steps to getting started

For those readers who are looking to get started on a health-over, or healthier you- it is worth contemplating some of the falsehoods about succeeding in weight loss and fitness. Overcoming temptations is profoundly complex; positive, and permanent outcomes are sadly, somewhat rare.
Let’s begin with the word “willpower” which is a complicated process. In my view, the broad term “will-power” is as outdated a concept as the word “diet.”  It’s not as simple as willing something or digging deep to find that thing called willpower.

What is willpower? Is it a finite thing? Is it a conscience? Is willpower a dialog in my head between my dueling selves? Are we locked into our neuroanatomy (the anatomy of our nervous system and brain) and stuck in a food pleasure reward cycle that is out of our control?

There is a powerful undercurrent of reasons you might be struggling with whatever it is that you wish you had more “willpower” to conquer and I won’t even try to unpack the psychology here in this entry; there is fascinating literature about the psychology of will power published by the American Association of Psychology.

Rather than say to myself “Use more willpower, Claudia!” I’ve come to understand that “willpower” comes with a lot of small steps that take place before the warring factions in my mind say, “Go ahead, you really want that doughnut, you deserve it, eat it! / No  Claudia, don’t you eat that doughnut, it will kill you!” And the tussle with “willpower” is launched.

For openers, while I cannot prove this, I know after analyzing myself, there are certainly at least these 2 key factors which will influence my willpower outcomes.

  1. My ability to make better choices throughout the day and on a long-term basis, has been (unexpectedly for me) tied to a steady glucose level and there is supporting evidence to back up my theory of my personal willpower struggle. I tend to give into impulse (lose my willpower') at night,  A leveled off sugar throughout the day will keep me from giving in to bad choices such as eating a pint of ice-cream later at night. It's not a matter of suddenly losing willpower in the evening, it's actually a matter of small decisions to keep my sugar in balance throughout the day that will determine if I succumb to poor choices later on.
  2.    Managing my daily low-grade stress; understanding the origin of the anxiety factors and how I control them in my body will affect my choices. Even small things such as deep breaths, a few seconds of consciously slowing down, taking a walk, breaking up my work day with stretch intervals, all are techniques that influence my decision-making ability. Naming the "stressor" to myself, “Claudia, you’re anxious because you have to get these reports in by 5:00, you are mad at your sibling, you have to fill out insurance forms…” the minute to minute quick stress management techniques help tremendously and will influence seemingly unrelated choices such as victoriously opting to do that work-out later or eating the apple instead of a snickers bar.

Health information?
If you are out of shape, or less than fit, having health concerns, you and I know it is not for lack of information that got you there. Most of us know very well that chips are not healthy or that exercises will help our heart. We are informed people who know a lot of facts, we should therefore be making “informed decisions.” So why aren’t we more successful? We are told by our doctors and friends to read the literature, then exercise willpower to incorporate the health information into our lives.

While this blog holds what I hope will prove to be a treasure trove of targeted helpful information for transforming your health; collecting facts and statistics for you to read is, in my view, not likely the catalyst to help break patterns.

Information and data are tools to continue honing your body, but the literature itself isn’t generally the change agent for one’s bad habits. In other words, just because I’m in the doctor’s office reading up on how exercising helps reduce chronic inflammation; does not spur me on to actually go to the gym. After reading the health article I might think about it, but what will push me to get out there?

Write out your action plan?
Very few people achieve success by writing out a plan and sticking to it, just as very few realize their goals by merely reading about the scientific information. Plans are often too wide sweeping and too radical a change in one’s life. Diets or health plans fail because It is overwhelming to make too many changes at once.  

If it’s not about willpower or strategies and it’s not about data, is it possible to make a transformation?  The answer is yes, but...

If you weren’t born into a family that prioritizes exercising and nutrition over all rewards and acceptance or had parents that were drill sergeants enforcing regular workouts, then you, like most of us, are going to be working at a disadvantage in trying to break bad habits. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I know that I’ve been able to maintain a youthfulness for myself and I am eager to help others find the fountain of youth for themselves, (hence this blog). It’s a great feeling being told by young students and strangers, “You don’t look like you’re 65.” Everything in my blog is a piece of the health-over puzzle and what I personally feel is pertinent to transforming oneself into radiant health.

Drawing from past success; My Project
I’ve guided my significant other into making and keeping body changes that have left all our friends amazed. He has certainly been my success-project, and frankly, I’m absolutely thrilled, but ironically the person most amazed was his doctor, who charts his data every 6 months. My boyfriend (we will call him Randal) is 67 years old and he started by making the very changes using the course of action written in today’s blog entry (read on) and building from there. I decided to share this with my readers.
First, his data:

For those of you either classified as diabetic or fast approaching diabetic status, you likely know the term A1C. It refers to your hemoglobin that have sugar attached to it. It is a useful measure or marker for controlling and charting diabetes. Randal is diabetic, but over the course of one and a half years since I met him, he is close to a normal range now.
  • His original A1C was 6.8 and over the course of 14 month it dropped to 5.9.
  • His morning fasting blood glucose (sugar) levels were in the 130s to 140s and dropped to the low 100s. That means he had a 20-30-point drop in his blood sugar levels. This outcome is outstanding.

Controlling blood sugar levels is the name of the game. If you are a diabetic you understand this more than most. His doctor is excited because he has gone from being fully type 2 diabetic, with high blood sugar numbers----to controlled diabetic—to maintaining the low end of the diabetic range----and close to reversing the diabetic blood sugar levels.
  • Currently he is .1 MG from being fully no longer classified “diabetic”. I won’t be completely satisfied until he drops the diabetes status and is labeled “normal range.”

He is now in my view, deterring the oncoming disastrous health crisis. These steady improvements in numbers really happened, I’m not making this up, I have his blood work.

Randal’s outcome (to date)
  • The doctor removed him from 3 medications that: reduce cholesterol, reduce triglycerides (fatty acids in blood stream, and controls blood sugar.)

This was done essentially by riding a bike, walking, and eating differently. And as a great reward, the by-product of the effort towards reducing his “bad numbers” is, you guessed it, weight loss. 
  • Randal dropped from 185 to 175 and he hadn’t weighed in at this number (according to his doctor and to him) since his 30s, keeping in mind he is now in his 60s.) 

I love the looking fit part of the equation; everybody keeps telling him he looks so much younger now. So, I know that my course of action does help with anti-aging, which is the whole point of this blog.

How did he do it? How did he get started? 3 STARTER POINTS

So, I’ve been analyzing what’s allowed me the youthful body. How does one overcome impulses to undermine that elusive quest of healthiness and beauty? How can I break through and succeed this time?  How do I get started and stick with the plan? I use this blog entry to lay out 3 key observations that I believe helped me in my own quest and in that of Randal’s. Hopefully these observations might spur someone else out there.

 NO Specific diets Eat real foods
1.      I stopped following any laws of absolutes: absolutely no meat, absolutely all meat, specific measurements. Paleo, vegetarian, low carbs, high fat, low fat, the Miami, the Mediterranean, eat like a French person…

  • I feel strongly that there is no one SET of absolutes that you would find in a diet plan any more than there is only one religion that could be right for everyone on this planet. I do have some absolute principles or tenets, but no one “plan” is likely to work for me.  Most of the diet plans contain some great ideas that could be incorporated into my food intake but also a lot of ideas that are likely unhealthy for me.

The essential truth out of all successful diets and foods is: refined foods are BAD…. whole foods are Good. There are many entries that I have dedicated on this blog that break this down for you. Keep learning to reach for a lot of real foods not in boxes (whole foods) that don’t have chemicals preservatives, additives etc. Don’t worry about calories or if it’s on a special diet list. I invite you to read the beneficial information detailed in the blog to guide you in getting that transformation that can and will happen using the blog to advance your goals. It works for me, and I am thrilled that it is working for my project (Randal).


2.      Keeping the end-game in mind: I want to feel peppy, I want to be radiantly healthy, I want to preserve my healthiness into my older years…. Ok, I’ll say it, I’d like to look attractive, lose weight, be sexy… whatever you have in mind. That end game needs to be thought of frequently.

I conscientiously think about achieving and maintaining wellness. I do “thank” my wellness and healthiness almost every day. I mean that literally. I say thank you aloud, because I know that healthiness is far from a given.

  •   Note: In my life personally, it is not too difficult to keep fitness/wellness in mind as I had four women in my family and I was the only one who reached 50. (They all died in their forties of varying types of cancer). The lessons of valuing life and preserving the quality of life are starkly palpable given these tragic, but very real circumstances in my family.

3.       Movement:  Know and believe in the value of moving. Think of movement rather than an exercise class. I think a lot of people fall out of the fitness race right from the start because they are overwhelmed initially at finding the time and working out the logistics for organized work-outs with a trainer, or yoga class, spin-bikes, or getting in a car and dealing with traffic to go exercise at a gym.  Just move more and do this a lot. It can be as uncomplicated as walking around your work space, campus, neighborhood, and house. Keep adding intervals of movement throughout your day.  Get up and stretch. Let your muscles talk to you through body movement as they will guide you towards making better food choices.  
  • Note: As we start to become conscious of the importance of increasing movement in our lives, we will want to fine tune the exercise activities with higher levels of fitness, vary the training etc. These aspects are paramount and will be addressed in later entries. But the Just Move Mantra should be embedded in your daily life as an essential ingredient for a "transformational" you.

Your chair is not your friend and sitting for over an hour at a time,hanging out with your chair, is linked to a plethora of health issues including your heart. Truthfully, I don’t believe anyone who is unwilling to commit to movement and using the muscles in some form every few hours during the day will likely achieve a high level of wellness. But I speak for myself. I watch colleagues, neighbors, friends, children, and I am astounded by the lack of movement. I think that movement is one of the supporting pillars of optimal health.

These seem like simple principles towards overriding lack of willpower but taking those 3 steps opened the way for Randal to start on what will hopefully be long-term success. Thus far it’s been one year and 9 months. These key changes in your life will likely help deter oncoming health disasters.

To sum up, trigger your Health-Over by:

  • Reaching for whole food choices over refined foods and sticking to this as much as possible
  • Consciously keeping the end goal in mind on a moment to moment basis throughout your day
  • Adding more movement to your day/ break up sitting with consciously getting up and doing interval stretches and any movement.

Once you’ve started with these, steps then you can begin adding on layers to hone and improve even more. I promise that these are the three changes that Randal started with. Nothing drastic but sticking to those actions.

Keep in mind that you will not achieve this 100% of the time and allow for days where you make mistakes. I have plenty of those days. Regrets about food choices are fine, but don’t dwell on them as bad choices happen. Try for making fewer and fewer bad choices as you go along.

*Hopefully these observations spur some people towards some break-throughs to a healthier you. It’s all about 
dissolving old habits and patterns in life, not just summoning willpower.  I invite you to begin reading other On The Training Table blog entries. They all have the end-goal of vitality and wellness. 


If you read this (or any other entries) and find that these three ground rules make a difference in your life, please let me hear from you, add your story, or comment.  Nothing makes me happier than sharing this knowledge with others and hearing about other people’s journey towards maintaining a healthy life.