HABITS: BEST FRIENDS or WORST ENEMIES
I was a hypocrite when I started teaching diet, fitness and lifestyle balance some 25 years ago.
For every good habit, I had a bad one.
Sure, I taught fitness, played sports and led an active lifestyle. I also gardened, bought local and organic foods and cooked most of my meals from scratch.
Meanwhile, I smoked like a chimney (tobacco and marijuana) , drank like a fish and was a junk food junkie. I wore my “work hard, play hard” mentality like a badge of honor, bragging about excessive work hours.
I was so caught up chasing external ambitions that I neglected important internal ones.
My story, like most others, includes a mishmash of good and bad habits mostly acquired in youth and more deeply grooved as an adult.
Some I chose for myself. Others were handed down from my family, my community and my culture without me even realizing it until later on.
CHILDHOOD & TEENS
Conflicting eating habits started early.
On one hand my family regularly ate home cooked whole food meals together and I took good lunches to school.
We had fruit trees, a vegetable garden and went wild asparagus and black raspberry picking each year.
I learned to cook and food prep spending time with my Mom in the kitchen.
On the other hand, emotional eating, portion distortion and overeating were a part of life.
I figured out early that I could use highly processed foods as a drug and I didn’t have to go far to get that taste good/feel good reward.
Besides all the whole foods, there were lots of packaged and homemade goodies in our home too.
Plus, we lived close to the beach and even closer to a corner store.
As kids, refundable soda bottles thrown out the window by beachgoers left a dedicated revenue stream to feed our sugar cravings.
My friends and I had endless supplies of pop, chips, bubble gum, chocolate bars and penny candy.
I had opposing activity habits as well.
My parents created a great space for us that included a swimming pool, play equipment and a yard full of toys and sporting goods.
I loved reading, dancing, sports and being outside. I spent hours playing and hanging out with my friends and my dogs. I was also Dad’s designated helper for all home projects.
At the other end of the spectrum, binge watching television, movie marathons and video games were activities that competed for and burnt up a lot of free time.
I started experimenting with coffee, tobacco, alcohol and drugs at 14. It wasn’t long before they became regular habits and parties started to take priority.
Chronic constipation, skin conditions and depression that started in my youth were a regular part of life in my 20s.
Teaching fitness part time only highlighted the walking contradiction I’d become and fed imposter syndrome type thoughts and feelings.
I didn’t feel well and was ashamed of my polarized behaviours.
I slowly descended to an all-time low while trying to convince myself that my good habits neutralized the bad ones.
Eventually I faced the truth.
The balance had shifted and my bad habits were outperforming the good ones. Some had even crossed over into addictions.
Teaching fitness, getting promotions at work, my relationships and all of my nice things weren’t making me happy.
The truth was, many of my lifestyle habits had become distractions, escapes and barriers to real connection.
I wanted to change but it was so hard. I was having trouble and I wasn’t sure where to start or what to do to make it stick.
30s to Today
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” – is true in my life.
I’ve had many teachers, mentors and coaches. Still do. Some professional, others trusted advisors.
I’ve come to understand that we’re all students and teachers to one another. It’s important to be open to the cycle of giving AND receiving.
Along with human support, Grace made me willing and able to withstand the short-term discomfort of change in order to get the longer-term and deeper levels of well-being.
I’d spent years helping others achieve their diet, exercise and life balance goals. It was time to get serious about my own as well.
Over the years I’ve adopted many healthier habits while reinforcing and expanding the good ones I already had. Simultaneously, I’ve been shedding the ones that no longer serve me. Some I’ve decreased and others I’ve released entirely.
It’s true there are things we can’t control, but when we focus on the things we can in our own life, change is possible.
Wellness is a journey that I’m happy to be on today, with all its ups and downs.
Turns out the struggles, challenges and setbacks are a necessary part of life. They can even stimulate continued growth and personal evolution.
I continue to be a work in progress but life is much more balanced than it used to be.
It’s a daily practice that requires ongoing effort and energy.
I know now that it’s by facing and talking about our darker truths that we overcome them and spend more time in our light.
As we do, our stories become ways of helping each other rather than things to be hidden and ashamed of.
Self work is hard. It requires commitment, compassion and persistence. The rewards make it all worthwhile though.
Building Healthy Habits™ is a culmination of the knowledge, skills and abilities learned on my professional journey.
However, it’s the insights and compassion gained on my personal wellness journey and that of the BHH™ participants that continue to improve and refine it.
I’d love to be a support on your wellness journey and invite you join the next BHH™ session.
If not, that’s cool. My hope is that you find something useful on this site and in the free monthly wellness newsletter.