Thursday, December 31, 2009

Impossiblity... is impossible.

It’s that time of year again when many people reflect upon the previous year, wondering what could have been, and contemplate the year ahead, dreaming of what could possibly be. While I’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions (mainly because I’m no good at keeping them), two years ago, I promised myself I would try to make a change that would last a lifetime.

Two years ago, I was a 435-pound man.
And for the last time, I resolved to get healthy.

And while I had tried almost every diet, gimmick and trick out there, I was not thoroughly convinced that surgically wrapping an elastic band around my stomach was going to be the solution to my problems. Why? Well, it wasn’t modern medicine’s fault that I was a morbidly obese. Over the twenty previous years prior, I made a series of bad choices in terms of my eating habits and my inability to manage my emotions. So while I didn’t resolve to go on a diet, or read yet another self-help book in search of the secret to happiness and weight-loss success, I did resolve to do one thing very differently. I made a resolution to hold myself accountable to my own choices.


I chose to live my life differently. Quite simply, I chose to live.

Because 20 months ago, I used to pray at night that I wouldn’t die in my sleep – feeling the weight of 200+ extra pounds, depression, sadness, disappointment, and anxiety pressing down on both my body and my spirit. And I made a deal with myself on April 19, 2008 – that if I woke up the next morning, I would not only choose to make a change, but I would actually do it.

And I haven’t looked back since.

I hired an amazing trainer, and surrounded myself with people who motivated me.

I actually applied everything I had learned from 20+ years of dieting, to fuel my body in healthy and wonderful way.

I learned to enjoy sweating…running, indoor cycling, and kickboxing. I’ll try anything now, and in the process, likely grow to love it.

And most importantly…

I’ve dropped over 200 pounds of body weight -- the old fashioned way

I’ve lost 7.7 feet (yes, feet!) of fat from my body’s girth measurements.

I’ve learned to take control of my life, and forgive myself for the consequences of negative choices.

I learned that the problem with all of my previous resolutions was that they weren’t about making a change in how I think, or how I see myself in the wonderful world around me. They were focused on changing something that existed externally to who I am as a person, in hopes that changing that one condition alone would create an imbalance in my already chaotic life that could prompt much-needed change. I was so intent on blaming so many things around me for why I was so overweight that I had completely lost touch with the fact that I was a grown adult with the capacity to make choices. And more significantly, I was a grown adult with the responsibility to hold himself accountable for his choices. So, it didn't matter how many times I told myself that I was going to change my behaviours -- I still hadn't committed to changing the person that I am.

And that's been the most challenging and compelling part of this journey.

So many people -- fitness experts, health gurus, diet programs -- say that success is about making changes in your eating and exercise behaviours. Now, while I don't totally disagree, what the fitness industry doesn't spend a lot of time telling you is that success hinges most significantly on your ability to critically examine who you are as a person, and decide how you want or need that person to change. Unless you make a conscious choice to examine, understand, and transform the person within, you will never realize success in transforming the person on the outside.

And doing so is a process. A long, long process.

It's a daunting and somewhat frightening prospect when you think about it. But unless you attempt to understand why you make negative choices, which lead to negative behaviours (over-eating, not exercising, over-drinking, etc.) you will never even scratch the surface in truly comprehending where things went wrong in the first place.

Now, I admit that I didn't dive into critical self-examination off the start. The beginning of my journey was indeed about making incremental changes in my behaviours. It was also about learning to make good choices, and about understanding that I don't have to beat myself up over making bad ones. Eventually, I began to question why I was making negative choices in the first place... which led to a desire to more fully understand who I was as a person on the inside. And once I began to understand what makes me tick, what makes me trigger, and what makes me want to ravage a plate of nachos or a large pizza without coming up for air, it got easier and easier to make good choices. It was easier to convince myself to engage in positive, constructive behaviour. And it was extremely liberating to forgive myself for everything I didn't do in the 20 year prior -- the 20 years of resolutions gone bad -- and free myself from the limitations of my own thinking.

It helped me to accept that the idea of impossibility was... well... impossible.

So reflecting back on this amazing year, I consider the fact that I have conquered so many things that I once thought impossible. And I know laugh in the face of any challenge ahead that would have one forced me to retreat into the safety of my own self-doubt and trepidation. As I sit here, 3 hours from the turn of the new year, I realzie that the resolution that mattered the most – the best one I ever made – was about not feeling victimized by my bad choices, but instead understanding that the most powerful thing I have as a person is the power to choose. I can choose to live my life in whatever way I wish. And once I made the choice to eat more healthfully (I still eat burgers!), exercise daily, and forgive myself and others for everything I had been hanging onto for so very very long, I drew more strength and motivation from that choice than I had ever found before.

So, in 2010... I can choose to do many many things.

I've chosen to do a 600km bike ride for charity with some fantastic new friends.

I've chosen to become a certified indoor cycling instructor.

I've chosen to run a half-marathon to celebrate my 37th birthday.

I've chosen to become a certified fitness lifestyle coach.

I've chosen to live life. To it's fullest. With all of its highs and lows. With all of its love and laughter.

That's my choice.

And I'm going to stick by it.

Because I realize now more than ever... that the only way I'm going to make the changes I want is if I choose to do it. No one else is going to make it happen. Except for me. Lots of people to support me... but I have to do the work. ALL of it. And that includes forgiving those who I felt I've needed to forgive... it includes drawing myself closer to people I want to be closer to... and also requires that I let go of everything that has ever held me back before... to create space for new and exciting things.

(Thanks for that one, DP)

May 2010 bring you the same power and inspiration – from your own power to choose.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.