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Don’t set sights too high when striving for better health

Last month I introduced you to my personal doctrine that has improved my health and quality of life on the road. This personal wellness program has three principles: First you have to answer the question, ‘Do I really want to...

Last month I introduced you to my personal doctrine that has improved my health and quality of life on the road. This personal wellness program has three principles: First you have to answer the question, ‘Do I really want to change’? If you answer yes then you should move forward and identify your own personal desires, passions, and ambitions that make up that lifelong aspiration for change.

I talked about this last month. The second principle is to develop a flexible plan; I’ll address that this month. And the third principle is to develop a support network.

The trick I have learned over the years is not to set my sights too high. I’ve learned that all my short-term goals are subject to change and need to adapt to the constant changes that occur in a trucker’s daily life. This is the essence of a flexible plan.

The last thing you want to do is to add even more stress to an already stressful life.

My first goal was to quit smoking on my 40th birthday. I viewed this as a birthday present to myself. After multiple attempts over the years, I finally got that monkey off my back. I promised myself that first year that I wasn’t going to worry about what I ate and I wasn’t going to start a high-intensity exercise program. I focused on quitting smoking and didn’t worry about the rest. I did have a second goal on that birthday morning and that was to be in the best shape of my life by the time I reached my 50th birthday. I didn’t know how I was going to reach that goal exactly, but I had 10 years to figure it out. That’s definitely not setting your sights too high.

Six months in, I felt I had the smoking habit beat. I’d been packing on some weight but I had given myself the freedom to not worry about that, hadn’t I?

But if I could beat the smoking habit, I could control my diet, couldn’t I? I started to think about what I was eating and how much.

Nine months in, I bought a calorie-counting program for my PDA (before the era of smartphones) and started tracking what I ate. I wasn’t dieting, I was just eager to establish some new goals when I reached my one-year non-smoking anniversary.

Success was building my self-confidence in reaching the 10-year goal I’d set. I still had nine years left and I was on a roll. But then I hit a big obstacle.

Changing my eating habits was far more difficult than quitting smoking. I never have to smoke again but I have to eat every day and I love food.

It looked so easy on paper when I input my weight loss goals into a software application. But that application doesn’t account for the deep emotional ties I have to what I eat and why I eat it. Cutting my calorie intake down from over 3,000 calories a day to around 2,000  per day was a big shock. In our line of work, how do you lose weight and change eating habits you’ve developed over a lifetime without setting your sights too high?

I struggled with this problem for years. Calorie counting showed me that empty calories, fat, sugar, and salt were coming from the comfort foods that had become staples in my diet. Common sense told me I should be eliminating these foods and replacing them with healthier fare. But I depended on these foods to pass the time, to keep me awake, and to reward myself for the long hours I worked.

It was years before I came to accept that the short-term sensory pleasure I gained from these foods was the primary cause of my long-term suffering with obesity. Not setting my sights too high when it came to weight loss and changing deeply ingrained eating habits was a long and difficult lesson to learn. I’m still learning.

What I eat is one factor in the weight loss equation; the other factor is exercise, not just to aid in weight loss but to improve my cardiac health and overall physical health at the same time.

How did I find the time to exercise in a trucker’s day? Again I was faced with the challenge of not setting my sights too high, and constantly adapting to find the right mix.

I attained the goal of being in the best shape of my life by age 50, but it wasn’t just because I had a flexible plan that adapted to my daily circumstance.

That plan is sandwiched between two powerful sources of motivation.

First is the passion, desire, and resolve to live a healthy life. Second was networks of support to get me through the daily grind. That’s what I’ll look at next month.

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