(FINAL) Day 28 TIP: Feel Good Health Challenge

Ladies and gents, you did it. You made it to the last day! Congrats on taking some steps to improve your health and your life, little by little.

Today may mark the end of Helen’s annual health challenge, but it’s only the beginning of new habits, better decisions and a healthier life.

For my final TIP in this series, I wanted to share a really important secret to success: believe in yourself and persevere!

Since nothing worthwhile comes easily, without effort, you will need to be steadfast in your convictions and dedicated to your own success. Since I have lived through this – and still continue to, very much so – I thought this would be an opportune moment to briefly tell you my personal story, my own journey of transformation.

As some of you may know, I had struggled with my weight for most of my life. I was almost never very evidently overweight, but often definitely above what is normal and healthy for my size. This manifested in a big lack of confidence, growing up, which affected many areas of my life. I also continue to fight off my fairly bad eating habits and addictions. Jackie still tells me from time to time how I can get into “survival mode” and just mindlessly devour what’s on my plate, without giving it much conscious attention or taking a moment to savor the wonderful mixture of tastes.

One thing that has helped me tremendously in my life, is my relentless dedication to certain objectives that I make my mind up about. Over the years, this strength of character has showed up on several occasions (even against great odds) and has shaped who I am today.

For instance, when I was around 19 years old, I arrived in Greece exactly one month before having to show up to do my military service (mandatory for any man born in Greece). I weighed 190, which is quite heavy for me (measuring just below 5′ 10″). I decided to let loose and pig out, since I was inevitably going to lose it again in the army. So through careless and voracious eating, I actually managed to gain 30 pounds in 30 days. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. But it’s also entirely true, I’m not even exaggerating one bit. Now at a weight of 220 and obviously getting quite round, I enter the Greek army, only to discover that it was a real joke and I was destined to actually gain weight and become less fit while in there, if I did nothing about it. So I made a decision that I was going to exercise, get fitter and lose the weight – on my own, while doing my military service. This played out like so: every 4-5 days, we were allowed a 3-hour outing from the base, to go into the small town for a coffee or whatever. I instead paid to join the local gym, and would use every evening out to workout (something I was not doing as a soldier!). In the end, I came out of the army exactly 6 months later (as a permanent resident of another country, I only needed to do a partial service) weighing 190 again! A few months later, I was back home and my weight was slowly crawling back up near 200. When I finally hit that dreaded number, something in me profoundly changed. I still remember the exact day…

On January 8th 2001, I decided I was going to get healthy once and for all. So I started to go to the gym 4-5 times per week and began to eat ridiculously strictly (reading only some popular magazines, I though this was actually a healthy way to eat at the time). Sadly, I didn’t know any better than to eat low fat and restrict calories then, but with my drastic and dangerously rapid weight loss tactics, I lost 50 pounds in 75 days. I have since discussed this with a doctor who basically said to me “that’s impossible”. Oh, it’s possible, although I sure don’t recommend it to anyone.

What stayed with me most from that experience is how a simple decision led to an unbending will – despite ferocious opposition and discouragement from everyone (concerned, and maybe a bit jealous?) around me – which inevitably led to the success I set out to achieve.

This weight stayed off for many years, before I eventually bubbled back up to about 185 by 2008. That summer I learned about a fascinating activity called CrossFit, which I was so captivated by that I even dreamt of opening my own gym, since there were none in Laval. However, I quickly learned that one was in the process of opening and the partners were set, so I missed that boat (sort of too bad, it’s a business which is exploding now). The following year, in the summer of 2009, I was the first ever client of CrossFit Laval and that again changed my life forever, and I am very grateful for it. I lost about 25 pounds over the first 3 months of membership and as a result, have been more fit and health-minded than ever before in my life. I became inspired by a community of people who prioritize health and nutrition, so I educated myself, pushed my limits, and essentially recreated who I am. It even led to me entering my first ever competition (once again, fighting off protests from “loved ones”): the 2010 CrossFit Games Canada East Sectional Qualifier, held in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I finished 53rd overall and learned some tough lessons along the way, but the experience of it will remain with me forever.

One last thing I want to mention is how important it is to go at your goal gradually and steadily – in a healthy manner! It is not realistic (and often dangerous) to attempt to undo damage from years and years of bad choices. When your mind is made up, really, there is no rush. Permanent, lasting change happens steadily.

A final anecdote of mine about this is when I was on the cusp of my first major body transformation, in late 2000 (weighing almost 200 lbs), I remember going to a supplements store and speaking with an experienced personal trainer there. I asked how long it could take until I get lean and can actually have some abs? His answer floored me: He pinched my belly fat and candidly said “if you keep at it, in about 4 years you can get there”. Since I was thinking (dreaming?) more along the lines of 4 weeks, this news was devastating! Many years later, I came to understand how correct his advice was.

I know that my own tips and advice over this past month may have challenged some of your personal beliefs about what is truly healthy. Some of my beliefs are quite contrarian to current popular thought and “conventional wisdom”. I can only encourage you to keep on learning and try things out for yourself, to see what works best.

All this to say, the power is in your hands. Our entire life, from now until the day we die, it is entirely up to each and every one of us to choose what we truly want and then have the fortitude to be true to ourselves and follow-up on it. Just have the presence of mind to always believe in yourself – we can all do so much more than we think.

Today is an important milestone along this path. It is no small feat to decide to take responsibility for your choices and actions, day after day. No matter how you rate yourself during this past month, the intention was correct and some progress was made. My hat’s off to you guys. Take a bow, you deserve it! And never ever give up on your health.

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
–Patañjali (author of The Yoga Sutras, 2nd century BCE)

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
–Michael Jordan (arguably the greatest basketball player of all time)

The writer is fully aware that this message is not orthodox; but since our orthodox theories have not saved us we have to readjust them to bring them into harmony with Nature’s laws. Nature must be obeyed, not orthodoxy.
–Dr. Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939)

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