Sometimes I want to body slam those health nuts online that delight in the healthy lifestyle. You’ve seen them on Facebook. They post their pictures of salmon the size of a cellphone on a bed of lettuce, their before and after body shots (crap I even posted one of those myself. lol), their gym pics, their spinach protein shakes, and that status that says, “I just ran 15 miles and boy do I feel good.” Why does that get to me?
Ok, ok, let me be honest. It’s because they are doing exactly what I should be doing and because running ¼ of a mile makes me want to pass out. And even though in my mind I want to upper cut the next person that posts a saucer of fresh fruit, I actually thank them for choosing to live out loud and for showing us all what’s possible. I keep asking myself, after all of the let’s get fit efforts being made in the world, from Zumba to Tybo to our First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, are there really any of us left who don’t actually KNOW how to get and stay in shape? Seriously? Or is the problem something else?
Can I be real for a moment? I was born in Bertha Jenkins’ home where food was absolutely a part of our everyday culture. My mom and I bonded through food. Our family came together around food. Being the mama’s boy I was, I spent a great deal of time with my mom in the kitchen, her perfecting the craft that was Southern cooking, me being her helpful assistant. It was difficult for my mom to get around largely due to weight issues and other health impairments that were largely an effect of the weight. So I could reach for dishes she couldn’t reach for and could stoop down into the cabinets to retrieve those special pans she couldn’t get down low enough to grab for herself.
And after she was done, wow! There were biscuits from scratch, white flower, lard and all, soaked with butter after coming hot out of the oven, golden fried chicken, baked spaghetti slathered with cheese, maybe bread or rice pudding, fresh or boxed mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, collard greens seasoned with pork, chocolate cake and butter pecan ice cream, red Kool Aid with just that perfect balance of sugar, sugar and sugar, or maybe Pepsi Cola. For breakfast, those pancakes drizzled with dark Karo syrup, scrambled eggs and sausage patties, oh yea on some days when the budget was short an invention called, wait for it, “Rice, Sugar and Milk” the breakfast of champions who don’t have that $4.99 for that box of cereal. And when we really bonded, you know between meals it was that signature moment of a box of Jiffy Gingerbread, which we literally baked in a pan, sliced in half and ate sitting across the bed.
After all of that good eating, NOW I’m supposed to change and “follow the rules.” (My new 30’s metabolism responds sarcastically, “Uh yea.”) And yes, I know the rules. Fried foods are bad, grilled and baked foods are good. Doritos and Double chocolate fudge cake and vanilla ice cream are bad. A nice apple and some tasty almonds are good. Pepsi Cola and Sweet Tea are bad. Water is good. Banana Nut Waffle, scrambled eggs with melted Kraft singles cheese, crispy bacon, and Texas toast slathered with butter are bad, oat meal, whole grain toast and egg whites are good. And more rules: Quinoa and brown rice good; 10 for $10 little packs of Monsanto flavored mashed potatoes bad. Taking a nap on that couch after eating a plate over flowing with what is clearly 2-3 serving sizes of food (if I really take the time to read the back of that depressing box with those hateful nutrition facts) watching that episode of Judge Judy from the DVR—–kinda bad, while hitting gym or taking a brisk walk are good. I get…I get it.
Confession: after a stint of doing the right thing for a period of time and reaping some of the rewards, full disclosure, I have that moment of weakness that begins with a quick snack and before long, that little buzz word moderation I’ve been taught to adhere to takes a break. And just when I’m not looking, the dam breaks, and its good bye, “Could I have a grilled chicken wrap, substitute honey mustard instead of ranch and a cup of water,” and hello, “Could I get the bacon whopper, extra cheese with lettuce, tomato no onions, and a fruit punch for the drink, and are the apple pies still 2 for $3?” And just like that, every last piece of that healthy living knowledge goes out the window.
And I’m suddenly again reminded that when those hunger pains go off, I don’t actually want a nice slice of apple, I want some vanilla Oreo cookies. For whatever reason, I seem to have no craving for a nice healthy vitamin enriched smoothie. When I’m starving, for whatever reason, I don’t want a light salad drizzled with a light vinaigrette. When I’m worried or stressed, angry or upset or even happy, I want those foods that I remember having actual flavor.
People keep saying if you can stick to a behavior for 2 weeks it becomes a habit. But what they almost never seem to say is when the craziness of life comes at you all of those original habits that formed your default all find a way of creeping right back in as if they had never left. And those habits for many may be eating junk, but for some they may be smoking, drinking heavily, pessimism, you name it. This one just happens to be mine.
Confession: for the record, yesterday I ate two small bags of Monsanto favored Doritos, some Fat belly flavored cupcakes, some Diabetes Iced tea, a sodium encrusted Jamaican Patty, and later some artery clogging shrimp, sausage and mushroom pasta drizzled with an herb cream sauce, and I topped it off with one of those garlic sticks, you know the kind similar to what they serve at the Olive Garden. Hold on. Can I pause? There is SO much wrong with that list. Even as I go back and read it, I’m like WOW! Now how did that help me with my goal of being at my healthiest self by the age of 40?
Confession: lately I have become what I like to call complacent. I saw a few improvements in my body and health, and when confronting the ups and down of taking on new life challenges and missions, the anxiety caused me to revert right back to my comfort zone of eating without thinking. And like a flood, I once again became suddenly aware that the Billboards in my city advertise the Burger King Chicken sandwiches 2 for $3.00 mix and match, yet never Quinoa and grilled salmon (DISTRACTIONS). Its Bojangles and Wendy’s on the side of the road when I’m starving, and no one is there to say, “Hey don’t eat that, or consider that healthier option instead of BEING DISTRACTED BY what’s in that nice colorful picture beside the menu. In the grocery store, they will never feel the need to hit you with that nice fresh spinach and brown rice display as you entire the store. None of my friends on a Friday or Saturday night want to hang out and go grab some nice “grilled options” or grab bucket of light salad drizzled with olive oil and vinegar at the movies. Nobody sees it as their job to encourage me to do the right thing when it’s not convenient.
Truth is, while it may begin with the knowledge, true change takes time, sacrifice, focus and commitment. It is not the world’s job to care about my health. Stores, restaurants and food producers are concerned with their bottom line, making a profit. L.A. Fitness will never consider a payment option that involves pay as you go, nor will they call or text me if I don’t swing by. They thrive off of bringing in people who will pay them monthly whether they go or not.
No matter what diet, healthy plan, new fitness crave, or latest Dr. Oz supplement that is announced, this journey goes nowhere until you have made the personal decision to choose a better life over the convenience of the moment. And once you’ve made that decision, it’s about being realistic enough to acknowledge that there will be set backs and being able and bold enough to get back in there as many times as it takes to accomplish what you set out to achieve.
So today, I recommit to this effort this challenge of breaking the generational curse by acknowledging that while this transition into a new way of life is tough, I have taught my sons to never run from a challenge and that you can have whatever you want in this world if you are willing to do the work. Today, I accept the adage that old habits die hard, but I challenge myself to simply do better at being their murderer. Today I recommit to mind over matter. Today, I stand on my ability to find my reset button, that most prized and powerful skill that we all possess. Today, I return to my commitment of doing what is right over doing what feels good in the moment. Today, I take full responsibility for my own health, making choices based upon what I KNOW rather than what I see or feel. Today, I recommit to that power within me that is real and does not even bow down and surrender to the most powerful of all beings, that biscuit from Bojangles. Lol.
Today, I choose to get back up.