Okay, so if you’re like most struggling-to-stay-in-shape over-40-somethings, the last thing you want to hear from anyone, much less me, is a lecture on DISCIPLINE. Discipline, you say? WTF! Who wants that?
Hell no; discipline is for boring people, goddamn it. Boring is definitely not you! You’re a free spirit and you do exactly as you please. Besides, there must be a cheat, mustn’t there? C’mon, isn’t there a secret formula, an anyone-can-do-it system that will magically anoint us with the glowing, healthy body we’ve always dreamed of?
Well, I have bad news for everyone. And some good news. But mostly bad news. Because there is no effing secret formula. How do I know this? Well, because I’ve done tons of research to learn what others are doing successfully and I’ve put it all to the test on myself. And I can confidently report that there is one thing, but only one thing, that works without fail every flippin’ time.
It’s bloody discipline. Specifically, it’s SELF-discipline. A modified approach to your daily life that has definite boundaries and isn’t always comfortable. Again, there is absolutely no shortcut, no cheat sheet, no machine you can just hook up to that magically jiggles your belly into a six-pack while you sleep (confession: I actually bought into that idea once. With cash).
How Badly Do You Want It?
So here’s the deal. All it really takes to be fit and healthy forever is a sustained, regulated approach to how you live each day. It involves eating much less and sweating much more. And this isn’t easy; it’s hard. It takes commitment. And sacrifice. And perhaps even some pain, especially at the beginning.
But the harsh truth is simply this: you won’t make any real progress in your journey to glowing fitness unless you apply a serious amount of discipline to every area of your life. It is only a structured and deliberate lifestyle change that can truly transform the way you look and feel forever.
And in order to be successful, you must really really want it more than anything else, and you must be prepared to do what needs to be done to make it happen for yourself.
Growing Old Ain’t For Sissies
If you’re already over 40 and not too happy with your weight and health in general, you can’t get started soon enough. Because the older we get, the more difficult changing our modus operandi becomes.
You’ve probably noticed too that your body simply does not function the way it used to. Hamburgers and french fries now = heartburn and bulky stomach, and although you may diligently exercise 2-3 times a week, you’re still waiting to reveal the ripped muscle tone you keep hoping will show up.
In fact, you’re might even be dealing with fluctuating weight, mood swings, blotchy skin, intermittent stomach problems, and a general malaise as you hover around the crossroads of midlife.
But this was not how you imagined your life would turn out, was it? Admit it; you thought you’d be the one to break the mold and effortlessly look like 35 for the rest of eternity.
You Can Do This
Well, I feel it for you. Getting older sucks. And working out and eating healthy is a bit of a bore. But aging is inevitable and hanging on to your youth as long as possible starts with pure food and rigorous exercise. There just ain’t no way around it.
Most people I know love looking good; it makes them feel great about themselves. Once you realize how good you can look and feel just by applying a bit of discipline to your everyday life, it might not seem like much of a sacrifice after all.
In fact, it really isn’t that bad when you get the hang of it. Once you’ve reprogrammed your mind to embrace this new approach to food and fitness, your chickpea salad will taste better than steak and you’ll bounce out of bed in the mornings, eager to get your sweat on. I swear it on my mother.
You just have to get past the hardest part, which is to just get started. Then momentum, along with dogged determination, will keep you going from there. And when people regularly start telling you that you look 10 years younger than you used to or that you’re glowing like a light bulb, you’ll be totally hooked (if it’s also healthy then it’s not shallow :-).
Nuts and Bolts
Now I’m pretty sure most people trying to lose weight, get fit and feel healthy aren’t interested in becoming expert nutritionists or fitness trainers. Why should they? They want results, not a second education. They just want to know what to do and when, and they’d like someone to spell it out for them.
That said, I don’t a thing about counting calories or which free weights are used for what, but trust me, you don’t need to know either. You don’t need to read statistics on heart health or guides on how to keep track of fat grams. I don’t believe that is necessary at all, plus it’s a pain in the ass.
I am, however, going to tell you in the simplest of terms what needs to happen and what you’ll need to do. Are you ready? This is the beginning of the beginning of your new approach to life.
Making It Happen
So the key ideas to remember are these (besides eating smaller portions and exercising more):
- Adopt a whole new approach to food. A plant-based diet is essential to optimal health; processed foods (anything in packaging) is not. Eat lots of fresh fruits and raw vegetables but skip the sugar, dairy, bread and pasta. Oh, and that goes for alcohol too (so sorry, but see number 8 below).
- You’ll need to develop a firm mindset; know that you want to be in shape and live healthily and why. You must hold a specific belief about it and apply that particular philosophy to every moment.
- Create a specific meal plan and workout routine, make the necessary preparations and follow through consistently.
- Don’t smoke. It clogs your lungs, gives you circles under your eyes and drains your energy.
- Make a concrete agenda that literally spells out your daily meals and workout times.
- Be prepared to go it alone and to hold firm to your commitments, irrespective of what everyone else around you is or isn’t doing.
- Most importantly – and this is where your discipline will repeatedly be put to the test – you must want health and fitness so bad that you’re prepared to stay the course every day for the rest of your life.
- That needs repeating: you must want it BAD. You have to want it so much more than the large slice of chocolate cake sitting on your family’s kitchen counter, or the oh-so-warm-and-cozy feel of your sheets when your alarm goes off at 5am for exercise, or the 3rd glass of whatever-that-was-with-alcohol all your friends are having.
- Tiny cheats are allowed. Very tiny. That means the very occasional peg of chocolate or minuscule sliver of your favorite cake. Go ahead and treat yourself in moderation when you feel you deserve it and can handle it. Then compensate accordingly.
- Last but not least –work on getting your thoughts and emotions in order. Happiness is absolutely key to any measure of success, but besides that, the happier you are is the more you’ll enjoy the very life you’re extending.
Don’t put it off another minute. The time has come for you to physically prepare and to mentally commit, to think ahead and to schedule your life accordingly. All you really need to do is to show up and do the work. Don’t just tell yourself that you HAVE to go to the gym or that you HAVE to make better food choices; it simply won’t work that way. Set goals, make concrete plans, focus on the process and the results will naturally follow. Don’t focus on the results!
I’d love to hear your additional recommendations for success in applying the self-discipline needed to create and sustain a healthy body after 40. Please share your thoughts!