Thursday, March 19, 2009

To Get Into Your Desired Shape, Take 100% Responsibility

"You have to take 100% responsibility for your life," teaches Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup series. We understand this to be true for many areas of our lives, but many of us neglect this for our physical fitness.

If your finances are not where you want it to be, those who are financially successful know that you can only turn things around by first taking 100% responsibility. You can think (incorrectly) that everyone who is financially successful are trust fund babies or just plain lucky. But you will never become financially successful if you think that way. If you are a student and your grades are not where you want them to be, the academically successful students will tell you that you have to take 100% responsibility and figure out how to improve your study habits, time management, and brain power.

I think everyone who has the most basic common sense is with me so far. However, the same concept also applies to your physical state. Are you not as skinny as you like? Are you not as muscular as you like? Are you not as fast or agile as you like? If your physical fitness is not where you want it to be, you must begin with taking 100% responsibility for you physical state. You will never turn things around if you think - I'm overweight only because of my bad genes and there's nothing I can do to change that. You will never turn things around if you think - I am overweight because my husband/my wife/my sister/my brother/my mother/my father tempts me with all these unhealthy foods and snacks. Many people start with the belief (conscious or subconscious) that they are not in control. Therefore, they doom themselves to fail from the beginning.

At the college (where I spend part of my time teaching students how to write and tutoring students in health), one of my overweight colleagues there once said to me, "I am jealous of you. You could eat anything and not gain weight." Annie (not her real name of course) neglects to observe the difference in our eating habits. Although I've only known her for two years, I do notice differences such as my drinking of black coffee without adding any sugar, cream, or anything. She adds lots of sugar and cream to her coffee. I usually eat oatmeal snacks throughout the day which make others around me cringe. She eats more fattening snacks. Annie chooses (probably subconsciously) to ignore these differences in habits, because it's easier to think that she is overweight only because of her genes, and I am in shape because I am "lucky".

As Annie doesn't really know me at a personal level, she doesn't see me when I am at the gym two to four times per week. Although other colleagues know this, Annie chooses not to remember this about me. It's easier for her to think that I am in shape because I am "lucky".

Again, Annie only has only known me for two years. She didn't know me eight years ago when I was almost 20 pounds heavier and had approximately 10% more body fat than I do now. I also had less lean muscle because of a more sedentary lifestyle working comfortably at a research lab and living comfortably in suburban California where I drove everywhere, rarely having to take more than twenty steps. It doesn't help that the men in my family (such as my father) generally start to balloon up, or gain significant weight, in their thirties. That's the trend with the men in my family, but I started to balloon up in my twenties probably because of the suburban lifestyle factor (until I consciously decided to turn things around).

Annie also didn't know me when I began to turn things around in 2002 by improving my eating habits and exercising habits. I was working out at the fitness center twice a week in addition to practicing San Shou (combination of kickboxing, wrestling, and Judo throws) twice a week. On top of that, I bought a bicycle and I began to bike everywhere I can, instead of driving. If Annie's thinking is right, I guess all these activities have nothing to do with me getting in shape. According to her, I am in shape because of "luck" and genes.

Annie also didn't know me in 2004 when I could not exercise for ten months because of having 5 surgeries spread out over almost a year. I couldn't exercise after each surgery. Before I would completely recover, I am back in the surgery room. Naturally, I got fatter. I guess I was "lucky" to be thrown off track during that year. If Annie's right, I was "lucky" to have to restart my fitness efforts all over again after that miserable year.

The advantages that Annie thinks I have are erroneous. However, I do have some advantages that Annie does not speak of. I have the advantage of being more knowledgeable than most in nutrition, fitness, and health. More importantly, I have the advantage of having a good understanding of the spirit, mind, and body connection. However, these advantages all result from conscious choices, right thinking, effort, learning, and gradual progress over time.

In order to obtain your desired physically fit state, the first step is to take 100% responsibility. Don't blame your genes. Don't blame your environment. Don't blame your mother. Don't blame your partner. Even if some of these factors may have contributed to the extra ten inches around your waist, thinking that way will only hinder you. Only when you stop blaming outwardly (looking out the window) and start to seek changes from within (looking in the mirror) will you have any chance of getting fit, slim, muscular, or whatever body type you want to be. This is true for fitness as well as other areas of your life.

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