Elevating my Fitness Targets – Starting with Why
At the end of this month, I’ll have been at my personal target weight of less than 200 pounds for 10 months. I’ve continued to be plant-based for over a year now, which remains my primary tool for keeping the weight off, and I remain wholly satisfied in the lifestyle. I no longer feel the need to do fasting days, although I have used them on occasion to self-correct and reset my palette after vacations or other events which, while still completely plant-based, may not have been as healthy as I would have liked.
Recently, I am considering the idea of taking my fitness to the next level. Namely, aiming for not just a “slimmer” body, but an athletic one. I am writing this article to explore the why. You see, all my reasons why I wanted to lose weight initially centered around the very real probability that I was eating myself to an early grave. Today, with my weight back in check, total cholesterol less than 130 mg/dL, great blood pressure, normal triglycerides, and other favorable metrics I find that my previous “why” motivators don’t hold the same sway. Barring any serious accidents, I feel confident in my ability to meet my grandchildren, be there for my daughter’s wedding, and see both kids grow into the healthy balanced adults that we’re attempting to raise.
So, why raise the bar on my health and fitness? Can’t I just be happy with my current level of fitness? Don’t get me wrong… After where I was, I am extremely happy with my current level of fitness. I feel like I have a new lease on life, a new body, and a new mind. But I also have a vision for getting even better in the future. My happiness isn’t tied to achieving that new goal or vision. It’s tied to where I am today, and all the multitude of things to be grateful for about where I am right now. This has been one of many key learnings from Vishen Lakhiani’s book, Code of the Extraordinary Mind — our happiness should not be tied solely to the achievement of our goals, or we’ll never be happy. At best, people who tie their happiness to the achievement of their goals only experience happiness in brief glimpses throughout life. Our happiness needs to lie in the present, and from that base, we can joyfully pursue our visions of the future. Lakhiani calls this balance of happiness in the present combined with a vision for the future a state of flow. I call it living for the journey and not the destination.
As I examine my vision of an athletic body, I first want to be more specific about what that means. I’m not looking to win body-building contests or anything like that, but my vision for an athletic body includes enhancing the muscle tone in my legs, arms, chest, shoulders and back and decreasing my overall body fat percentage to somewhere in the “athletic” range (6%-13% for men). Currently, I’ve found consistent balance with my current lifestyle sitting squarely in the middle of the “average” range at ~21% body fat.
To kick off this process, I need to find, develop, and adopt new reasons why. Later, I will turn those reasons into visualizations, imbued with as much detail and emotion as I possibly can (perhaps a future article). At the time of this writing, I don’t yet know exactly how (or when) I’ll achieve my vision, but “how” doesn’t matter right now. Let’s begin with the why:
Reason 1: For my spouse. Don’t misunderstand… my wife has made it abundantly clear to me that she’s happy with where I am, and never remotely hinted that she wants me to improve from here. I don’t care. I don’t simply want to make her “happy”, I want to delight her; to give her something she never thought to ask for. She married me when I was almost 260 pounds, and has been with me through thick and… well… thicker… in my winding road to better health. She deserves the very best husband I can be for her in the best form possible. I think of it as a gift which she never asked for, but that only I can give; a gift which takes time, effort, thought, and discipline.
Reason 2: To experience something I’ve never felt in my adult life: going swimming or being in public with no shirt and no shame. For those of you who watched and went through the “Three most important questions” exercise mentioned in my main article, this statement landed as one of my answers to the first question of what experiences I want in this life. The line, “No shirt and no shame” came seemingly out of nowhere… I never truly realized that it was something I wanted to strive for, but after thinking about it more, I realized how much it would mean to me to experience that.
Reason 3: To break out of “average”. At 5’ 11” and in the mid-190’s for weight, I’m at roughly 21% body fat the last time it was measured a couple months back. As I wrote above, that’s squarely in the “average” range per Wikipedia. Compared to where I was at nearly 300 pounds and who knows what % body fat, this is a huge win, and I am extremely grateful about it. However, I’ve never been satisfied with average. Why start embracing mediocrity now? And why be okay with “average” in such an important area of my life?
Reason 4: To be a living example for my kids (and their kids). My kids are the lights of my life, and what better life lesson can I give them than to be a living example of healthy habits? I’ve already begun by including them where I can, from developing my favorite weight-bearing exercise with them (which I call the overhead kid press), to including them in my daily pushup ritual (they love to ride on my back), to giving them a taste for healthy foods from a young age. I can take that to the next level by giving them a solid picture of what athletic-level health looks like, feels like, and what it entails.
Reason 5: To look the part when interacting with audiences and readers. As I imagine being on stage in front of hundreds of people to share my story or experiences, I want to project authentic health and vitality with my very presence. Yes, I am blatantly using you, dear readers and audience members… even though I may never meet some of you in person. As an aside, your personal notes and private emails regarding this site have already meant a great deal. Also, feel free to leave your thoughts, encouragement, or even skepticism in the comments section below. All of which can help fuel my resolve, whether it comes in the form of feeling your support or committing to prove you skeptics wrong.
Reason 6: To rebuild and repair my bones. I spent years filling my body with copious amounts of diet soda every single day. My meals were primarily meat and junk food. I found out later that diet soda and other acidic foods (including meat and dairy products) can ultimately cause calcium to be leeched from our bones as our body seeks to restore healthy pH levels by releasing calcium (an alkaline substance) to counteract the acids. Where does the calcium go from there? It gets filtered out by the kidneys (which isn’t great on them either), and ultimately ends up in the urine. So, since I was a teenager until about a year ago, I’ve essentially been peeing out my bones. Great. What can restore them? Healthy calcium-rich foods (like greens, broccoli, and other vegetables), and weight-bearing exercise.
Reason 7: To recapture youth, and retain it as long as possible. Muscle tone is a key factor in age-related decline, and avoiding frailty. If I set my life habits correctly now, I can build a good base, and retain good muscle tone well into my golden years. If I have grandchildren in my (hopefully far-distant) future, I want to be a grandpa that plays kickball with the grandkids, carries them on his back, and runs with them in a game of tag.
Reason 8: To be yet another example proving that a plant-based diet can drive peak athletic performance. Granted, there are already far better examples of vegan athletes than I will ever be… athletes like the Williams twins, who’ve dominated the tennis scene for years and went vegan together in 2011, David Carter, a 300+ pound NFL defensive lineman, Patrik Baboumian, a top strongman competitor from Germany, or Rich Roll, a top ultra-endurance athlete (among many others). I don’t have the drive to compete at the level of any of those individuals, but I can still be an example of how a plant-based diet can fuel athletic-level performance.
Reason 9: To keep moving in a positive direction. In business, a company is either growing or declining – there is no middle ground, and the only constant is change. I feel the same way about health. It’s a fallacy that we can somehow reach a point where we can relax and expect things to stay the same forever. The best we can do is create systems and habits to keep moving forward and plans to correct if things begin to move the opposite way.
I could keep going but these nine points sum up the core of my why. Next, I’ll explore how I can turn some or all of them into more powerful visualizations, which is a topic for a different article.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to write me privately or in the comments section below if you have any words of wisdom, support, commiseration, or positivity as I begin this journey.