Sipping my coffee and looking over the dozens of e-mails from successful clients this past Tuesday morning, one caught my attention immediately. A regular client's subject line, a bolded cry for help: "YOU MUST HELP THIS MAN!" I opened the message and the note was repeated, with a link to an interview where Gov. Chris Christie discussed his battle with weight--a battle I'm very familiar with.
Reading a transcript of the interview, I heard a man hurting, trying desperately to find a solution to something he's dealt with his entire life--a problem that is non-partisan, non-sectarian, and pervasive in all races--obesity. Ironically, just last week, 74-year-old Governor Jerry Brown of California has officially issued a three mile race challenge to the 51-year-old New Jersey Governor, saying that he's not making fun of his weight, but rather proving a point. While I feel it's terribly inappropriate to leverage a person's weight in the political arena, I'm offering the Governor a positive strategy to take charge of his own health to become an inspiration to millions of Americans.
I know what his situation is like all too well as a person who has been there myself!
For many people who reach a morbidly obese state, hope left long ago. I can empathize. Growing up in a tough blue-collar environment, trying to get through school as a bullied 360-pound teen, I almost lost hope too. And it wasn't for lack of knowledge of diet or exercise plans. Somehow the knowledge did not translate into success.
Eventually, I found the missing link, lost 160 pounds of fat and have now helped thousands of others to as well.
I imagine Gov. Christie feels the same way the majority of clients who first come into my office feel: that their situation is so far gone it's a lost cause. In a recent interview, Christie tries to explain just how much his weight 'feels' out of his control to him, saying: "...the best analogy I can make is that some people drink too much. Some people take drugs. Some people eat too much. But you can go live every day without drinking. You can live every day without taking drugs. You can't live every day without eating."
It's not the first time I've heard this. I understand how a person could feel this way, but must politely disagree. First off, the statement is not exactly true. Just as we all must eat every day to live, alcoholics must drink every day to live; they just can't drink alcohol. The alcoholic must also face the chemical component of addiction--one that science doesn't yet show exists with regard to unhealthy food. To succeed, the alcoholic has to realize they must reinterpret what alcohol means to them. The person struggling with food issues needs to master their mindset first and foremost and learn how to control food so it doesn't control them. That could mean he or she must completely avoid certain foods, just as the alcoholic avoids certain drinks.
The governor went on to add that being busy makes eating properly more difficult: "...with running around all the time and grabbing things on the go."
Schedules are difficult--I get it. One thing we all have in common is the amount of time we get in a day. I could easily have used any number of excuses to stay obese. Almost everyone in my family was overweight, substance abuse was all around me, and there were plenty of articles pushing the idea of a "fat" gene. I grew up in a tough environment. When I was in school I also worked and was a member of the band, making fast food an easy choice. My family pushed junk food on me to make me feel better. But buying into these excuses would not have got me where I wanted to be.
The bottom line is that we all do what we have to do when it's important enough to do it. Sounds simple, I know, but it's a profound truth. True and lasting change requires honesty with oneself. I think as a nation we must raise our standards on our lives and take personal responsibility for the challenges we each face. My grandmother would always say, "Take care of the corners and the middle of the floor takes care of itself."
The results of doing what's necessary in order to achieve the desired result are evident in the recent transformation of Senator Claire McCaskill, who lost 50 pounds and is keeping it off despite busily running for re-election at present in a heated race. She certainly could find reasons to drop the ball and eat out of convenience, yet she makes her healthy food habits and exercise as basic as hygiene--a practice I teach. We also see how much change is possible with the example President Clinton has set. He changed his habits and got healthy when he realized the detriment his habits were having on him, physically and emotionally.
Despite the obvious need Governor Christie has, he said in the interview that he's still healthy: "My blood pressure's fine, my cholesterol is fine," Christie said. "I'm in good physical shape in terms of those indicators. But I have to lose weight and I get it." It's not fair of me to say the Governor will get sick; I'm not God. But the statistics are against him. This type of statement is something I hear dozens of times each week from folks meeting me. I encourage those who are overweight but clinically "healthy" to ask themselves an important question: "Where will I be with an additional 10, 20 or 30 pounds of fat on my body if I continue as I have been?" How long do they believe their health can hold up considering the weight of the problem? (No pun intended.)
Sometimes people won't change for themselves for deep reasons. Focusing on the impact the loss of one's health--or life--would have on their children, family, and friends can jar many into action. Some people are brought to my office only when a loved one is struck with terminal illness, or a best friend their age is found on the floor after a massive heart attack. These occurrences jolt them into action. In other words, only when we realize the fragility of the truly miraculous gift of life do we wake up.
So what's the answer? The first positive step is to get real. Drop the excuses. One of the biggest problems a fat, successful person has is that "excuses" can seem legitimate in their mind.
In the cases of all those I've helped to lose 100lbs, sometimes even over 200lbs, this is critical. You have to take the kid gloves off with yourself at some point.
Michael Brangle, one of my clients who recently lost over 150lbs, had great insight saying, "I tell myself I act my way into thinking, I don't think my way into acting!" So many people ruminate in indecision and over analysis. You have to take action. In truth, the only reason I was unhealthy, and Gov. Christie is unhealthy - and maybe you're unhealthy - is the choices we've made, or perhaps better said, the excuses we've made. I know this sounds cold but it's with the deepest respect for the person who's overweight and struggling that I say this as I've been there myself!
Part of the problem is that we're just too damn smart. Our brains have evolved to throw out all sorts of "legitimate" reasons for their situations: My family is overweight, it's my genetics, I am too busy to change my habits, it's too expensive to eat well ... the list goes on and on. Change can only occur when a person truly believes--and feels-- that change is urgently necessary. Something was missing for me, part of which was personal responsibility. I found it, developed a system that changed my life and I'm certain it can change Gov. Christie life when he's ready. Change is always possible when you don't give yourself any other alternative. With a strategic plan that gives a person hope and momentum, anything is possible.
Once you've accepted responsibility you've given yourself the ultimate gift--true control--the power to change. Since you initiated the problem, you can and will be the solution! After you take charge, decide what you want for your life and the reasons you have for making the choice to change your ways. The second step is totally disconnecting from the unhealthy behaviors by setting up a consistent pattern of nutritive eating to replace them--one that keeps you satiated but removes the day-to-day guesswork and planning--immediately and entirely. Taking the choices out ahead of time is like telling your bank to pull a percentage for savings from your paycheck before you see the money; if you don't see the money, you don't spend it. The same can be said for food: when the choices are made ahead of time, your risk of failing practically disappears. Make sure your goals are clearly defined and the reasons underlying the need to change have been addressed so you keep with your pattern after reaching your goals. This is the start of lasting change.
When I weighed 360 pounds as a teen, I realized it wasn't lack of knowledge or accessibility that was my problem. There were gyms on every corner, and more diet plans available than you could count, along with teary eyed people throwing themselves at me begging me to change. It wasn't until I made the decision that I would no longer live such an unfulfilling life that change happened. I took charge. You can only fool yourself so long until you are forced into change, or as a worst-case scenario, until you start to believe the evil lie you've been telling yourself, that you cannot change. We all could be kings and queens of excuses, but that does not get us where we want to be. When I realized my destiny was mine for the making, for better or for worse, I decided to make it for the better, for me and for others. God has given you a gift--the gift of life. Make the most of it each and every day. You can make your life an example for others, not a warning and ultimately, you can take Governor Brown up on his challenge. I am certain that you can reclaim your health like me and the thousands of others have who've lost hundreds of pounds proving to yourself that nothing is impossible with the right mindset. I hope you tap into your potential and reclaim the destiny that's yours!