Find your Spark
Health and fitness begin with a single change. As Dante Alighieri said, “A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark” is how I’ve always looked at health and longevity. Although this can be applied to almost anything to create change I’ve always found it largely beneficial when talking about health. The reason for this is that health is hard. Our busy lifestyles continuously push us towards making choices that are quick and easy. Like grabbing a bag of chips over making a salad, or watching a good television series over doing a half hour workout. For many of us our lives consist of working longer hours, eating faster meals, and getting less than adequate or quality sleep. The problem becomes worse for individuals who struggle mentally with jobs they hate, broken homes, or gaps of unhappiness that they try to fill with food, alcohol, drugs, or other things to detach themselves from the struggle they face. I’ve been there, but I’m here today to tell you that healthy choices and healthy lifestyles are not some far off dream you see in fitness magazines. They are not only for those who have the freedom to focus on such because of time and money but can be obtained and maintained by anyone of us. The choice is ours and it begins by making one small change. One easy change that you can become consistent with over a long period of time. For me that has always been exercise, for my wife it was giving up sugary fruit juices.
Exercise has always been easier for me than diet. Through the grace of God and genetic pairing of my parents’ DNA I’ve been fortunate enough to call myself an athletic individual. I’ve always had a passion for activity and was born with a competitive edge so I picked up on all sports fairly quickly. My competitiveness was only exasperated by being born late in December and placed in school with boys that had as much as a year of growth and development over me. I truly feel that being the youngest in my class pushed me to grow, strengthen my body, and develop my mind to compete. Further to this I was the youngest in my family with a controlling sister who was only one year my elder. We fought more often than two alley cats, over territory, affection, toys, and attention. The one thing we never had to fight over was food and my mother being the exquisite chef she was would feed us as much as our stomachs could handle. I took advantage of this and was awarded with growth spurts that allowed me to become taller and stronger than anyone pictured on our family tree.
Now obviously you’re not just born with a passion to exercise but being involved in sports and being competitive will eventually lead you to seek out ways to improve athletically. My father bought me my first weight set when I reached grade six and I would do twenty minutes of some form of exercise every morning before school. Being Canadian, most of my workouts focused around improving my hockey game. I would do squats because I felt my legs were skinny, I would shoot fifty hockey pucks at a piece of tape on the wall to score more goals, followed by four sets of wrist curls to strengthen my forearms. It wasn’t until I grew a passion for martial arts that my workouts changed. After that they remained fairly repetitive until I got older where I turned my workouts towards increasing longevity and functional movement. My exercise goals today are quite different from my goals ten, twenty and thirty years ago, but the importance of it seems greater. Not just exercise challenges me today. Today I also have the challenge so many of us face, diet. I know longer have the metabolism I did when I was fifteen and I have acquired an appetite that seems insatiable. Now instead of my mother trying to keep me from running from the table to make a game of football in the park or bike ride with a friend, she can place as much food in front of me and I will continue to eat until she stops bringing it. What’s worse is that my mother loves to see her children eat and I love to bring my mother joy. Thankfully I have a very supportive wife who knows what my goals are as well as recognizes my weaknesses. She also has exercise and diet goals that are very similar to mine which makes my diet much easier to manage. It also helps that she does ninety percent of the cooking. I still struggle however which is why I still live by the mantra of making and keeping small changes. My exercise over the years has led me to many small changes. For example, I used to drink gallons of two percent milk until my family changed to one percent. In university my roommate and I changed that to skim milk. Today I can’t even drink a glass of two percent milk as it tastes like cream. My wife and I don’t even buy milk anymore other than for a little bit of cooking she might do with it and even that has changed to using mostly almond milk. I can’t even remember the last time I bought a piece of white bread and pasta which was a weekly staple in my diet. Now it doesn’t even exist in our pantry. Do I still eat pasta? Of course, but I no longer crave or seek it out. I don’t know why but I seem to lack the desire to anymore. Changes like this have made maintaining my health and weight much easier as I creep toward being an older man. Who am I kidding, I’m already there but this doesn’t mean I have to act or feel like one. I know changes like this or other ones I’ve made can help you as well. I’ve seen this happen in so many individuals like us and I see very few reasons why it can’t work for anyone.
My promise to you is that one small change will lead to another. Over time those small changes become big changes and eventually you’ll call them life changes. It’s at this point others will notice the difference. You on the other hand will likely forget when this transformation took place. However, you will most definitely remember why you made the transition. I can give you lists and lists of healthy ideas but they are really meaningless to you. You need to decide and make that small change yourself. You know which one it is or which one you should begin with and you certainly don’t need anyone to tell you. Just start! Make that tiny transition that will begin a chain of events towards a goal you want to achieve. If I can give you any advice, it’s to not make big changes. Don’t set yourself up for failure, cravings, anger or disappointment. Make one small, manageable change and watch things unfold. I also love hearing about transformations so don’t hesitate to let me know the change or changes you’ve made. I’ve learnt that it’s much easier to make changes last by sharing them with others. In my next blog I want to share with you how inspiring it is to hear or watch someone else make changes that improve their health and longevity. It’s these stories that often push myself to continue making transformations to a happier and healthier life.