I went on a bit of a health kick recently. I went the whole nine yards: a diet high in protein, with a calorie deficit, working out with a weight training routine, discipline, hydration, going for a run in the mornings sometimes, everything.
I had dragged myself into the gym and floundered through different workouts until something stuck. I threw out a bunch of junk food until I was left with apples and granola bars, and ate them until I remembered they taste good. And I tried to do it every day. After a couple weeks, a remarkable thing happened: I felt as good as I’ve ever felt in my life.
I felt lighter and brighter. Challenges and obstacles in my life felt less insurmountable. And when I overcame them, it just added to a rolling avalanche of positive momentum and confidence. I couldn’t lose. I felt healthy. I looked good in the mirror. I found myself asking out loud, “it can’t be that easy, right?”
But I didn’t set out in this article to humblebrag about becoming instantly awesome and healthy — as fun as that might be to write. Rather, this is a cautionary tale. Because somehow, for whatever reason, even though the good times were rolling with no sign of stopping…several months later I hopped off that healthy train.
Maybe I got sick and had to take a few days off. Or I got a bit too busy. We’re all gonna have a story and an excuse when it happens to us. All I know is I looked up one day and I had gained 6 pounds. I felt lethargic, and quick to anger or sadness, whichever was closer on the emotional scale that day. I didn’t exercise. I ate the most delicious and horrible foods I could find. And it all felt normal because, well, I had spent years of my life living this way.
But had I not broken through the wall? Seen the heaven that existed on the other side? Why was I back, stuck? That momentum was lost. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get it back.
I was saved by one thing: I had this irrepressible memory of how good I felt during that period. That was the only thing continually pulling me back, urging me to try again. The more I visualized it, the more it felt in reach. I remembered how I had been able to make it happen once before. And so I started again.
So I recommend wholeheartedly that you try to chase that good feeling in your own life. Not to get too high-falutin about it, but the world feels different. You feel inherently happier. Your life is full of possibility. I would compare it to the feeling of having a spectacular full-night’s sleep, but for every process in your body.
And the number one thing you feel is desire. Desire to chase down that feeling, lock it down, and feel it all the time. The best part? It’s possible. And there’s no catch—apart from effort and discipline.
Then, once you have it, keep that memory in your mind for when you need it again.
Here are the three major categories to make sure you keep on point:
Dial in your nutrition
Many experts out there like to espouse the philosophy that everything starts in the kitchen. Want to have visible abs? Start in the kitchen. Want to get better grades in school? Start in the kitchen with brain-boosting omega 3s and leafy greens.
During this period I realized just how true this is.
It was simple calculus: eat something unhealthy, it tastes good, and you feel bad almost instantly. Or eat something healthy, it tastes somewhere between good and bad, and you feel great. And sometimes, the healthy things can actually taste good!
Okay, so it’s not quite that simple, but the basics can take you far. There are things called macronutrients, like protein and carbohydrates, that will help your muscles grow faster and give you energy. Then there are things called micronutrients that can have multitudinous complex effects on your brain, eyes, stomach, hair, skin, nails, you name it.
This is likely not news to any of you. It nearly was for me—as in, I always knew this was how it worked, and those were the names for the categories of nutrients, but I never knew it was this…true. And worked so completely and quickly. And once you’re playing the game with these elements, you’re off to the races. There are untold health advancements you can make in yourself. And guess what—like everything else we’re talking about today, it feels good.
Commit to exercise
As I’ve previously disclaimed, I’m not a kinesiologist and don’t play one on the internet. Listen to your doctors, listen to your trainers. But anecdotally, and as a guy who’s watched a lot of fitness YouTube videos, I can say this: exercise is the equivalent of a magic pill that will improve nearly every aspect of your life. Is that enough to grab your attention?
The positive feedback loop here is a beautiful one. I’ll use the example of weight training. When you’re in the middle of a workout, and immediately after, there’s a rush of blood to the areas you’re working out, making your muscles look bigger. Sure, they have those mirrors all over gyms so that you can check your form. But there’s nothing wrong with checking yourself out too.
You feel good because you look good, and also because you’re being healthy. That feeling, and that pumped-up look you achieved, sticks in your mind as you walk through life. You see a plate of donuts and you choose to abstain, not because you’re starving yourself or making sacrifices, but because you know what will happen if you don’t—you won’t feel or look as good as you do right now.
Then comes the part that blew my mind. As your body works to recover from a workout, over the next hours and even days, the benefits extend: calories are burned, muscles grow and tighten, and weight continues to fall off—at irregular intervals, of course, but steadily. Steady as you work, at least.
Get into a regular routine and the benefits compound. Keep looking in the mirror. Keep liking what you see. And feel good in your body and soul every step of the way.
Do work you’re truly proud of
This is the big one.
I spend a lot of my life trying to puzzle out the problem of how to make my dreams come true. How to make time in my life for measurable, sizable progress on any number of pursuits. How to do all this while maintaining a day job. And while working out. And while having some semblance of balance in my life. (If that refrain sounds familiar, it might be because I started last week’s article in the same way.)
Fitting these pieces together, and motivating yourself to do it, is a whole lot easier if you know what it feels like on the other side of the wall. If you know how good it feels.
The time you completed something before the deadline, got published, got good reviews. The time you aced that exam you were worried about. Or nailed the important presentation about the company’s Q3 earnings report (I’m sorry corporate people, I still don’t really know what it is you do).
For many of us, these moments are frustratingly few and far between. The memories of those triumphs get lost in a sea of memories of banalities and frustrations and everything that happens in the between times. But we have to cling to them.
Because if you remember not only that it’s possible, but replicable, and if you remember how good it feels, like you’re living the life you know you should be; that’s when you can truly set your sights on it and chase it with all your being.
Then, we’ll finally be in right pursuit. One step closer to glory.