I write often about health, fitness, and how best to care for ourselves. It is safe to say that this is my favorite topic and underlies nearly everything that I write and teach. The more I write, teach, and coach, the more I realize that I’m having the same conversation regardless of the specific details. Whether I’m teaching about training and recovery, giving nutritional guidance, or discussing ways to improve sleep quality, everything comes back to a mindful awareness of how you feel. Leading a healthy life, regardless of the type of movement and nutritional practices you ascribe to, is about knowing yourself. Know yourself and love yourself enough to understand how best to “feed” yourself.
Every article I’ve ever written and nearly every coaching method I teach can be distilled to one simple point:
Cultivate Conscious Care
Let every decision come from a place of thoughtful consideration and self-compassion.
While simple, this is not an easy path to follow. It is much easier to find an “expert” or a “solution” to simply follow without a second thought. While these may bring short-term successes, sustainable change comes from seeking a deeper understanding. Use coaches, books, fads, etc for what they can teach you about yourself, rather than a one-stop shop.
Developing the type of internal relationship that informs our self-care requires a deep look at our current modes of operation. We need to ask the hard questions. What patterns, habits, people, influences have I allowed into my life? What types of things do I do without thinking? Have I given away some of my self-sovereignty to autonomous patterns? This type of self-examination is painful but vital to move to a place of informed self-love.
The more honest we are with ourselves the better we can understand the type of influences we need to surround ourselves with. We can also better understand the type of food, movement, habits, practices that we need to “feed” ourselves daily. This is an ongoing process as we seek to understand our self better everyday. Every health and fitness journey is a journey inward.
Do not mistake this to mean that you should stress and scrutinize over every meal you eat or exercise you perform. While a basic knowledge of nutrition, anatomy, and physiology help inform each decision, do not let yourself make a professorial examination, nitpicking details and weighing pros and cons, before acting. Scrutinizing the science and using logic over self-compassion only adds stress regardless of the way we decide to act. We either follow the reasoned path and make a “good” decision only to feel deprived or restricted because we did not follow your heart. Reciprocally when we throw logic to the wind and make a “bad” decision our logical sense returns to shames us into feelings of guilt or weakness. Acting out of obligation rather than desire is not a sustainable way to stay on a healthy path.
I realize that the “follow your heart” advice, while not only cliche, can be construed in a way that leads to many unhealthy decisions. I argue that the person who over-indulges on dough nuts to the point of obesity and the person who over-indulges on working out to the point of injury, chronic fatigue, or dysfunction are both out of touch with how best to care for themselves. Whether it led them to the dough nut shop or the gym everyday, they both followed their heart, right?
It is not about simply doing what you feel like all the time. In the moment this might seem right because it brings momentary pleasure. If we are truly honest with ourself we later find these were not our healthiest decisions. Our dough nut fiend probably does not consciously decide to eat one each day and operates on an automatic pattern. He likely has no idea what it feels like to be free of the insulin spike following his favorite treat. Our workout addict pushes herself to workout beyond the point of benefit. She is likely motivated by perceived obligation and the feelings of guilt and sloth brought on by abstaining. Both individuals would benefit by seeking to understand what they truly need in the moment and inserting a little sliver of conscious self-reflection and awareness before they act.
I absolutely love to teach, connect people with their bodies and their health, and guide them to the positive changes they seek. The more I coach and teach the more I realize the fragility of this pursuit. I do not mean to say that fitness and health coaching is pointless, far from it. I simply mean that for people to fully realize their goals they must cultivate a deep relationship with themselves and a strong sense of self-reliance. My coaching aims to connect you with yourself and give you the knowledge and understanding to lead a healthy path independently. I will walk with as long as you like to provide support, accountability, and structure. While my ultimate goal is to make myself obsolete this is not criteria for success. Many desire long-term coaching for the structure and partnership it provides to their journey. This should never be seen as failure or weakness, simply as the desire for a companion on the path. I would love to increase my automotive knowledge to no longer need my mechanic but I yield that there are simply too many field in which to specialize. I trust my car to his expert knowledge as many trust their health to an expert coach. Use a coach a guide and an expert to craft the details of your program. Seek to understand how different influences and behaviors make you feel and know that the ultimate power of your well-being lays only with you.
There is no quick fix, magic bullet, or golden rule. Only those who realize that no such solution exists achieve and sustain healthy changes. They understand that it is not about simply doing what a coach or teacher tells them, but about using the coaches guidance to discover to how best to care for themselves.
You can unlock your own perfect path. As the old adage tells us, “Know Thy Self.” Or if you are a sucker for alliteration like me:
Cultivate Conscious Care.