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Here at 24Life, we like to muscle up on what matters. We’re not at all timid about bringing your attention to what is holding you back or what that last vestige of self-doubt and self-sabotage is doing to your goals. And yes, we are the first to call out the fact that those New Year’s resolutions are not going to get up and go unless you get up and go after them.
Good news, though. That’s what March is really all about: channeling the stored-up energy of desire and transforming it into action that jump-starts results. Our March issue is intended to recharge your ambition, and just in time. From the ongoing #metoo conversations to an empowering focus on National Women’s History Month to a renewed national dialogue about social responsibility and activism, we are beginning to understand how each individual stepping up to his or her fullest potential serves the collective—and how we all prosper together.
The March issue of 24Life is packed with incredible wisdom of people who train hard, step up and step out—from Lewis Howes, who strips away the mask of masculinity, to the up-and-coming stars of women’s professional boxing who turn around and lend others a hand. Our medicine-ball workout helps fit a total-body sweat session into crazy-busy schedules, and a lower-body mobility workout will keep you running smoothly—wherever your chase may take you. We take a fresh look at protein—and with this Editor’s Challenge, three actions to find what truly sustains you and will keep you on the path you set just 60 days ago.
In order to muscle up, you have to properly nourish yourself. In January, we challenged you to feed your life with better eating—crowding out bad choices with good ones like more greens and more water and introducing healthy gut bacteria that add value to your health. We heard from many of you that you need more guidance around what to eat and when. So this month, we challenge you to feed your health with conscious, intentional eating.
If you want to feel good energy in your life, you have to create holistic and easy-to-follow systems for keeping your energy positive—especially when you have to bridge the gap between stimulation and response with clarity, courage and confidence. In that gap lies your power—the power of the pause, the space to make a different, strategic choice. It sounds overly simple, but it is profound—and how you get there is the practice. Our challenge to you this month is fourfold:
- Reinforce what is working.
- Ask better questions.
- Turn the soil.
- Ask for help.
Reinforce what is working
Things aren’t that bad. We tend to over-generalize, including about our habits—good and bad. The more aware of details you are, the more strategic you can be about your choices. Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” (Hay House, 2013), says that in order to make measurable changes in any area of life, we need to demystify our behavior and be transparent about what we are doing—and, more important, why or why not.
Dispenza says that wants and desires come from lacking something or someone somewhere, someplace and sometime. When we can honor that while at the same time acknowledging another, more positive behavior, we get closer to a zero-judgment space where we have the power to create a new choice. It doesn’t take a ton of effort or willpower; it takes a positive disruption. So what can you do that makes you feel good, more like you, each day or moment?
- Tip: Manage your mindset around healthy food choices with an “if” or “when” trigger. For example, when you sit down at your desk to work, you drink 8 ounces of water. When you start to prepare food, you listen to a motivational tape. When it’s 7 p.m., you finish your last meal for the day.
Ask better questions
Half of the solution is simply understanding the problem. This means asking the hard questions and then waiting for an answer. Many of our behaviors around food and other primal experiences stem from consciousness that served us in the past but is no longer relevant. Buddhist teacher Tsultrim Allione, author and founder of the Tara Mandala community and retreat center, refers to these patterns of behavior as our demons and suggests that we have to feed the demons. “A demon is anything which hinders liberation … [such as] our present preoccupations, the issues in our lives blocking our experience of freedom,” she explains. “They can serve as our greatest wake-up call for growth, if properly engaged.”
We feed our demons by understanding what it is that they are seeking and becoming aware of the sensations they bring, good or bad. She teaches a five-step process that begins with breath work, intention and motivation practices. Being able to access your wisest self takes practice and skill and changes everything.
Tip: Train yourself to take nine breaths of mindfulness as a pause before you consume any food. With each breath, get closer to looking at the real reason that you want to eat. As you take the last breath, if you are still hungry, then enjoy eating fully and without judgment.
Tip: If you’re moved to try them, here are the five steps to feed the demon.
- Find the Demon: Decide what you want to work on and locate where it sits in your body. Observe the demon in your body in all its intensity. Perhaps you wish to address your impulse to eat. Through your awareness, you’ll notice the intensity of that impulse is sitting in your solar plexus.
- Personify the Demon: Ask it what it needs and how you will feel if the demon gets what it needs. Instead of trying to suppress the sensations, allow them to expand you, give them a name and explore communicating to find their center.
- Become the Demon: Find and understand its underlying needs and what is behind them. What is the root of its compulsion? Where did it originate, and why is it showing up in your relationship with food?
- Feed the Demon and Meet Its Ally: Understand how the demon can protect you and help you as you move forward. When you can finally name what it is that is eating you, you begin the process of integration and healing.
- Rest in Awareness: Simply allow yourself to be present in the moment and tap your inner resources. Awareness remains the greatest asset we have for making progress in our lives, and it is your single most valuable tool to disrupt any unconscious eating behavior.
Turn the soil
Sometimes we just need to disrupt our habits in order to make room for new experiences and ways of being. Changing your routine each day can feel overwhelming and often discouraging. Instead, try dating your new habit in a set period of time. For example, if you are considering adding more plants and vegetables to your diet, consider #meatlessmonday: On Mondays in March, refrain from eating any animal products throughout the day. The first couple of Mondays will be tricky as you become aware of the ingredients of the foods that you consume, but over time, you might find it’s a way to get creative and explore a variety of new foods and tastes to enjoy all month (and hopefully beyond!).
Tip: A successful Monday starts with a productive setup session on Sunday. One of the simplest and most effective approaches is Kathy Kaehler’s three-step Sunday Set-Up. Kaehler is a busy working mom, an advocate for healthy living and celebrity personal trainer whose clients have included Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Aniston. She created Sunday Set-Up in order to help make daily meal prep more practical, less time-consuming and ultimately a much healthier way to eat. Each Sunday, set aside an hour to prepare your shopping list and make decisions for your meals, then prepare for the week and especially for Monday. The fewer decisions you have to make on the go when you are hungry, the better.
Ask for help
Are we unhealthy because we overeat or because of the types of food we eat? If you have spent the last decade trying to get healthy, make better food choices and move your body to the latest fitness advice but you’re still not seeing results, then it’s time to level up and ask for help.
Build a team and understand more deeply the intricately amazing and impressively resilient system that is your body. Working with an expert, you may come to understand what has been holding you back from achieving your health and fitness goals. You might want someone to help you plan the week successfully or someone to clinically evaluate and define your physiological baselines so you can understand why one food or another may or may not be a great choice for you. Expert advice can be the very shortcut that gives you years of health later in your life.
Tip: Choosing a health coach or health practitioner is a big deal. As you begin to explore, remember to find someone who specializes in your area of need and has legitimate, up-to-date credentials with proper training. Before you opt to purchase any packages or implement protocols, meet the expert and do a gut check. Does he or she “get you”? Is the expert local, convenient to you and accessible for questions? Can you afford the path proposed? Ask to speak to a former client, if possible, to confirm your perception. Your health is too precious to not find the right support system.
Whether you follow these steps to a healthier Saint Patrick’s Day celebration or to reset your goals on the spring equinox, celebrate your willingness to stay with your goals and walk through the mud of challenge. As spring starts its thaw, channel the energy released to do what you really want to do. Stop eating what doesn’t feed you, start eating what does and feed your health—feed your life.
Photo credit: Joseph-gonzalez, unsplash; Eggeeggjiew, thinkstock; Artem Beliaikin unsplash; fermate, Thinkstock; loreanto, Adobe Stock