It is natural and fundamental for living beings to want to be happy, healthy, and free from suffering. Life would not have persisted for nearly four billion years were living things not motivated to, and reasonably good at, seeking favorable circumstances and avoiding unfavorable ones.
When you consider much of what people do in our day-to-day lives, it is mostly in service of meeting our needs for food, clothing, shelter, and a sense of safety, satisfaction, and happiness. We don’t necessarily awaken each morning and say to ourselves how much we hope it’s swamped at the office, or that traffic will be absolutely gridlocked, or maybe we’ll get into a car accident so we can practice with being grateful for the time we have.
Yet we know, despite our deepest desires for how our life will be, that all sorts of things can happen, and many of them range from a little annoying to utterly devastating. Our children can become addicted to the painkillers in our cabinet the dentist prescribed us last year. We can get laid off from our jobs. We can be raped or mugged or murdered or diagnosed with untreatable cancer. We can be vegetarian, alcohol, tobacco and drug-free, run marathons, and still, have a heart attack at age 60. As the old saying goes, people make plans, and God laughs.
When trouble comes, we all get through it one way or another, sometimes more gracefully than others, always hoping to get back and remain in calm seas for smooth sailing. Then something else comes along: the flu, a torn meniscus, a child who develops asthma or depression. It will never remain smooth sailing for long; that’s just not how life works. And yet, somehow, we keep hoping that life will be something other than what it is.
It sounds crazy. Maybe it is. It seems human aspirations are doomed to be awkwardly incompatible with the vicissitudes of life. Indeed, in most if not all of us, there is an undercurrent of dis-ease, a fear about what is to come, that the moment of something terrible happening might be in our future, and not just someone else's whom we read about in the news. So, what to do?
About twenty-five centuries ago, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha, left home in search of a resolution to human suffering. After many years of searching, of trying many different things, and close to death and despair from neglecting his physical health and making little progress towards his goal, he had a breakthrough when he simply let go and let the storms in his mind be as they were. He settled more and more deeply into his pure, conscious awareness of all of his sensations, thoughts, and feelings. What he discovered was that human beings suffer when we want life to be different from how it is.
But it's not the desire per se: it's our attachment to it, our belief that our beliefs about how life should be or could be, are more important than how life actually is. This, of course, is foolish. It's not that we have no control over our lives and circumstances, it's that that control is forever limited, and many things will happen that we do not expect, and perhaps do not want.
Yet what he also discovered is that if we can detach from that belief that our wishes are more important than reality, we can begin to find real peace.
The key lies in our conscious awareness. The more we identify with and rest in our awareness, the more we can just be with the truth of how things are in this moment, the more a kind of magic starts to work on us.
We naturally let go of a struggle with life that is deeper and subtler than we ever imagined. We may never want to be sick or hurt or die but are no longer ill-at-ease with the difficult truths of life. It is analogous to someone who is so unfit that they cannot climb a flight of stairs without getting seriously out of breath, who then slowly begins to exercise, a little more with every passing week, until perhaps a year later, they are able to run a marathon. Their body naturally transforms by being more and more active.
So it is with a meditation practice where we simply rest ever more deeply in our awareness of what is. In doing so, we find well-being that is beyond sickness and health, beyond happiness and sorrow, beyond birth and death.
In some sense, finding this power within us changes nothing: we can still dream and plan, take care of our bodies and minds with healthy food, exercise, and rest and relaxation. We still take care of others. In another sense, it changes everything, because it transforms our relationship with every aspect of our lives, and frees us to do all of these things with greater presence, love, and patience.
This article was written by Joshua Sandeman
Click HERE to Learn more about his work.
Getting it just right with the protein in your everyday diet will be reflected by many aspects of your health including your energy, longevity, and even your attractiveness (I’ll explain why below). Unfortunately, in this modern day and age, for the most part, protein consumption is ranking at ‘disaster-status’. The simple fact is the toll it’s currently taking on the majority of our population’s health is huge. This is why the info I have to offer you is critical. (I’ve trimmed this down from my book, Infinity Health Manual, to the most important factors for you, to make your next five minutes very well spent.)
Question – why exactly is protein worth our special attention in the first place? Because protein is the primary building block of muscle, ligaments, vital organs, skin, and essentially every cell in the body. You really are what you eat! That’s why. So I say let’s use the finest building blocks that we have available.
Unfortunately, as a species, we’ve made things complicated for ourselves, and our intake of protein is now a matter that desperately needs a shift. First, consider that for thousands of years, since our days as hunter-gatherers, our major source of protein has been animals. Before the advent of today’s food distribution, people could only eat what they could find in their immediate surroundings. Especially in the winter months, that could mean just meat and potatoes. But from our ancestors’ simpler days of hunting wild animals for food, we’ve gone down a different path. Today, our Western diet is plagued by poor quality meat—and lots of it!
Moreover, very definite data now exist that show a connection between the consumption of today’s animal protein and cancer and heart disease. Processed beef and pork have been newly classified by the World Health Organization as Level One carcinogens. That’s the same as cigarettes! Eek! Isn’t that nuts? And few people even know about this. Let’s consider this a red flag.
The Flaws of Modern Day Protein
The days of low-grade beef, pork, and chicken have caught up with us. This meat is definitely protein, but it’s the wear and tear on our overall health that comes with it that needs our attention.
Part of the problem is the type of saturated fats that come with animal protein. These are the fats that very definitely can raise unhealthy cholesterol—a separate book entirely. Even with the low-fat meat products, a little lard can go a long way, and not in our favor! I feel that the fats in meat are actually a big part of why we crave them. Ah, the smell of bacon many of us mysteriously appreciate. Because cutting back on all fat in our overall diet is a dominant theme, we eventually cave in and get our fat fix from animal products. But satisfying our need for fats with animal lard is akin to satisfying the sweet tooth with processed sugar instead of fruit.
Another consideration: meats are acid-forming. Quick lesson: our bodies seek to strike a healthy acid-alkaline chemistry that’s affected mostly by the foods we eat. All animal protein makes the body acidic (as does processed sugar, interestingly enough). An “acidic” internal environment ultimately translates into a decrease of calcium in bones and an increase of inflammation in tissues causing reduced blood-flow, which ultimately translates to a weaker body that simply ages faster than it regenerates. And in case you’re wondering, chicken is just as acid-forming as red meat, so you’re not really doing your body any favors by sticking with just “white” low-fat meat.
Additionally, metabolic waste from regular animal protein can accumulate over time in the gastrointestinal system. An eight-ounce steak isn’t eight ounces of protein, after all. A lot of it is indigestible animal matter which can build up in your large intestine and colon, slowly but surely weakening your digestive system, a vital pillar of your health.
Also, ever notice you’re tired after eating meat? Even just a chicken salad? This is because it actually takes a lot of work for your body to break it down to extract the protein. So if you do have any animal protein in your diet, you might want to consider limiting it as a dinner food.
But what about Fish?
I believe having a little fish in your diet can offer some overall benefits. Certain fish can be excellent food nutritionally and a far superior option to other meat products. One of the reasons is ease of digestibility. Another advantage of fish is the quality of fat. Remember fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids which have the exact opposite effect of the fats in other meat products. These fats actually reduce unhealthy cholesterol.
With all fish, be sure to go with wild-caught and avoid farm-raised fish. A lot of the fish today are farm-raised where the fish are crowded together, producing unclean conditions that require major amounts of antibiotics and pesticides. Even salmon labeled as “Atlantic salmon” is, more likely than not, farm-raised. If salmon or any fish are wild-caught it will clearly say “wild-caught” on the label.
If fish is a regular part of your diet, it’s also important to be aware of fish that are known to be high in mercury as well as other harmful contaminants. Fish repeatedly testing high in mercury include tuna (especially albacore, ahi, and yellowfin tuna; skipjack tuna is okay), swordfish, shark, grouper, marlin, and mackerel. I suggest avoiding these entirely. Stick with the options tested to be low-mercury. These include salmon, trout, tilapia, sole, and most smaller fish. Other seafood like shrimp, oysters, and scallops tend to be okay too. In general, it’s the large predatory fish that have toxic levels of mercury, even with freshwater fish.
As for the Vegetarian Lifestyle
If you’ve been thinking of trying a vegetarian diet, I say why not? Today, with the large variety of foods we have available year round, we can in most cases get all the protein and nutrients the body needs without animal protein. Or getting your animal protein exclusively from fish can be an excellent option too.
I feel it’s worth sharing that for two years I was on the “Paleo” diet, a popular diet that is quite high in animal protein. I kept to the better quality options like bison, elk, venison, and meats of similar nature. These meats are definitely better alternatives to the more common meats like beef and pork. Even still, at the end of the day, I found that the Paleo diet yielded much less energy and sense of life-force than a diet without these animal products.
If you continue to have meat as a regular part of your diet, it’s still good to take breaks! Going a couple weeks without meat, adding more plant foods in place of it, allows your body to go through its important cleansing cycles.
While we’re on the subject, I should say this. Many people take an ethical position on the eating of meat. In case you’re wondering, my role here is nutrition and so I’m going to keep within those bounds. I’ll leave the ethical question to each individual reader. Nevertheless, I do feel that a primarily plant-based diet with the right foods is the superior option for overall health.
Where to Find the Right Plant Protein
Okay, so where can you find the plant foods high in protein, the plant foods you’ll need in order to compensate for cutting back (or maybe even eliminating) meat? Easy. Vegetarian foods with a reasonable amount of protein include raw nuts and seeds, avocados, beans, edamame, eggs, and dairy. Protein supplements can also play an excellent role here. But beware of whey or soy based protein. They’re culprits of constipation, like eating glue. Hemp and rice protein have the potential to be awesome, depending on the quality of ingredients. And you may have guessed it; Infinity Protein is the elite and at the very top of the totem pole! Click here so I can explain why.
Note: don’t make this mistake frequently made by people cutting back on meat: replacing meat with pasta, bread, processed grains, and other starchy foods. You’re looking for protein, not tons of starch! As for my recommendation of how many grams of protein to have per day, I’d put this in the same category as counting calories. Unnecessary. Follow the suggestions above and there’s really not a margin of error you need to be given since your body’s tastes and instincts will be allowed to do the job they were born to do.
Okay, so here’s the big picture.
The Western world eats way too much animal protein (especially the worst kind!). Kind of like unhealthy sugar. But in the end, it comes down to a lifestyle choice. And who wants a lifestyle that includes foods that slowly make you weaker, little by little chipping away at your body’s overall health and life force? Not you or I!
It doesn’t help, of course, that beef, pork, and chicken are so prevalent. And few people know how high-impact this part of their diet can be. But now you do. If you’re starting to become more and more sold on the healthier proteins, then fantastic. If we’d collectively cut back on the common low-quality meats, we’d be doing something extraordinary for ourselves (not to mention the planet would have a sigh of relief too!). Yes, we have the hunter-gatherer in our genes, but we also have the option to live a lot healthier than our ancestors did— and longer too. And as we’ve seen, because of today’s availability of healthier plant protein, this can be easy to do.
Over the last 17 years, the Infinity superfoods and health protocols have become a powerful force, enhancing the lives of many thousands of people, and my wish is for you to be part of it. Lastly, if you’ve experienced the benefits of what I have to share, then please forward this to your friends and family since naturally they will experience the benefits, too.
This article was written by Billy Merritt.
Click HERE to Learn more about his work.
Exercise and fitness are such a ubiquitous part of our culture today that it is hard to imagine a time when going to the gym after work was not seen as a normal habit. But, just a few decades ago, Americans were much less likely to exercise on their own. People may have been involved in sports, but seldom went to a gym just to work out or went for a run if it were not with a sports team or part of a training program. In 1960, President Kennedy went so far as to call America a "soft" and "under-exercised" nation.
Things began to change in 1968, when Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his then-groundbreaking book Aerobics, outlining the health benefits of exercise. Since then, exercise has become part of daily life for millions of people. Working out is now seen as essential for overall health and a healthy lifestyle.
While the physical benefits of exercise are certainly important, many people also choose exercise for the impact that it has on their mental health. Anxiety is on the rise, and the millions of people who live with anxiety are looking for ways to manage their condition. In addition to therapy and medication, exercise is one of the main ways that people choose to cope with anxiety. Many people find that exercising makes them feel calmer and blow off steam when they feel stressed. But does exercise really help anxiety?
Anxiety: A Growing Problem
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. It is estimated that over 18%, or 40 million, American adults live with anxiety. And, that number is increasing. A 2018 survey reported that 39% of respondents said they feel more anxious than they did at the same time last year.
People who struggle with anxiety experience some similar symptoms, including feelings of panic and worry.
Can Exercise Help Anxiety?
Yes, exercise can help anxiety. But, it also depends on the type of anxiety and the person. As with all treatments for anxiety, different things work for different people. Many people with anxiety have reported that exercise helps them better manage their symptoms of the condition and feel less anxious overall. But, it is important to try exercise for anxiety for yourself to see what works for you.
How Does Exercise Help Anxiety?
There are numerous ways in which exercise helps anxiety:
Exercise can be a release for people when they are feeling stressed or tense. If you have ever punched a punching bag during a boxing class, you understand how exercise and movement can help you unload your stresses. After a long day of work, or a fight with a friend, or when you are feeling anxious for seemingly no reason, moving your body and clearing your mind can help you let go of those feelings and prevent them from developing into deeper feelings of anxiety.
When living with anxiety, it is all too easy to get caught up in your thoughts. One triggering thought can spiral into many more and lead you to feel extremely anxious and unable to calm yourself down. Working out, whether you go to the gym on your own, attend an exercise class, go for a jog outside, or engage in any form of exercise, is a great way to distract your mind and stop yourself from getting caught up in anxiety-inducing thoughts. While exercising, your mind will be focusing on your body's movements, giving you a much-needed break from the thoughts that make you feel anxious. Sometimes, distracting yourself and having a good workout is enough to stop anxious thoughts in their tracks.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a feel-good hormone that naturally boosts your mood. In addition to making you feel happier, endorphins also reduce stress, which in turn can make you feel less tense and anxious. When you feel anxious, try taking a 10-minute break to move your body and stimulate the release of endorphins to see if their stress-fighting abilities help calm you down.
Lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep has been shown to increase rates of anxiety, especially among women. Anxiety can also make it harder to sleep, especially if you feel stressed and anxious at night.Exercise can help with both of these situations, as working your muscles hard naturally makes you more tired. Working out requires an immense amount of energy, so your body will be more prepared to fall asleep at night. Plus, exercise may make you feel less anxious overall, making you less likely to start feeling symptoms of your anxiety as your head hits the pillow.
the best exercise for depression and anxiety (and the best exercise in general) is one that you enjoy. If you try to force yourself into a workout routine that you hate, you will not be able to stick with it. You will always get the most benefit, both mental and physical, out of the type of exercise that you can do consistently. If your favorite workout is not on the above list, don't worry. If you already have a type of exercise that you enjoy and feel that it helps you manage your anxiety, certainly continue to do it. But, if you feel that your current workout routine does not help with your anxiety, try adding one of the above exercises into your routine and see if it makes a difference.
Other Ways to Manage Anxiety
While exercise helps many people cope with their anxiety, it is not the only effective way to manage anxiety. More traditional methods, like medication and therapy, should not be overlooked. Millions of people manage their anxiety with the help of a therapist or counselor, who can serve as a trusted confidant and offer valuable, individualized advice for coping with anxiety.
For many people, a combination of anxiety management techniques works best. If you are struggling with anxiety, remember that treatment is not "one size fits all," and it could take time to find the anxiety treatments that work for you. Get in touch with a therapist or counselor if you want to take the first step towards finding the best way for you to cope with your anxiety.
Reviewer Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
To read more articles like this, please visit: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice
Susan had a session with me at two in the afternoon. I was not feeling well after Destiny’s encounter. During lunch, my thoughts had been much more centered on love and kindness, and this reflection was hovering over me when Susan arrived. She’d been training with me for a couple of months.
I began chatting with her about these tender reflections. In the middle of our session, I said, “Susan, you know what I’ve begun to realize?”
“What?” she asked.
“That the foundation of health is love; how can we feel comfortable in our bodies if we are not in love with life? Does that make sense to you?”
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She looked at me as if she was thinking about it. Then she said, “Valeria, can you please get the mat for my next buttocks workout?”
We continued with the session as if I’d never brought up the insignificance of a fit body without a loving heart and a happy mind.
Karen was my last client for the day. We met at seven sharp, right after Steve.
Karen was an obese woman I trained twice a week. She was thirty years old, weighed 250 pounds, and was 5’ 2”. However, these numbers don’t say anything about her as a person. She was a painter who owned her own gallery in Manhattan. The serenity in her eyes and the way she smiled for no reason introduced her to me before she even told me her name.
She had been married for more than five years to someone who was in good shape. I knew this because her husband came to pick her up after our sessions. The conversation we had the first day we met left me pondering about life for days.
I asked the same question I asked every client before we began the program: What are your three main fitness goals?
Karen said she only had one goal: to enjoy the workouts.
I recall looking into her eyes as if she had not understood my question. I rephrased it, and this time I was more specific.
“I understand, Karen, and I will ensure that the exercises will be fun, but what I meant was, how many pounds do you want to lose?”
Again, she answered with a smile and said she didn’t care about the weight; she just wanted to feel good during and after the workouts. Furthermore, she said it didn’t matter if she didn’t lose any weight at all. Her peaceful eyes and joyful smile reinforced the truth of her words.
I could not believe this woman and how out of touch with reality she was. She was obese, for God’s sake! She could actually die of a heart attack at any moment, and my mind refused to believe that anyone could be at peace with a body like hers. It couldn’t be possible.
I insisted. I tried to force her to make a deal with me, and asked her to agree on losing one to two pounds per week.
Once more with the same serene, happy look on her face, she replied that I didn’t understand her. Patiently, she repeated that she was fine with her weight and that she enjoyed her work. She was a person who loved and was loved by her family and friends. Her life was a blessing, and she was grateful for what she had. There was nothing else to be added or removed to make her happier. The workouts with me were just to get her body moving while she had some fun.
I wasn’t amazed by her attitude, because I neither understood nor believed in what she was saying at the time. Nevertheless, after our encounter that day, I went home thinking about her, and I remembered a thought I’d had when I was a teenager, one that had returned many times throughout my life.
I would die young.
I believed I would not reach the age of thirty, despite being physically healthy.
Perhaps intuitively, I knew that my heart could fail at any time because of my lack of understanding of what life was really about: love and kindness.
I am convinced that Karen became my client for a reason—to teach me that to be healthy is to be loving. She trained with me for almost a year, and never lost any weight.
Karen was the healthiest client I ever had.
A simple practice we can engage in to cultivate peace and harmony is to give up hope and replace it with aspiration or motivation from the heart—that is, to stop waiting to be happy when something happens. Instead, rejoice in this very moment because what you are doing now should already be the realization of what you want to happen in the future.
Nothing in the past can hurt us when we have learned a lesson from it. Nothing can happen in the future that is not happening now. Our job is to recognize in the present moment the peace and joy in our hearts.
We have the choice to change our minds when we can't change the situation we find ourselves in. Instead of perceiving a commitment to finish our work with dreadful anxiety, we can live in these moments with a sense of excitement.
Embrace the challenge of being creative, thus tapping into the unborn parts of the mind that are not habitually conditioned to perceiving external events.
The main difference between anxiety and excitement is the energy behind these feelings: one is driven by negative thoughts (anxiety), and the other by positive ones. All of the unnecessary suffering in our lives is self-created, and so is our happiness.
When we are able to perceive reality with an inner “eye” that can’t see itself, our hearts will have become the source of unconditioned joy.
I now see that my "fit and healthy" lifestyle was made up of a series of these kinds of experiences. I was very disciplined, but this discipline was turning me into the opposite of a loving and happy person. I came to realize that the pursuit of a fit and healthy body could only be a positive thing if we’ve already recognized our spiritual hearts as perfectly fit to provide us with a life of happiness and peace. In other words, although a fit body can improve our health, earn compliments that boost our self-esteem, and give us a temporary “high” of accomplishment, without a content mind and joyful heart, our happiness won’t last long. When our health and feel-good states depend on external conditions and constant hard work, this can propel us into an endless, destructive cycle.
After many insights and lessons, I’ve learned to have self-love without selfishness; to recognize which behaviors are motivated by love rather than fear; to see how closely connected my past is to my present; and that love, joy, and peace are at the core of our true nature with regard to how we relate to others and the world. My new spiritual understanding not only gave deeper meaning to my life, but it has also caused external changes I could never have imagined.
Below you will find a sample of the diet that I was on for about two years before I competed with WBFF – World Beauty Fitness and Fashion. This dietary system, combined with weight lifting, can be of great help for losing weight, staying in shape, and building muscle and strength. But as I have mentioned throughout my book, Fit for Joy, this type of regiment mainly focuses on the physical body, which is only one aspect of our being. We are so much more than just our bodies! The approach to fitness that works the body in isolation from our mind and our spiritual heart is not what I do today, professionally or personally. My work at the moment is about integrating conventional physical fitness with spirituality.
These meal suggestions are only to illustrate what my personal journey was like. They are not approved meal-plan recommendations.
BREAKFAST Option One
8 oz cold water with a probiotic supplement
1 tablespoon matcha green tea + ½ lemon
1-2 whole eggs
BREAKFAST Option Two
1 salmon filet oven-roasted with coconut oil
BREAKFAST Option Three
Steel-cut oats, almond milk, berries
Any lean meat of your choice: white fish (sole, cod, flounder, or halibut), grass-fed red meat, tuna fish, wild salmon, chicken breast, turkey breast, sardines in water.
Eat with steamed veggies or a green salad.
Avoid sauces; instead use olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and avocado oil for salad dressing.
Snack - Best Options:
1 tablespoon spirulina shake with ½ oz. frozen organic berries and a teaspoon of coconut oil
Green juice (no fruit added)
Protein shake (whey protein)
Nuts (walnuts, macadamias, pecans, Brazil nuts)
Raw coconut flakes
Celery, cucumber, or carrots with almond butter
Kale chips or dried seaweed
Raw cheese (unpasteurized)
Sweet potato chips (homemade)
The same options as lunch
*Important – Avoid:
All sugar and sweets
Regular fruit, except for berries and green apples
Starchy carbs such as pasta, bread, rice, wheat wraps, white potatoes, etc.
Kombucha drinks or tea
All kinds of tea, but especially green tea (no sugar added)
Coffee (no sugar added)
Sleep 8 hours or more per night
Drink a gallon of water every day, as well as green tea
All vegetables and fruit should be organic
Adding lemon to your meals is great – it alkalizes the body
You can have a small piece of dark chocolate 85% cacao or higher, but not every day
Use stevia powder as the only sweetener
Diana was next. We met at five in the evening.
She came in ten minutes early and hustled past me on her way to the locker room, saying, “It’s been another busy day. Give me the hardest, most beast-mode circuit you’ve got, Valeria.”
My energy was very low at this point. I really didn’t want to train another client, especially a high-energy person like Diana. She was thirty-four years old and exercised every day in the morning before she went to work. Her jogging sessions lasted an hour. She usually met me in the late afternoons for her weight training.
Today was an upper-body session. While she lay under a sixty-five-pound loaded barbell, doing twelve reps of military presses, I asked her, “What is the most important thing in life to you, Diana?”
She was so focused on her reps that I wasn’t sure she’d heard me. As usual, she was having a serious conversation with the barbell. We didn’t tend to talk much. Her workout mood had always been to get the job done as well as possible and then leave the studio.
A few seconds later, she put the bar back on the rack. The next exercise was ab work, and she knew it. We had the circuits programmed in advance. She moved briskly to the yoga mat on the floor to do a set of twenty reverse crunches.
Her breathing was heavy. The circuit was intense. She was never happy with anything light or easy. I was still waiting for an answer to my question as I kept track of the number of reps, but I didn’t ask it again.
On the floor, while doing a quick stretch—bending her knees close to her chest while keeping her legs together—she said, “The most important thing to me is to keep moving forward through the days. When I wake up in the morning, I have a to-do list in my mind. I just go through it naturally. It’s a clear, focused, and precise daily plan I accomplish by the end of the day.” She finished her answer by the assisted pull-up bar, after fifteen reps.
Diana had been moving fast for the last thirty minutes. She performed all her exercises with the same focus and precision as she checked off her to-do list.
“Do you like your job?” I asked.
She was so focused on her spider plank ab work that her favorite movie star would have gone unnoticed had they walked by us. Sitting on the mat, wiping her face, she said that she got her job done, made great money, and was proud of herself. She worked out hard in one of the best fitness clubs in New York, and could afford my high personal training fees. She laughed and added that she ate out all the time, traveled, went out with friends for drinks; serious relationships and love were too complicated to give attention to.
You know that feeling when there’s nothing you can say to someone because they’re too busy listening to their own thoughts? That’s how I felt.
After we finished the workout, I reflected on how Diana’s life was not that different from her to-do list. It was programmed. She’d been in a cycle of living according to rehearsed habits, and her life had turned into a running race with no finish line or winners, an existence driven by nonstop actions. There was no space left to even think about love.
Diana followed the exercise program and ate clean while training with me. She achieved the fit and athletic look she wanted in three months. Her body composition transformed, but I wish her life had, too.
My next appointment was with Destiny at noon.
She called to say she would be almost twenty minutes late. I stared out at the street from the studio. There were many things going through my mind that day, even though my feeling of unhappiness was not connected to any of them. It was cold and windy outside, and I expected Destiny to come rushing in any minute.
Destiny was one of the most cheerful clients I had. She always went straight to me with a big smile, and gave me a tight hug and a kiss before we started training. She was a mother of two kids, taught school, and was overweight. Destiny was a high-energy woman with a very unusual fitness goal: to lose belly fat only. She trained with me three times a week.
When we met two months ago and I asked her about her fitness goals, she told me her husband would love to see her with a smaller belly, wearing the new pink swimsuit he’d bought for her that summer. She shook a colorful water bottle and took a sip, adding that she knew she was a bit overweight, but she liked her voluptuous body—except for her belly fat. Her husband had said all she needed to do to look great was lose belly fat.
It was not the first time I’d heard this kind of fitness request from a client, and I was used to it. I proceeded to explain to her that spot reduction was not possible with exercise and diet, and that while working out with me, she’d lose fat in her body overall, not only around her belly. Despite this, she was excited to get started. I don’t think she understood me.
We started training from that day on. She was doing great. Destiny had lost almost twenty pounds so far.
After a long, melancholic wait by the window, she came rushing in. She looked serious and worried. It was the first time she didn’t greet me with a hug and kiss. I hoped nobody had died.
We sat down on the sofa in reception. I faced her, but she looked down. She said she’d wanted to meet me in person to say something important. She didn’t want to send an email.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She said she couldn’t do it anymore; I had helped her reduce her belly size and feel better, but she’d noticed that her thighs and buttocks were shrinking, too. It wasn’t what she’d expected. She was looking down the whole time, about to cry.
I listened to her quietly. I didn’t have much to say.
Destiny thanked me, then stood up and walked away.
When I met James for our first assessment session a few weeks back, in the same private fitness studio in downtown Manhattan where we’d be meeting today, he said to me, “I want to look like you.” I remember hoping he meant to look fit and healthy, not ripped and starving while wearing high heels, as I was in my online competition pictures. James had found me through my website, where I’d posted these images.
He needed to lose about twenty pounds. Taking care of his health seemed to be a priority for him. However, he mentioned he had just broken up with his girlfriend, and that his main goal was to get in shape before joining a dating website.
I was meeting him for our fifth session.
“How are you feeling, James?”
“I am very well,” he replied, but there was a sad look in his eyes that told a truth his words wouldn’t. His heart was broken.
“Let’s get started.” I gave him some warm-up exercises. James was an easygoing, friendly person, and I instantly felt comfortable talking with him about matters of the heart. So I asked him, “What is the meaning of life to you?”
“What a big question for a Monday morning,” he said, trying to concentrate on his plank hold. After a moment, he added, “I think the meaning of life is to be happy.”
“What makes you happy?” I asked, curious.
“I’d like to have my girlfriend back,” he said, looking at the floor.
“So your girlfriend gives meaning to your life?” I ventured, trying to express my doubt.
He was quiet for a moment. We moved on to the squat rack. Eventually, he said, “Well, for that, she needs to understand me better and love me for who I am.” He looked at himself in the mirror and squeezed his belly.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, that way she would complete me and I would be happy. I like having someone to share my life with. The special moments, you know? Someone to travel with, talk to, sleep with, go out to dinner with, and maybe have a child with. A partner. This is who I am. I’m used to being with someone. It’s tough being alone.”
James’s last sentence didn’t make sense to me. “In my opinion,” I told him, “knowing who you really are requires being alone. Being with other people because we are used to it is only another way to escape from knowing ourselves.”
How ironic it was that I needed to hear that, too!
By the time I’d finished sharing my thoughts, James had squatted for ten minutes. He’d burned quite a lot of calories, and had his hand on his chin in the Thinker’s pose. I left our session hopeful, wondering if he’d understood what I’d said, and pondering it in my own thoughts as well.
Before our meeting the week after, he sent me his picture. He was standing in front of the mirror and showing his belly. The message read: Look, Valeria! I have lost three pounds already and my belly is looking smaller. You are amazing! I am going to sign up for a dating website today—I am tired of being alone! I will see you later.
I met my first client of the day at seven in the morning.
Angela was a thirty-five-year-old married woman living in Manhattan. I reached her building thirty minutes early, and waited for her for another ten. When she arrived in the lobby to greet me, I remember wondering why she’d hired me. She was petite, young, and in great shape.
We walked to the gym, which was empty. She turned on the air conditioning and the lights. Our session began and we went through the initial protocol, a dynamic warm-up.
She looked down the entire time. I asked her unimportant questions to break the silence, but her answers were brief, accompanied by a shy smile. I felt my presence was enough for her. Throughout the workout, Angela only spoke a few words, moved in a slow, controlled way, and never looked straight at me. I felt like I was at a funeral and I didn’t know who the dead person was. I felt awkward, trying to cheer her up or at least alleviate the silence. I pretended I was participating in a comfortable and normal situation between two people.
When the workout ended, we planned our weekly schedule and said goodbye to each other under the same gloomy cloud. This was a client whom the best exercise and diet in the world would never help to feel joyful. It was never about fitness for Angela. She was looking for a friend.
I left her building feeling very down. I couldn’t pretend to be her warm friend while also being a trainer. Her sadness was my sadness.
There was no time to be unhappy, though. My next client was James, and he needed me downtown at ten. I crossed the street and entered the subway station.
WISHING YOU JOY, PROSPERITY, AND PEACE FOR 2018!
If we can walk, we can dance,
If we can dance, we can laugh,
And when we laugh, life becomes a RE-creation of our dreams!
Here is one of my favorite timeless poems. It inspires willpower, kindness, faith, self-love, and more.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
By RUDYARD KIPLING
Thanksgiving celebrates the spirit of gratitude.
It's an acknowledgment of love.
Appreciation of truth.
The gracefulness of life.
Recognition of "God."
Responsiveness to peace within.
Thankfulness for the divine GIFTS we share in our HEARTS.
May this time of the year remind us all of what really matters in life!