The New Normal

Me resting between sets of squats. Buddy is on the floor and keeps me company while I work out.

For me, the new normal is eating food that complies with The Paleo Diet and weightlifting. Four years ago, my new normal was my first Whole30.

What’s amazing to me about this entire process is how much I’ve learned not only about diet and exercise, but about myself and my ability to do things I set my mind to. I’ve greatly exceeded my own expectations, and I’m still taken aback when people refer to what I’ve done in the past four years as extraordinary.

I’m not super man. I’m not super-human. I didn’t use any mind tricks or mind hacks I learned in the Marines. I wasn’t born with some innate ability to power through difficulties. This was all learned. Through it all, one thing I read has echoed through my head. “If you really want something, you have to ask yourself if that desire matches the desire you would have for air if you were held underwater for two minutes. If the answer is no, then you don’t want it badly enough.”

In July 2015, I had reached the point where I wanted change in my life as much as a person being held underwater for two minutes wants air. I wanted to breathe. I wanted to live. And I knew that if I didn’t change something (and soon!), I would die. This was my last, best chance at reversing a life-long trend of eating without any concern for my health and mortality. This was my Hail Mary pass.

It worked.

After completing my first Whole30, I found myself clean from a sugar addiction (don’t think it’s real? Try to go without eating anything with sugar in it for three days and get back with me) and 20 lbs lighter. My head was the clearest it’d been in many years, and for the first time, I found that I didn’t feel hungry, angry, or bored with my diet. I had found hope.

Within three months, my wife and I accepted our new normal. It included food prep, eating foods made from whole ingredients, and thinking about food as fuel. We talked about exercise and fitness, and while she started walking and doing some exercise programs, I held out. I wanted to wait until I lost 100 lbs to save my joints (doctor recommended, actually). But I kept to the diet and portion sizes and continued losing 10-12 lbs a month steadily.

Once I lost 130 lbs, I started walking, then jogging, and eventually running. I had implemented exercise as part of my new normal, and it felt great. I had a goal to work towards: getting back into the military. That meant losing more weight and getting in shape to pass a physical fitness test. Once again, I did it.

My home gym continues to grow much to Sherry’s chagrin.

Three years later, my new normal is weightlifting and The Paleo Diet. In October, I’ll be back to running again (I’m really hoping my Achilles heel injury is healed by then) when I do a 5k in Montreal and continue to prepare for a 5k we do in December every year (another new normal). These are all things that I never could have imagined would be normal for me at all.

Keep your mind open. Seek out and search for ways to live healthier and fitter. Don’t accept feeling tired and lethargic. Don’t accept being overweight. Don’t accept not being able to climb stairs without becoming winded or having to hold your breath while tying your shoes. Find your new normal. A new healthier normal. Your life will be richer (and likely longer) for doing so. I did it, and I’m not special. I’m a regular person just like you who found a reason to find a new normal.

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