Thursday, December 5, 2013

Start preparing for change...NOW!

Across the world, Christians have entered into a period of preparation for Christmas called “Advent.” In
my own faith tradition, Catholicism, we use a wreath to count down the four weeks. Children often use Advent calendars, which come in many different formats but typically involve opening a window or door on a paper scene every dat. Advent is intended as a time for us to get ourselves spiritually ready to welcome the Christ Child on Christmas, but more often than not, it becomes just a time of intense busy-ness as we run ourselves ragged with all the preparations for the holiday, shopping, baking, cleaning, etc. As we get closer to Christmas, the messages proclaimed at Church become more hopeful and more urgent that “the time is now!”  I’m not an expert in world religions by any means, but I’m guessing that other faiths have a similar period of spiritual preparation for their major feasts and celebrations.


I’ve been thinking about Advent and what it means to me personally and spiritually, but I’ve also been reflecting this week about what it could mean for us in this group, namely for any of you that have yet to start a serious journey to wellness (however you define wellness.) I’ve received dozens and dozens of emails from individuals around the world asking for my help and telling me that he/she wants to change their life…..but have yet to start.  (But I want to…I’m going to….I’m determined…..I don’t know how…Please help me…etc. is a familiar theme.). That is awesome!!!!!  That’s the first step…..recognizing that there are things that could be improved….recognizing that you may be a bit “out of control” in some areas of your life….recognizing that there are some not-so-healthy habits that you’d like to change. For those of us on a journey…recognizing that we may need to recommit ourselves to our plan after a period of “coasting” through the holidays may be necessary.  For me, it’s a daily thing….recommitting…and asking for God’s help.


Although any day is a good day to make a change, this time of year really is extremely difficult to do so. More often than not, individuals wait until the New Year. In the coming weeks, those of us who celebrate Christmas and New Year’s will be surrounded with temptations to enjoy the treats of the season. Holiday parties, family celebrations, Christmas breakfast and dinner, New Year’s, etc.  are all occasions where feasting, dieting, calories, health, etc. often get put on the back burner and are rarely thought about by most. Those truly committed, however, never let these occasions become a stumbling block, but admittedly, it is really difficult to stay on track. Only those with strong willpower, determination, commitment, and pre-planning typically make it through this period unscathed. I’m going to be one of them; are you??????


Many people make a commitment to change beginning in the New Year. Great idea! I think that as a group, we should all make a plan to start….to start again….or to recommit to our journey come January 1st. For those already on a plan…NO, this is not your excuse to “take a break” or “go off-track!” You keep doing what you’re doing!!!!  J I’ll share some of my strategies later in the week for getting through the parties, etc.  But for those that are “thinking about it”…make a commitment today…. to put serious effort into changing your life….come January 1st.  If you are serious about this…then NOW….during Advent…is the time of preparation to get ready to change your life.  Use these four weeks to prepare yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically to completely change your life…..PERMANENTLY. 


One needs to be mentally ready to succeed.  This means…in the coming weeks, start reprogramming your mind from one of “defeat” or “failure” to one of “success.” Start giving yourself positive reinforcement….start telling yourself… “I am worth it”, “I’m going to do this”, “I deserve to be happy and healthy”, “I have what it takes to succeed”, “This time I AM….going to lose this weight/give up this habit/beat this addiction/go back to church/save money/make it work/go back to school….”, whatever it is.  Get rid of the negative thinking…the doubts…the remembrances of past failures, etc…. day-by-day during this advent season so that come the first of the year, you’ll be CONVINCED and MENTALLY CERTAIN that you CAN…and you WILL Change your life for good this time! Let go of the bitterness, resentment, jealousy, hurt, unforgiveness, pettiness….essentially all those negative attitudes that are preventing you from true peace and joy. True, lasting change begins in the mind and heart; the body will follow.


This is a great time to become spiritually prepared as well. I’ve stated many times that my journey, my success thus far, only happened and continues to happen, because of the grace of God. I am completely powerless to do this alone and it is only by His power and His strength that I am able to get through each day. Each and every day I have to admit that I cannot do this alone and ask God for help to stay focused, to stay motivated, and to stick to the plan. I also ask Him every day to use this miracle for His glory and to help others. These four weeks of Advent are the perfect time for you to get in touch with your faith…your God….your higher power, and ask for help so that you may truly change and become not only a healthier person, but a kinder, more loving, compassionate, giving person that reflects goodness to all. Make a commitment now to go back to church…or find a church/temple/mosque…or spend more time in prayer/meditation/reflection/quiet time (whatever your preference). Plan now to become aware of God’s presence and blessings around you. And begin to practice “gratitude”, saying “Thank You” more often than “I want.”


Physically, there are also preparations that must be made. If you are dealing with health issues, now is the time to discuss your plans with your physician. You may need to be “checked out” before you start an exercise plan. You may have other health concerns….pre-diabetes…low blood sugar, high blood pressure, etc. that may require special care in planning your healthy meals. Make the appointment now…get the EKG now…do it in December so that you don’t have an excuse to put it off in January.  You may need to seek medical help for dietary supplements, vitamins, etc….if you elect to go that route. You may need to visit a dietician or nutritionist to find out what are healthy choices for you.  Some of you may want to speak to a medical professional about those “quit smoking” type patches and such. Start now to research different diet plans or programs to find one that you are certain will work for you… that you will follow FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE….not just for a period of time until you lose the weight.  Check out Weight Watchers, T.O.P.S., Overeater’s or Alcoholic Anonymous groups, or other popular support groups if you find you need that weekly accountability and interaction. Make a commitment to post more to our group or read fitness/health blogs online. Put your plan in place now so that you are ready to go!


Also, you need to physically prepare your environment for success.  Make a plan that you will get rid of all those things in the house that will be a temptation to you. Make sure all the holiday treats are gone (No, don’t eat them all between Christmas and New year’s! J) Send home “care-packages” or “leftovers” with your guests. Bring the extra cookies and goodies to a lonely neighbor or senior citizen. Start buying healthy foods each week…so that when Jan 1st comes, you’ll have all you need to succeed. Get rid of the junk food in the coming weeks. Shop for a new pair of sneakers if you are planning to start walking; purchase a calorie counting book and start reading it now; clean off the treadmill; pull the exercise equipment out of the basement or garage when you are getting out or putting away your holiday decorations.  Use these weeks to get ready….get your equipment ready….make a plan….check out the local gym or community swimming pool,  so that you will have NO EXCUSES to put it off a few more weeks into the New Year.

I guess in all my rambling, I just simply want you to use these weeks of advent to not only prepare your hearts and homes for the holiday festivities, but also to prepare your mind and body to Change Your Life….beginning today…or January 1st….whatever you decide works best for you and your life.  For those who are already committed…..ABSOLULTELY NOT is this an excuse to “take a break!” You keep going…keep on track…keep on keeping on! There is no reason why you can’t continue to lose weight during December. Certainly, you can at minimum, stay at the same weight.  All of us CAN DO IT……I BELIEVE IT.  You have to believe it too. After all…they say that “CHRISTMAS IS A TIME FOR MIRACLES.”  Believe that your miracle can…and will happen to you!