* – even if you’re over 50 like me! However, individual results will vary. Your life and your journey are most likely VERY different from mine. Regardless, the two common denominators for the health of human beings are regular exercise and healthier nutrition choices.
As we move closer to the end of the year and the start of a new one, the reflection in my mirror causes me to shake my head and think to myself, “Is this what it’s like to be in my 50s?!”
And when I look at a picture of my physical condition 18 months ago, I shake my head and think to myself, “How did I allow myself to get so UNhealthy in the first place?!”
Just another marketing piece? Sure, but there’s a true story involved and it’s called “life,” my life to be more precise. Having said that, going from unhealthy back to better health in roughly 16 months does require some context. You see, if you were to ask me 4 years ago if I’d be writing this post, I’d have said nope! 4 years ago it was 2017: Trump was president, I was one year out of the closet, had a boyfriend, was appointed to the board of directors for an LGBT chamber of commerce, celebrated 6 years as a trainer, and life was great!
The Year of the Multiverse (2017)
If you’re a fan of the MCU (and even if you’re not), there’s one film that has stuck with me which you should check out: Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse. I’m convinced that’s what happened to the world in 2017 (maybe not so much with Trump being elected president, but more with my life 😂) In the film, the concept of the “multiverse” is front and center; several dimensions and universes are accessible to the film’s heroes (AND the bad guys)!
Because of this inter-dimensional shift in 2017, my great life began to unravel plus it was the last time I would consider myself to be physically fit and healthy for a while. At home, one of my two roommates began to experience an existential crisis to the point that he ended up in the Emergency Room. The other was unable to communicate effectively and became a never-ending source of the dreaded “roommate drama.” As the former’s crisis worsened, he eventually stopped working and paying bills. At that point, I began looking at the possibility of having to cover his share of the rent. Most people would probably have just been done with it and kicked him out. Since he had been a good roomie for 2 years, clearly I was a bit nicer. BIG mistake.
In early-August, I jumped on the opportunity to pick up a side gig driving for Lyft. The positive cash flow was borderline obscene! I was making MUCH more on a weekly basis driving than I was making as a trainer of 6 years! Helping to fuel that cash bonanza was a promotion Lyft was doing where if drivers gave 100 rides in one week, the rental car was FREE (I had opted for their rental program at $210/week, to save wear and tear on my car). So, I was basically putting in 25-30 part-time hours, making $1000.00 weekly, and only paying for gas. Not a bad gig, right?!
By the time September rolled around, the worst case scenario happened: the struggling roommate up and disappeared, leaving most of his (borderline hoarder) possessions behind. Simultaneously, the other “dramatic” roommate packed up and left, not wanting to be part of the other roommate’s rent default. Now I was responsible for covering a big 3 bedroom apartment by myself. Needless to say, my stress levels were through the roof so I started putting more hours into driving. (It was easier to drive than it was to work on my biz!) On top of that, my prized workout time began disappearing and I was finding it more and more difficult to maintain my healthier lifestyle.
As the holiday season approached, eating on the road became the most amazing thing to me (especially because I had never really done it before!) Mornings would start off with a coffee and donut from 7-Eleven and then lunch was an exciting adventure, day in and day out! Meantime, I managed to secure one new roommate while starting to pay down the outstanding rent left by the roommate who bailed. At that time, the cash flow was still decent so I was able to take cae of the necessities AND still have money left over. Through it all, my BF stuck by my side, endlessly supportive and loyal; after all, I had a master plan and was making progress with it.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (2018)
In early 2018, I won a small claims case against the deadbeat roommate, managed to pay off all of his outstanding rent, AND cut down to only one roommate so as to create a training studio with the vacant room in the apartment. I even managed to throw a “grand opening party” to celebrate! But, I was also very comfortable with my new driving lifestyle, complete with my daily variety in dining. Despite that, my stress levels continued on an upward trend as my Lyft profit margin started to shrink; gone was the free weekly rental bonus and the other available driver bonuses were shrinking. So what did I do? I compensated for the downward income trend by driving even more.
I was now spending sometimes upwards of 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, sitting in a car, waiting for the next ride. Each day was like being on a hamster wheel that kept on spinning. I was the hamster inside the wheel: sometimes running fast, sometimes running slow, but always running without any perceived forward progress. Complicating matters, most of my training business had evaporated (save for one die-hard client and the occasional, temporary 1 or 2 month one) and this was in spite of the new training studio. I felt like I was slowly, inexorably getting buried.
Careful What You Wish For (2019)
When the calendar flipped to 2019, I was wishing for an end to the misery. I was feeling pretty down about my situation and the hole I had dug for myself despite my slow progress forward. I was only able to devote perhaps 2-3 hours per week to my training business. Even then, my BF of now 3 years continued to be optimistic for us both and always saw the bright side in everything. Plus, there were still some causes to celebrate: wine tasting in Valle de Guadalupe, MX, an escape to Palm Springs, my 50th birthday (for which my BF splurged on), and my nephew’s 10th birthday where my immediate and extended family got to meet my (until then) mystery BF.
One downside to 2019 was when I went for a physical in October. My lab results were shocking. My total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, and VLDL (very bad cholesterol) were all elevated. My weight was up. My blood pressure was up. The news should have galvanized me into a flurry of very decisive action. Instead, I became more stressed out; you see, unless I was able to extricate myself from driving Lyft, I wouldn’t be able to free up any of my time. If I was unable to get my time back, I wouldn’t be able to work towards a healthier me much less channel more resources into my fitness business. Oh I started making some small changes, but it wasn’t easy.
And so even into November and December, 2019 continued to be memorable year – including when my one and only roommate gave his move out notice AND the always upbeat, optimistic, and loyal BF – my other half, the love of my life, called it quits.
It was truly one of THE most devastating moments in life I had ever experienced and one I was entirely unprepared for. Regardless of whether you’re straight, gay, bisexual, undecided, indifferent, you know that a breakup with a significant other can feel downright catastrophic; I stopped caring about a lot of things in my life, beginning with me. I truly began living the “eating my emotions” phrase. Every morning was downright dreadful, there was literally no other word to describe it. I would wake up with tears, get in the car to drive with tears, drive with tears, have my meals with tears, you get the picture. I never knew I could feel physical pain in my heart; it was virtually impossible to find anything to be happy about. On top of that, the holiday season was in full swing and all of the surprise plans I had made for the two of us were now out the window.
How does one recover from such an event? What do you do? Where do you even start? And how do you even begin to attempt to do it in the midst of all the “holiday cheer?!” Well, heading home to be with family for the holidays, helped a bit. Continuing to eat my feelings helped a bit (I thought). Having my loyal cat with me for the road trip home, helped a bit. So did talking to my mom, sister, and brother-in-law. There were still moments where I couldn’t control my emotions and a sudden tsunami of tears would flow down my face (much to the sometimes slightly awkward reaction of my family), but I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Picking Up The Pieces … during COVID (2020)
The calendar pressed on into 2020 and even then, the days became only slightly more bearable. I still felt pretty listless, but as many of you probably already know, with every new year comes a certain amount of determination and drive to do better and to be better. I had created a possible exit strategy from driving by getting my TEFL-certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) so that I could work online. I enlisted the help of a marketing specialist employed by Facebook to try to help jumpstart my training business. I clenched my teeth and sucked up the 40+ hours of driving I was doing on a weekly basis.
Since my physical the year prior, I had made some modest changes to my diet and was working out a little more. However, given all the circumstances, it was a rather half-hearted effort. I just didn’t feel terribly motivated.
As March creeped into the picture, I was feeling slightly better. They say that time heals old wounds and 3 months had passed since my breakup. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was jumping out of bed with a huge smile on my face with the anticipation of a new day, but at least I wasn’t shedding as many tears. I had recently passed my TEFL certification exam and seemed to be making some headway with Facebook marketing. But, there was yet ANOTHER setback looming very largely in the background. The Coronavirus was spreading FAST. What really got it on my personal radar was the conversation I had with a medical doctor from Kaiser. I was giving him a ride from his house to a pub in Downtown.
The Doctor of Prophecy (February, 2020)
I randomly asked him what his thoughts were regarding the virus, but only as casual chit chat. I wasn’t prepared for what came next. He said “shit is about to hit the fan” and that life as we know it in the United States was going to come to an abrupt, screeching halt. I smiled a little (pretty ignorant to what was going on) and asked him what he meant by that. He told me that the way the virus works, it’s going to take out people who are “weak,” “unhealthy,” or elderly. He went on to say that this segment of our population won’t be able to survive the respiratory onslaught and a LOT of people were going to die. Then he became even more grim when he said he fully expected to lose at least 1/3 of the patients he cared for on his floor and that his hospital was already setting up outdoor tents and requisitioning equipment without even waiting for the government to act (because we all remember how that went!)
I won’t lie, but I was a little dumbfounded at how detailed his thoughts were about what was going to happen over the next several months. He told me he didn’t expect to get any time off for the next 90 days (maybe more) and so he was headed out to have drinks with some colleagues. As he got out of my car, he said life in the US is going to change and it’s going to be very, very difficult for everyone. He said the change to everyone’s daily routine was going to be the toughest part. With that, he poked his head in one last time and shook my hand, said “Good luck, you seem like a smart guy, don’t panic, whatever you do. Just keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine,” and he was gone.
Lockdown (March, 2020)
The following week, ride requests dropped by over 80%. I had to return my car as there was no way I could make enough money to cover the rental let alone the gas. I took a leap because everything the doctor had told me was coming true. My (new) roomie picked me up from the rental center near the airport and we drove home. It was eerie how light the traffic was. We were definitely both scared because we just didn’t know what was coming. A few minutes from home, the radio station she was listening to was interrupted by a live broadcast from the governor. The shutdown was upon us.
I remembered what the doctor said and I didn’t panic. I worked to keep a clear head and did my best to roll with the punches, what else could I really do? Whereas before it felt like my life was spinning out of control, now it seemed like EVERYTHING was going completely sideways in the world (reference the aforementioned Multiverse). There was no toilet paper, grocery store shelves were empty, there were lines everywhere just to get simple, daily staples. If anything, I was blown away by how accurate the Kaiser doctor had been with everything he had foreseen.
Good news was, I was no longer driving! Both my roomie and I made it through the quarantine period unscathed. We were both able to collect unemployment and the federal government sent out the stimulus checks. It didn’t make everything perfect, but it did smooth out the ride rather significantly; we needed it. By the time May rolled around, we were in awe about how much life had changed and we kept talking about the Kaiser doctor. One of those conversations we had about him compelled me to make an appointment with my own primary care physician for a follow-up. The news and lab results from that appointment were still not great.
My Wake-Up Call
My total cholesterol was STILL up along with my LDL (the bad cholesterol), VLDL (the very bad cholesterol), triglycerides, blood pressure, AND weight. My doc asked how I was weathering the pandemic, how my life was, stress levels, my relationship, and was very genuine with his inquiries. It was quite a different conversation than the ones we normally had in the past. I told him I was winging it, a bit stressed, and also a bit sad from the end of my 3 year relationship. He stopped short of telling me what to do, but I already had it in my mind what needed to be done. I really needed to just start taking care of and caring about myself again.
Write YOUR Story
At this point, I should say that if you recognize that things aren’t going right or the way you’d like in your OWN life, start figuring out how to make the necessary changes NOW, waiting and procrastination are best friends with poor health decisions. Granted, during the quarantine period in California, I began working out again, but not very earnestly. I was literally in pain with moves involving my left shoulder, my back, and my hips. I felt weak and was more than slightly annoyed with myself. After all, I was a certified personal trainer with years of practical experience and athletics stretching all the way back to when I was playing two sports in high school. So what happened?
Life. That’s it. We are all living our own lives the way we see fit. Sometimes, some of us are very disciplined about our approach. Others among us haven’t reached such a point or are perfectly content with our status quo. Either way, it isn’t our place to judge. After all, we haven’t walked in that other person’s shoes for as long as they’ve been alive. We don’t know what their childhood was like, what their parents were like, how they were positively or negatively influenced in school, what their neighborhood and friends were like, what their thoughts and feelings are when it comes to social, political, cultural, and other issues of today. We only know what we have been through in our own personal lives.
It’s Just A Story – Which Happens to be Mine
Relating my story to you is not scientific. There are no “data points” or “statistics” for me to spout along the way other than my lab values and body composition analysis. My story, my action plan, and my results are all purely anecdotal – based upon my own personal experience. Your “wakeup call” may be similar to mine or completely different. For me, it was a frank discussion with my doctor and scientific lab values which jolted me straight through to the core of my being to take immediate action. For others, it’ll be less subtle, but still a potential life changing event nonetheless:
- my late-teens client who wants to increase physical activity and live a healthier lifestyle
- my early-20s client who recognizes that excess body fat, no physical activity, and poor diet will cause problems
- my mid-20s client who was “taken to the bank” by trainers at a big box gym which resulted in chronic pain issues
- my early-30s client who believes in incremental and sustainable lifestyle change leading to better health
- my early-30s client who failed a law enforcement physical agility test and doesn’t want to fail the test again
- my mid-30s client who recognizes and wants to break the poor parental health cycle
- my late-40s client who is frustrated with their outward physical appearance and is ready to make a change
- my mid-60s client who does not have interest in taking so many different pills for hypertension
Everyone’s story is different, but they have ALL recognized the need for change. Each person has a hot button, a switch, a “why” for pursuing that change. Yours may be identical, it may be somewhat similar, or it may be totally different. Whatever the case, if you’ve reached a crossroads and know it’s in your best interests to make a change, start NOW. The first step is always the hardest. The next several steps will still be difficult. Forward progress is important until it becomes a routine.
For me, it was the lab results and conversation with my doctor. Enough is enough; after all, I was a personal trainer and the 10 year anniversary of my business was coming up rather quickly. So what kind of trainer would I be if I didn’t practice what I was always preaching? The answer? Well, a HUMAN kind of trainer. Let’s face it, SHIT HAPPENS in life. It always does. It may be minor, it may be major. It may be days, weeks, months, or even years between episodes, but it WILL happen. So what do you do?
If you’ve learned the importance of regular exercise and nutrition and have created a consistent routine for yourself, then when things inevitably go sideways, you’ll feel compelled to stick to your routine. You’ll remember how it’s part of a bigger picture and doing good by it will only serve to help you in the long run. It’s NO different than remembering to brush your teeth and floss (avoid cavities, root canals, extractions, etc.), showering every day (avoid body odor, look and smell presentable to others, etc.), eating (provide yourself with energy, some down time, etc.), and even commuting (getting to work on time, avoiding accidents and bottlenecks, etc.) These necessities are all on autopilot in your head – and so it can be with your fitness routine.
Avoid the temptations of a “quick fix,” a “secret,” a “miracle diet,” a “one size fits all workout,” a “breakthrough supplement,” and the list goes on. The key to living a long healthy life is to start the habits young and to stick to them! And even if you’re already in your 50s like me, it’s still POSSIBLE to look and feel better, but it will require significant and consistent effort. Bottom line, how you look, how you feel, the state of your health is all completely up to you and the choices you make. Barring any medical conditions, you can effect long, lasting change. You can tell yourself and tell others, #IOwnMyHealthShit!
Always Keep Learning!
Whether it’s through us or another reputable source, keep educating yourself! If you’re trying to get your head in the right place to start getting healthier, learn how by reading about Step One in THIS post. Or, if you’re ready to start making small, incremental lifestyle changes and are interested in working with us, visit our Consultation Page. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, the ball is in your court. Choose to take action today or don’t. Either way, own the decision along with it’s resulting benefits and/or consequences.