The Secret: One Man’s Journey to Health

Guest Post by Mike Reynolds

“What’s your secret?”

That’s the question that I’m most commonly asked when people comment on my weight loss. After all, almost 70 pounds in 10 months is it’s own conversation starter, whether I like it or not. Hearing that question has gotten to the point of being a little annoying, and I just smile and wait because I know they’re going to answer their own question in just a couple more seconds……”Diet and exercise, right?”

At this point I usually just kind of say something like, “Yeah, pretty much” because I’ve learned that that’s exactly what they want to hear. They just want me to confirm their ever so simple, paid programming idea of making a lifestyle change. You see, the words “Diet” and “Exercise” are quick and easy to throw out in conversation. They can each mean a million different things so you don’t have to be specific to sound like you might know what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, for most people that ask me what my secret is, “Diet” and “Exercise” means ordering a Diet Coke with the Six Dollar Bacon Western Cheeseburger Combo Meal and having a social hour with buddies at the gym. (Don’t forget to pick up too heavy of a weight and suck the gut in when a cute girl walks by).

I don’t blame them. I used to ‘Diet’ and ‘Exercise’ that way. But I’ve also noticed that people who are fit don’t ask what my secret is….they must already know the answer. They just shoot me a nod and say something like, “Good Job, where do you work out?”

Now I know I’m probably being idealistic here because most of the people that ask the stupid ‘what’s my secret’ question, are just being polite and don’t really care to hear the answer. There’s also not enough time in a regular day-to-day conversation to lay out an honest answer for everyone that asks.

But indulge me for a few minutes. Let’s pretend those people really do want to hear what the secret is. Let’s pretend we have all the time in the world, and let’s pretend they’re reading this article right now. What’s my secret? Here’s my answer:

There is none, dumbass! That’s right, there is no secret. It takes commitment, motivation, hard work, education and hard work. Yeah, I said it twice. There’s no DVD, no book, no pill, no shake, and no machine that can change your life. It’s not a gift that anyone can give you and you can’t buy it online….but that’s also what makes it so valuable! Everything I mentioned above is really what’s needed to change your life and you can only find those things in one place…. inside yourself. Free of charge. They are all necessary and are all equally important. You can start looking for them right now and while you do that, I’m going to ramble on about what I think those virtues mean in terms of making a lifestyle change.

We’ll begin with Commitment. I won’t start with the over-used “Webster’s Dictionary defines….” line on you here. You know wtf it means: Doing what you say you are going to do. Keeping your word; honoring an agreement. There are tons of examples for making a commitment, too. A simple handshake deal, a business contract or a marriage… you get the idea.

But in this case, you’re making a commitment to yourself. It’s not as simple as just telling yourself you’re going to change your life. I’ve told myself that very thing a thousand times back in the day. I know there are things in life we can’t control that don’t always allow us to keep every promise we make. It sucks, but it’s a reality. That’s why the first step to making a commitment to yourself is to consciously take some time out of your life and do some soul searching to try and find the answer to two very simple questions:

1) Who are you now? 2) Who do you want to be? It can take some time, trust me….but you can’t move forward until you honestly ask and answer those two questions. If you truly search, you’ll find your answers and often when you least expect them. The thing that makes a commitment to yourself so special is that it’s completely unique. Nobody else can make the same commitment because everyone’s answers to who they are and who they want to be are different. Plus, it feels great just to know what direction you need to go. Call it the first goal of your new life…getting from the ‘now’ to the ‘want to be.’

Next, promise yourself you won’t let anybody or anything keep you from that goal. If you don’t reach your goal, know that the consequence is that you’re stuck at ‘who you are now.’ When an obstacle gets in your way (and they will) be prepared to go around it, over it, or under it. If it looks too big and intimidating, take a deep breath and re-focus, get a running start and go right through it! Once you’re on the other side, it’ll look small and insignificant and you’ll feel like King Kong well on your way to the ‘who you want to be.’  Lather, Rinse and Repeat for the rest of your life. That’s commitment.

Motivation: Webster’s Dictionary Defines Motivation as….I’m just kidding. To me, Motivation simply means,’ what drives you.’ What thing, person, or idea is the fuel that makes your engine run? For me, it’s my family. I’m motivated to grow old with my wife and watch our kids live and learn. I want to be able to guide my kids by being a positive example of a father. I want to be around to celebrate their victories, and to comfort and encourage them in their losses. I want to be the epitome of a strong, healthy, honorable man and protector. I want to be able to leave this earth long ahead of them, but at peace with the fact that I made positive contributions in the raising of two happy, confident, well-adjust adults. That’s what drives me. Your motivation, or fuel for your engine, might be similar or in a completely different ball park. That’s cool, because again…it’s your motivation that matters, not anyone else’s. Your motivation can come from more than one source and It can change along the way. I shared the high octane version of my ‘fuel.’ Sometimes, I can take my motivation in simpler doses like when I want to reach a certain goal weight in time for a family reunion just to impress my relatives that haven’t seen the new me. Or I can simply be motivated by the pump after a killer workout or the fact that I reached a new fitness goal. And sometimes, I get a burst of fuel when the right song lands on my ipod at just the right time. But the REAL motivation…the fuel I need to get to the gym on the days that I don’t want to go, the kind that I need to order the salmon in a steakhouse… my family. What’s yours? I can’t find if for you, but you better get crackin’ because you’re going to need it, Lots of It.

Hard Work. I shouldn’t have to define this one but since you’re asking, I’ll give you my definition in a fitness context. There’s a point in a workout when your muscles are failing and the pain has convinced your mind that you can’t go on. Well, that very point is where the warm-up ends and the real workout begins. It may only last a couple more seconds but that drive to push for one more rep, or run another block well after the point of sanity, is what burns fat, adds muscle and builds character. I don’t care what you’ve seen on an infomercial or what your genetically gifted buddy told you. Without hard work, you won’t see results. It is this concept specifically that screams, “THERE IS NO SECRET, DUMBASS! To me, hard work means giving absolutely everything you can in your workouts, every time you work out. It means pushing your body and mind to a place that they may have never been. It means pain; Lots of pain. Pain during and pain after. Suck it up and learn to love it for what it is: An indicator of your effort. Hard Work is the Engine that is fueled by Motivation. I figure if I can’t give max effort in just one measly hour out of the 24 I have available to me, I should probably stay with ‘where I am now.’ That’s not going to be you, right? You’ll make your commitment, which will help you discover your motivation which in turn will drive your hard work! Sweet!

Education: Now, I don’t have a bunch of letters after my name. If I did, they would be ‘B.S’., but they wouldn’t represent a degree. I have seven and half semesters of Community College. I like to think of myself as a simple man, but not a simpleton. I think that means I don’t know all, but I know all I need to know for now. There are certain things you need to know about nutrition and exercise to make a successful lifestyle change. If you want to be a sheep in the flock like most of America, the food and fitness marketing companies thank you for that. I found that I needed to read up on nutrition and exercise to make my own decisions about the directions I wanted to take. There’s a place called a ‘Library.’ You can check out books for FREE, do your own research and return them when you’re done. It’s pretty cool. You can read tons online or talk to people that really know the difference, but don’t take the word of the first person you ask. There is tons of good information out there about Nutrition and Exercise and there is even more crap that somebody is trying to sell you. Educate yourself on how the body processes food and how the macronutrients work through their metabolic path. It’ll make your journey so much easier and you’ll be able to tailor your ‘want to be’ to suit you, and not the deceptive marketing leeches trying to get your money. It would defeat the purpose of me telling you to educate yourself if I gave you all of the information I’ve learned during my quest, and you may disagree with me anyway, which is great ’cause then you’d be thinking for yourself. But what I will do is give you 5 basic concepts that I think are important and hopefully you can use them as building blocks for you to research on your own and make the best choices for yourself. They are:

  1. All calories are not created equal.
  2. Eat less more often.
  3. Don’t fear the fat.
  4. Your granola/energy/protein bar is a Snickers bar in disguise.
  5. For 99% of us, water is the best sports drink available.

Well there you have it. That’s my long-winded answer to ‘What’s your secret.’ Writing this article made me realize that maybe I’m the dumbass and there IS a secret after all. But I don’t think that secret is something I can give you because it’s mine and it grew and evolved with me through my journey from ‘who I was’ to ‘who I want to be.’  Look inside yourself for your secret, it’s buried in there somewhere. Believe in yourself and find your own path. Good luck.