After weeks of procrastinating to write this, I had an experience that confirmed it was time. It was just about 9 miles into an 11-mile race when I approached a much older participant walking up the steep incline. I was feeling unusually strong in my new body when I quickly trotted past him. He exclaimed, "go get'em! I started an hour earlier--great job!" I reflexively shouted back to thank him and then surprised myself with my own attempt at encouragement, yelling, "we are all somewhere!" I was shocked by my instinctual comment, part Eckhart Tolle, part Siddhartha, and part John Wooden. Philosophically I suppose it meant that we are all somewhere on a continuum of fitness, speed, life, etc. and not to worry or be ashamed. Furthermore, while I may have passed him, there were still a handful of others far ahead of me, but deeper below the surface of that response was the answer to my prolonged procrastination in writing up my testimonial. In my mind I had not "finished"…I was not done with my journey yet - but will I ever truly be done? We are continually "somewhere" between here and whatever destination we are determined to get to, but the reality is that destination is continually in motion and dynamic.
From the beginning I instinctively knew Jackie was going to be someone who was going to shepherd me in the direction to where I wanted to go, to be, or better, to return to. Jackie's approach to getting my body back in gear was more holistic in nature, based on four principles: nutrition, sleep, stress management and movement. The root of my issues was understanding the effect that stress was having on my life. She shared with me that stress comes in many forms; physical stress of a challenging workout, dietary stress from eating processed foods and drinking a lot of coffee, emotional and psychological stress from the demands of my job and the pressures that I placed on myself, that gnawing internal voice that shouts, "you're not good enough, you're a failure"…all on four hours of sleep. I was a powder keg ready to explode. Needless to say, I walked out of my first meeting with Jackie filled with hope.
Jackie immediately supported me to address my stress addiction, starting with caffeine. I have been an adult-lifelong consumer of coffee. I love the process of brewing my own cup, it is a sacred ritual for me in how I start my day, but it had become habit and a crutch that lasted throughout the day. I depended on the interaction and comfort at the coffee houses and the indulgence as a safety blanket for all the other issues that confronted me throughout my chaotic life. Since November, I have gone from nearly five cups of coffee a day, down to one, which has greatly reduced both my stress and anxiety, not to mention has saved me hundreds of dollars. She also introduced other stress reducing habits, like monitoring screen time, working in intervals with planned breaks, and daily meditation. Throughout this entire journey, realizing the connection stress has on my body and overall health was overwhelmingly apparent. I had every box checked from emotional, mental, physical to metabolic stress. I had hit them all and it had left my body an unhealthy shell of what it used to be.
We all have a relative awareness of which foods are healthy for us and what to avoid. Self admittedly I used to live off sugar. My main vehicle for ingestion would be ice cream, chocolate, breakfast breads (my validated terminology for pastries), pizza (routinely, twice a week), hamburgers, diet soda, etc. Since working with Jackie on my nutrition, I have not had a pizza and greatly reduced my use of the others, eliminating them entirely for the first two months of our work together. Jackie showed me that food prep didn't need to be the overwhelming. We met at the grocery store together and she broke it down into a simple formula, helping me to put together new recipes, quick easy meals for busy nights and introduced me to many new varieties of food. I was relieved to know that I didn't need the bodybuilding 12 meal storage gym bag I was sweating over in my amazon shopping cart. I have used my kitchen more in the last 4 months than in the last 10 years combined!
We also addressed my sleeping situation...or lack thereof. Through an understanding of how my body utilizes and requires adequate rest and how it affects so many other areas of my life, Jackie shared with me a few ideas on how to better prepare my body to meet life’s demands by incorporating a bedtime routine and ensuring proper rest throughout my day. Being a single father of two children (half of the time) I found that my life and "routine" would tailspin once I picked up my children. Jackie challenged me to create and stick to a schedule. Prior to meeting with Jackie, I was "sleeping" roughly 4-5 hours a night, waking up exhausted and somehow making it through the day. Amazingly after a very short period of time of implementing a new routine including disconnecting from all technology, taking magnesium and sipping on bone broth (yes, bone broth!), I woke up well rested with a balanced amount of energy that lasted throughout the day. The best part was having more family time with no screens or technology distractions, and more time to connect with the most important part of my life: my children (who also participate and benefit from these changes!).
Next, we looked at my fitness. This has been a humbling area for me. One day while doing a CrossFit partner workout, I wanted to cry. I felt broken, disconnected from any semblance of my past. I could barely finish. Jackie was in the class and introduced herself and her services. Her approach to my physical movement and regaining my lost fitness was to scale back and take it slow. She encouraged me to finish my workouts wanting more and explained to me that I needed to bring down the intensity and re-balance my cortisol. You can imagine my initial resistance as I sat in her office. With her guidance and the support, it was easy to scale workouts back yet still challenge myself. I let go of the perceptions and my own falsely set expectations. I eased into the process of rebuilding myself and the results have been amazing. Now I strive to be physically competent and the best version of myself. Today I am there and I am also stronger, faster, and in a much happier place than I have been in a long time.
I am 13+ pounds lighter, I am running faster than I have in a long time (and anticipate being faster than I have ever been soon), I am more fit and getting even more so, but better than that, I feel physically competent and confident again. I am stronger physically, mentally and emotionally. I live more balanced, enjoying ice cream from time to time, but more consistently and regularly, I make healthy decisions and am armed with the knowledge and the experience to make the best life choices for me. I have an addictive personality and once I commit to something, I go all in. Because I have done this with many areas of my life and have not always followed through, my daughter initially commented that this was another “diet.” I was determined to prove her wrong this go around. Months later and many new habits in place, she now comments on how strong and healthy her dad is and even participates in our new household routines. That is motivation in itself to keep going.
Jackie has been instrumental in helping me create a new body for myself to live life in and I can't thank her enough. Jackie believed in me and held me accountable to face some hard truths. I have a new outlook on my health and a have a stocked toolkit ready to combat stress when it inevitably sneaks back into my life. I now understand the connection between stress and cravings, between sleep and recovery, and the importance of scaling back when life derails you. We are all somewhere on the journey to a happier, fitter, healthier and more fulfilled life. Thank you, Jackie for meeting me where I was and pushing me to be where I am today.
San Diego, California