This rule is possibly the hardest. You must not only evaluate yourself physically, but more importantly you must take a look at your mental and emotional health, as well as who you are as a person. To simplify things, I will break this rule into two main categories: Physical evaluation as well as an evaluation of our mental and emotional health. Remember, the key to good physical health, weight control and emotional and mental health, is to understand ourselves, and our bodies.
Let's start with a physical evaluation. This evaluation comes in two steps. First and most importantly is a physical examination by a doctor. Before you start any type of exercise program you need to make sure that your body can take the strain. You also need to determine if you have an under-lying problems, which may effect your health plan. Even if you are starting a weight lose program along with walking you should be checked by a doctor. As we age our bodies change. We start to lose muscle mass, our bones become less dense, our joints start to wear out-even our skin becomes less elastic. This is just a natural part of life and growing old. It should be noted at this time, that if you are having any mental or emotional problems such as depression or anxiety, have your doctor refer you to a mental health professional. The journey to better health and a better life involves understanding if and when we need help.
After the physical examination by a doctor, its time to make our own personal evaluation. If you read the short story about diets in rule number one, you'll read about what I call the "Naked Diet". Yes, I have tried the naked diet, and no my wife and son were not traumatized by seeing me naked. Well, I might have been a little bit, but I got over it. If you read rule number two, you'll see that perfection is unrealistic. We have to learn to accept what we see in the mirror. All of us have to look at ourselves. See what we like about ourselves. See what we want to change, and move forward. Whether we change how we look, or stay the same-at the end of the day who we are inside doesn't change. If you want to improve your health and live a better life, this is an important concept to remember.
To help you with your own physical evaluation-let me review mine with you. As scary as it may sound, the best evaluation is done in front of a full length mirror, alone, in a brightly lit room. Over the years I've looked at myself in mirrors. The problem is that I never really looked. We all do it. We jump out of the shower, dry and get dressed as fast as we can. Besides, most of the time the mirror's are coated in steam, and its hard to see anyway. My first thoughts as I looked at my 51 year old body in front of that mirror were two things. The first, was that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. My second thought was-it was pretty bad. The good news was that I come from a family with pretty good genetics. Most of them live relatively healthy lives into their 80's and 90's. I had no obvious deformities or other physical problems. I was fairly tall at almost 6-1. I had some muscle mass from lifting weights. My skin was good and wrinkle free. Most of this was due to being self-conscious, and not getting out in the sun with my shirt off. The bad news was I topped the scales at 254lbs, with most of that around my stomach and lower back. I could see the beginning of not only a second chin, but a third and forth as well. I was also cursed with a set of legs passed down from my Grandfather to my Father and then to me. They resemble chicken legs, and our long and thin, and out of proportion with the rest of my body. They are also extremely white. Whenever I wear a pair of shorts my wife always jokes about getting a pair of sunglasses so as not to damage her eyes. As I looked at myself in the mirror I also realized that not only did I not look good, but I didn't feel very well. I hadn't been eating right, my skin had an unhealthy color, I wasn't sleeping very well, and I was always tired.
As you evaluate yourself, be sure to not only look at the things you want to change, but at the things that you like about yourself. As I looked in the mirror I saw that I still had most of my hair. It was a little thinner than it used to be, but that's okay. It was starting to go gray, but most of the gray was at my temples. My wife says that it makes me look distinguished. I still have all my teeth, and they're still fairly straight. I noticed that I have laugh lines at the corners of my eyes. I guess that's a good thing. As I finished my physical evaluation I realized that mentally I was feeling pretty good. I had a lot of work to do, but I had a starting point. Improving one's health is a series of steps. This was only one, but an important one.
The second part of honestly evaluating yourself is to take a look at your mental and emotional health, or as it's often called-your overall psychological well-being. This includes the way we feel about ourselves, the quality of our relationships and our ability to manage our feelings and deal with difficulties. I can not stress enough how your physical health is affected by your emotional and mental health. This is often called the mind/body connection. Factors in our life such as stress can cause ulcers, high blood pressure and even weaken our immune system. As you evaluate yourself, remember that this is an evaluation only. It is an attempt to recognize things in order to help you move forward and attain better health.
Warning! As you begin to evaluate yourself, if you are depressed, feel a sense of hopelessness, are abusing drugs, or have thoughts of death or suicide-please stop, and immediately get professional help.
As part of this evaluation I want you to take a look at things in your life that may be effecting your mental and emotional health. Who we are both mentally and emotionally are of sum of our lifetime experiences. Past experiences such as childhood traumas, deaths of friends or family, illnesses, and substance abuse can all effect our mental and emotional health. Current things can also effect our health. these may include:
-----Being laid off from your job.
-----Death of a loved one.
-----Divorce or getting married.
-----Having a baby.
-----Starting a new career.
-----Going back to school.
-----Children going off to College/coming home after graduation.
As you evaluate your mental and emotional health look for physical signs that your emotional health may be out of balance. They could include:
-----Problems with your eye-sight.
-----Hair loss/sudden graying of your hair.
-----High blood pressure.
-----General aches and pains.
-----Loss of appetite.
-----Constipation or diarrhea.
Let me tell you about my own mental and emotional health evaluation. At the time I was in a job which was literally killing me. I was an estimator and salesman for a construction contractor. With the economy being bad over the last few years, I was under intense pressure to find work. I was working seven days a week, but not getting much work. People at work with families to support were getting laid off. The rest of the employees were looking to me save to their jobs. I was putting too much pressure on myself and was feeling the effects both mentally and physically. My life was out of balance. I didn't see or communicate very much with my wife, and our marriage was suffering. I wasn't involved in my sons life, and was missing out on him growing up. I had no friends to speak off. It was during this time that my Father died of a heart attack. The sad thing is that in the year before his death, I had only seen him a few times. It seemed my whole life was spiralling out of control. All the pressure I was experiencing at work and in my personal life was also affecting my physical health. My weight was ballooning, my blood pressure was sky-rocketing, my hair was not only graying rapidly, but thinning dramatically.
As I evaluated myself, I realized that I had to make changes in my life. I not only was deteriorating mentally, emotionally and physically, but I was becoming someone else. I didn't like the person I saw in the mirror. I was becoming irritable, mean, distant, short-tempered, and bitter. It wasn't a pretty picture. The good news is that I started to make changes, and my life and health are improving. As you'll see in rule #6, it's all about small steps. One of the keys to better health is an honest evaluation and recognition of where you are both physically, mentally and emotionally. This evaluation is that first step. Now its time to move forward.