Today, here in the USA, we are celebrating 237 years of Independence from England. The power of making a declaration is incredibly transformative. One Declaration of Independence and a nation can be born, a new government, a new direction, a new beginning, in more than just one direction. Independence means freedom on many paths, not just political. In every area of life, art, science, music, fashion, technology, America has forged it's own culture, it's own path in virtually every direction possible. That is the power of a Declaration.
How can we use this power for ourselves, our own lives? I think about this today because a year ago today, after only a couple of weeks on my ‘Hashi Mashi' plan, I visited Philadelphia on July 4th to see the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. I was already feeling a little better, not as bloated, definitely down 4 or 5 pounds, and was inspired by seeing the Declaration that has powered our society.
This morning, after over a year on my gradual plan to be fitter than I have ever been, I did 55 consecutive pushups. Over a year ago, on June 21, 2012, I , in my own way, made my own Declaration in the all night Deli off of 2nd avenue in New York City while downing my second blueberry muffin. I said that “Zehhu! This is it, I have had enough of being fat, I am going to eat real food and do real strength exercises. I want to be slim, comfortable, in shape and as healthy as possible!” Over a year later, from a 48″ waist, I am a 32″ waist. From doing one pushup, I just did 55 consecutive, nose down to the ground, and it is not considered cheating just cause I have a ‘prominent' nose :).
Initially, I started with doing half pushups, just to where my upper arms were parallel to the floor, and once I got up to about 80, I conceded to my friends that I was not doing ‘full' pushups, going down all the way, and started back from the beginning to do them with the best form possible.
A year later and pushups is not the only direction where my life has become more productive and successful. The simple Declaration that I made for myself has evolved into many paths. Let me mention a few:
Started with one Pushup, today did 55 pushups with additional sets to reach 200 pushups a day. So, I will do 55, then 30, then 25 and so forth till I reach 200 over the course of an hour or so while writing this post. The benefits that I can see have been changing my upper body physique. Look, I am just a regular guy, we are not entering any bodybuilding contests, but it sure feels alot better to have a better conditioned body and it translates into better biomarkers as well which I will spell out.
Started with squats, and that came several months later, first without a bar, and then with a 45lb bar, now using 105lbs as of yesterday. I know that is not a killer high weight, but having the heaviest weight is not the point. The point is to improve gradually, and as a person having a torn medial meniscus, I am in no hurry to push the weight up too high too fast. If you can do squats, they will definitely start to shred the fat off of your body. They are the hardest exercises that I have done so far, harder than pushups and no surprise, the most effective. I do not believe that I would be down to a 31″ waist if I had been doing no squats, even with the food side being mostly ‘real' food, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, fish & chicken. The first day that I did squats, I could not walk for a week after, so, if you can, check them out when comfortable, and be really strict about your form!
I do not do much bench press cause it hurts my left shoulder, so I stick with pushups for chest. The only other weight movement that I have been doing this year consistently is the deadlift, and for that I started with the bar only which is 45lb and am now up to 145lbs on my last sets last week.
So far, I have only spoken about physical changes to my body over the course of this year. That is what is most visible and has been most dramatic to people that had not seen me for a long time.
Some other positive changes have been to cholesterol, which had been 285 in 2011 and my last check about a month ago, it was 170. Testosterone which is real important for us guys has doubled from 240, a way too low number, up to over 480…a very good number. And last, blood pressure which had been 140 over 90, really not a great number, has gone down to 110 over 70.
Besides the physical and biomarker improvements, there has been more.
I am more disciplined and confident that I can stay the course on any path that I choose. I am more open to change, I have been willing to change, especially when confronted with the truth. All this last year, I have made more progress than in the last ten, in all the ways that count, in health and in relationships, in career and in fixing bad habits that I thought were hidden from view by others.
Some other habits which I have corrected, and for that I truly have to thank Biva, one Beautiful, Irresistible and Vivacious Angel from above, such as nail biting and poor sleeping patterns. You cannot underestimate the value of having a person you care deeply about, look at you directly and say “I see what you are doing, you are better than that, I want you to be better than that”, and say it with love. And you thought you have been hiding it quite well for decades.
There is a great sense of relief when you are not hiding. I am relieved to no longer be hiding my body with frumpy and oversized clothing and I am relieved to no longer be hiding my hands whose fingers in the past looked like they had been through the battle of the bulge, as embarrassing as that is to admit!
The moral of the story is that there is transformative power in words, especially in a Declaration, even if the declaration is only to yourself, in your mind.
So, on this 4th of July, my question to myself and anyone else out there is, what can we say to ourselves today, what can we declare to ourselves to help create a new beginning in our lives? What area of our lives could use a declaration of independence? It can be independence from a negative habit, quality, trait, anything which is holding us down. It can be independence from laziness, arrogance, anxiety or superstitious guilt. It can be independence from oreo cookies, if they are your addiction holding you down from greater accomplishments in life!
It is natural, that in our humanity, being human, we all have some type of albatross that is hanging around our neck, we all have some type of yoke which drains the beauty of life from our daily experience. It is different for everyone, but has the same effect, of lessening our happiness.
Life is short. Make the declaration today. Declare Independence from even one obstacle in your life and I am sure that it will open up other doors that you never dreamed were possible.
Thank you all for all of your support the last year and I hope I can do the same for you!