The bane of most consultants is trying to stay fit and healthy. The lifestyle is almost completely incompatible with this and it’s so, late in 2010, that I found myself at some 220lb (100kg or 16 stone). It’s not that I was terribly unfit – I could still run 7-8 miles – but the weight had slowly put itself on over the previous 3 years.
It’s something that we see in a lot of people in consulting. The lifestyle that lures us into the career in the first place – travel, exciting places and interesting roles – is exactly the lifestyle that is our downfall. In my case it’s the long days and late evenings – usually fuelled by 3 meals a day out of the house. For others it’s long stints away from home, digesting fatty hotel food.
To compound this, we find ourselves mentally exhausted from work and unwilling or unable to exercise effectively. How can you exercise when you leave home at 7am and get back at 9pm? And for many, this is further exacerbated by the long days leading to the desire to have a drink – or two… – to relax more quickly.
What’s interesting is that this becomes a vicious circle – because the late nights, fatty food and booze make people sleep worse. We are a little less focussed at work and so work longer hours. We’re a little grouchier too. See where it’s going? Do you see a bit of yourself in this?
So some time in early 2011 I decided to try to kick it. In my case, it’s still a work in progress but I thought it was time to share my experience – in the hope that it might strike a chord with someone else.
The first step – in my opinion at least – is nothing more than realization and self-awareness. We’re supposed to be self-aware in everything we do, as consultants and leaders. Are we really self-aware in how we look and how we treat our bodies? I’m not so sure.
So look in the mirror and think back to college days. I don’t know about you but I was 82kg and had a 32″ waist. When I seriously looked in the mirror at the end of 2010 I was at least 100kg (I started to lose weight before I weighed myself, so I can’t be 100% sure) and my 34″ jeans were – honestly – at least a size too small. My T-Shirts and shirts were full, but not with muscle.
If you look in the mirror and see this person, the first thing you need to do is to relax. Most people out there feel this way at some stage or another. What you do next is up to you but I’d caution against trying to do something extreme. In most cases, extreme reactions (severe diets and regimes) don’t last. They do for some people, but not for most.
The other thing I would caution against is making some purchase to spur on a fitness reaction. Don’t buy the bike, or the rollerblades or treadmill – or even the gym membership at this stage. Rewarding yourself prior to results does not enforce behavioural change. “I just need a XXX and then I will be able to do YYY” just isn’t compatible with human psychology.
For most people, self-awareness combined with small change is all that’s required. The question is – what change to make? That’s for the next part, but for now just look in the mirror and try to be self-aware.