After eight years of training clients for weight-loss, strength, and muscle/joint rehab, I felt an urge to jump careers and pursue my childhood ambition. I played “school” in my bedroom on a daily basis in fourth grade. I covered my bed with name tags to show where my imaginary students sat. My mom taught second grade so I used her extra photocopies as handouts for my pretend class. I even graded “their” papers.
Following my heart, I quit the upper scale gym in Midtown Manhattan, gave my private clients to my trainer friends, and took a teaching assignment in a special needs school. I was able to get the job placement without any prior experience because I enlisted as a NYC teaching fellow. The two-year fellowship paid for my graduate degree. So, for my first job as a public school teacher I was assigned an at-risk population of middle school students while attending graduate courses at night. Go ahead and say it with me: Oh man!
The stress was immeasurable and visible. A couple years before becoming a full-time teacher, I’d won two bodybuilding shows and changed the life and health of many clients. However, within one year of teaching public school, I was eating pop tarts for breakfast, Slim Fast shakes after school, and boxes of Chinese food on Friday nights.
Exercising daily remained consistent. In fact, I worked out every morning before school started, no matter if I stayed up late to write a paper or scripted a lesson plan or woke and cried at 2 in the morning.
Still, it was as if I knew nothing about food anymore.
This is what stress does to you.
It blasts your mind.
It shatters your memory.
I forgot about veggies. I forgot that bread all day makes me permanently swollen. Even though pop tarts sent me to the toilet in 10 minutes, I craved the sugar. I knew I was eating crap, but still, I let my stress steer my choices. No wonder a spot of my neck broke out with eczema by Spring. I’d never experienced issues like that before.
I was drowning in emotion. I needed to remember who I was. I needed to make a deliberate choice about what I wanted to feel besides just STRESSED, OVERWHELMED, and TRIGGERED.
I knew what could help me.
I revisited Creative Visualization, a journal/workbook created by Shakti Gawain. I owned a copy a decade before and the journaling and exercises she prescribed helped me re-focus, move from Los Angeles to New York, and become a top trainer at my gym.
I bought Creative Visualization again and did the work. I wrote the vision I desired for my body and my life. I read it over and over. I added to it. Detailed it. Felt it until it was real in me. I imagined my vision while I worked out.
I reached for baby spinach instead of white cheese popcorn. I boiled oatmeal again, ignoring the cinnamon and the strawberry pop tarts, which was hard to do. If you walk down the “cereal” aisle, the pop tarts are at eye level and the slow-cook oatmeal is almost on the floor. My advice: just look down when you go through these parts of the grocery store.
Even though I currently teach clients ways to practice healthy lifestyle habits, the truth is, it really is mega-challenging to do if your environment launches a stress attack on you all day.
The way for me to get back to my fitness and health goal was to find something and someone to radio me back to shore.
I needed a lighthouse.
Journaling in Shakti Gawain’s book changed the way I felt. I reconnected with one of my former workout buddies. I joined a boxing class to punch and jab my stress load into a bag.
Even a former personal trainer can get tossed overboard by emotional stress.
Everyone can benefit from a captain who has a clear and focused head. We need a teacher, a trainer, or a friend to support our highest intentions. Otherwise, we might get lost at sea with eczema, belly bloat, and inflammation of the knees.
We all need someone who can help us navigate back or forward toward who we really want to be.
I train clients, teach movement and strength classes, and write for wellness and power again. Our environments can create a tremendous grip that shapes our decisions. Position yourself in an environment that supports the vision you have for yourself. Even if you can only find ONE PERSON who will support you
You need a captain.
Write your vision often. Read it often. It’s your lighthouse.
To know means to record in one’s memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it oneself.