How a Beach Sunrise Can Reveal Your Why

Have you ever asked yourself why you want to live healthier?  Why you take those yoga classes.  Why you choose the kale over the french fries (sometimes, anyway).

Often, we make choices simply because we’ve been told that we should.  We’ll try a new superfood because our best friend swears by it or start walking more because our doctor instructed us to.

But if we want to make lasting lifestyle changes today for a better life tomorrow, we need to be clear about our why.

My moment of clarity washed over me while vacationing on the beautiful Hilton Head Island.

It began as an ordinary morning at the beach – if beach mornings can be considered ordinary. I had slowly awakened as the sun began peeking over the waves and cast rays of light into our window.

For a brief moment, I debated staying tucked in for a bit longer, but I realized these beach sunrises are few and far between and couldn’t be missed.

So I quietly slipped out of bed so I wouldn’t wake my husband and stepped onto the patio to watch the beach come to life.  That’s when I saw them.

An “older” couple was walking down the beach with their beautiful golden retriever by their side.  I watched wistfully as they tossed the soggy tennis ball into the waves for their dog to retrieve, wishing that our sweet Sam was with us and that I was the one playing on the beach.

As they came closer, the woman walked towards me to retrieve a ball from the sea grass waving below my balcony and her face came into clear view.

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That’s when it hit me.  A wave of realization crashed over me as I became fully aware that in just a few short years I would be that “older” woman.

I had come face to face with that moment of undeniable truth that everyone entering middle age must face:

My yesterdays outnumber my tomorrows.

There was absolutely no excuse for my surprise at this realization. After all, my youngest son loves to remind me that I’m not thirty anymore.

Just this year he gave me a big birthday bear hug and said with way too much joy “Mom, you are WAY over the hill!”  (No worries, he is still part of the family, because his “way over the hill” Mom loves him too much to throw him out for his insensitive comments!)

But I still sat there counting how many more beach vacations I might have left, contemplating how short our time here truly is – basically I was throwing myself my very own pity party minus the chocolate cupcake and chunky monkey ice cream!

But thankfully those negative thoughts didn’t last long as I looked beyond the flecks of grey in their hair and the wrinkles on their happy faces and saw them for what they truly were – a vibrant, happy, fit couple more ALIVE than most Americans half their age.

I had found my visual why for living a healthy, intentional, and joyful life.

A willful determination filled my soul as I vowed that no matter my age, I was going to soak up every ray of sunshine by living a full and active life. And that was going to require some changes.  It was time for a healthy life makeover.

I found my why – let’s find yours

I’m not going to try to convince you to make healthier choices.  My experience watching that beautiful beach sunrise was my moment – not yours.  YOU have to have your moment of clarity – your Aha!  moment.

So do something for me.  Stop for a moment and visualize yourself 10 years from now.  What do you look like?  What are you doing?

How do you want to feel in that moment?

Side view of serene woman sitting on sandy beach against blue sky outdoors

If those images involve sitting on the balcony of a beautiful beach home watching your family as they laugh and play on the beach, throwing out a “see you later” as you wish you felt like joining them for their morning walk, then you’re good. Don’t change a thing.

But if you want to be an active participant in your own life, if you visualize a strong, beautiful, and happy woman until the very end, then you have found your reason for ditching the sugar and eating more kale.

Because the one thing I know for sure is that when you make healthier choices today then you’ll have a better chance of living a happy, active, and vibrant tomorrow.

The top 3 changes to make today for a healthier tomorrow

Once you find your why and can actually visualize your future, it becomes much easier to make the necessary changes to improve your life.

The first change I made was to clean up my diet.

I have been a carb addict all my life.  Desserts were considered the star of the meal.  My obsession with making the perfect cobbler, buttermilk biscuits, and chocolate pecan turtles was preventing me from losing weight and living an energized life – not to mention accelerating the aging process.

Having bought in to the idea that counting calories was the secret to weight loss, I added up every calorie in that scrumptious slice of Carla Hall’s chocolate fudge pie and was happy that at the end of the day I had stayed under my calorie allotment.

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Yep, I was that naïve.  Thankfully my education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition introduced me to the primal/paleo way of life and I began looking at food in a whole new way.   I began looking at the quality of my food, not the amount of calories it contained.

My new quest became not to perfect the next dessert recipe but rather to incorporate more nutrient-dense vegetables and high quality meats into my diet.   I found myself loving vegetables that I had never even tried and the weight finally started coming off, my energy increased, and those sugar cravings became manageable.

Second, I mixed up my exercise routine. 

I was as addicted to numbers as I was to sugar and found myself checking my Fitbit numerous times throughout the day to see if I had hit my cardio goal.

After learning about the importance of strength training and its role in helping build strong muscles and bones, I did less cardio, worked in more strength resistance training, and traded hours on the elliptical for long, fun walks with my dog.

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Third, I began to let go of stressful baggage and unrealistic expectations, and yes, even some relationships.  I realized that having a long to do list and frantically running in all directions was not a badge of honor but rather a joy-stealer.

With a few swaps of listening to a book in the car instead of talk radio, winding down earlier at night with a good book instead of a Walking Dead episode, and spending time with people who made me laugh instead of want to pull my hair out – all those things made my life feel more full and made me less hungry for chocolate.

The bottom line

 Making healthier choices today is not about making your doctor happy or your health coach proud.

The purpose is to help you live your why and to feel amazing in your body today, confident that you will enjoy many happy tomorrows.

Find your why.  Make the changes.  Live happy, healthy, and free.

Then who knows, one of your tomorrows might be spent walking the beaches of Hilton Head at sunrise inspiring a younger version of yourself to live her very best life.

Have you found your why?  I’d love to hear all about it, so please share in the comments below.

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