One of the first questions I ask new clients is, “How much do you weigh?” This question is reserved for the moment when I  get them to say out loud that they want to lose weight, after we have worked through the euphemisms “tone-up,” “get back in shape,” and “feel better.” I almost never get a straight answer. It’s usually something like, “I used to weigh 120,” to which I respond, “So did I. How much do you weigh now?”

The past is the past. What you did before certainly affects what you can do today, but rarely predicts what you will actually do. You are older now, almost certainly fatter, and you probably have “deserved” your way out of a few too many workouts. So, we start with a clean slate. We start with today.

I have always liked the Buddhists. At first it was the haircuts and the cool clothes, but more recently I have come to like the idea of being present and mindful. Thich Nhat Hahn (It took me like 10 minutes to spell it right, and don’t ask me to say it…) talks about our obsession with the past and the future, and our total disregard for the present. Funny, because the only one of the three we can affect is the present. You already messed up a bunch of stuff in the past, so put it behind you– you can’t un-mess it. In the future, you’re going to be better looking, richer, and smarter, right? Not unless you do something about it right-damn-now.

You’ve got to take control of the things you can really control (yourself), and relinquish those things you can’t (everything else). So what if your wife bakes brownies at 9 pm. Is it her fault if you eat them? So what if your kids are begging to go to McDonald’s. Even if you’ve not yet explained diabetes to them, you don’t have to get a McFlurry.

Cultivate will. Make decisions in favor of your health. We talk a lot about how each decision either moves you toward or away from your goals. Only by making mindful choices that you’re certain will lead you in the right direction can you change your course.

You’ve got to stay on top of it, too. I argue pretty hard against the idea that you “deserve” things. Running four or five miles doesn’t earn you half a pan of brownies (I speak from experience). Let’s do the math: four-mile run = minus 400 calories. Half a pan of brownies = plus 1700 calories. OK, so you only do it once a week, but let’s add that nightly glass of red wine to help you relax after sitting around all day at work, and there’s your own annual 3 pounds that each American is expected to gain in the next decade. In ten years (and you know it’s coming like a runaway train), that’s 30 pounds. Then you’ll need two years, the world’s best trainer, and a panel of nutritionists to get back to today’s weight.

If you like where you are, build a house there. But if there are things you need to change, change them now, not tomorrow, because it’ll never be easier than it is today.

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