The First Steps to a Balanced Life – Assessment and Planning

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you are moving into the holiday season in a spirit of good will, with enthusiasm and energy – not with feelings of being all stressed out.

Before I begin the first of what I hope will be regular weekly posts, I want to explain my intentions with Antipandemonium.  As I mentioned in my introductory post, my approach to life is to look at the dimensions of my life as a 4 legged stool and to try to keep the wobble out by balancing each dimension.  As such, it is my intention to make a post on a weekly basis – probably on Sundays – that focuses on one of the 4 dimensions – Physical, Spiritual, Mental, and Emotional.

There will also be a 5th post each month, and the focus there will be on the 5th dimension – Relational. 

I believe that each of us should make health our number one priority.  Think about it – without good health, every area of life suffers.  You cannot be an effective partner, parent or professional without good health.  For this reason, in my attempt to achieve balance, I started with the physical dimension – and I often return to it when things appear to be getting out of balance.  Get straight physically, and you may find that working on achieving mental, emotional and spiritual health is often easier. 

Another good reason for starting with the physical dimension is that it’s something over which you have a great degree of control, and that is important when you are trying to establish balance.

Many things in life – perhaps most things – are beyond our control.  However, we always have control of what and how much we put into our bodies and how much we move.  We may have all kinds of “good” excuses for why we make poor choices, but we need to recognize that our personal choices are within our control.  We cannot blame someone else for eating junk and skipping exercise.

Before you race to your latest excuse, let me just say I spent many, many years making bad choices myself.  I had a full time job, a house to keep clean (I have never had a housekeeper), a husband and two small children.  Instead of being reasons for making a health a priority, they became excuses for not doing that.  If I’d spent as much time on good nutrition and exercise as I did justifying my bad choices, I would have been far better off. 

We all have the same 24 hours in a day.  What we do with our “discretionary” hours is within our control.  Many of us choose to spend our time in front of the TV with a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream, or in front of the computer spending hours playing games – and we tell ourselves “I worked hard all day – I deserve a break.” 

I would like to suggest that making the choice to spend part of that time exercising, and planning meals of wholesome food is a better investment of your time because it will pay you dividends in good health for years to come.  And good health will support everything else that you do – whether you do it by choice or not!  

At this time of year, many people begin to determine what their “New Year’s Resolutions” will be.   For many, “getting into shape” heads the list.  Unfortunately, it heads many lists every year.  For the majority of people who attempt to get into shape (whatever that means), they never achieve their goal.  For most, it is because they have not planned for their fitness. 

There is an old saying – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Another old saying – “Most people plan their vacations better than they plan their lives.”

Don’t be one of those people.  Do not show up on January 1, 2011 without a plan for achieving health and fitness.  You have 5 weeks to develop a plan and goals.  Let’s start with the first step – determine where you are now – your baseline.

Weight is the easiest measure, but body fat percentage and measurements are a more accurate reflection of changes towards a healthy lifestyle.  If you can, get yourself a scale that measures body fat percentage.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure.  And once you take your baseline measurements, you need to track them periodically.  For most, that means weekly for weight and monthly for measurements.  Get yourself a notebook or a journal, pick a day of the week when you will measure your progress, determine your starting day, and record your weight and your measurements. 

You should measure your right arm (bicep), chest, waist, hip, right thigh, and right calf at the minimum.  As you progress with exercise, you will notice a change in your measurements as you track them regularly.  This can be a great motivation for continuing with exercise – especially when the needle is stuck on the scale and you feel as if you are not making progress.  More on that in another post!

If taking your measurements doesn’t motivate you to develop a plan, try taking a picture of yourself, front and back, in a bathing suit.  That should do it.

As to the specifics of the plan, there are two programs that I recommend with enthusiasm because I’ve used them. 

Weight Watchers is a solid program based on sound nutrition principles and provides information on exercise as a way to enhance weight loss and get fit.  This week, Weight Watchers International will introduce the first major revision to their program since they introduced “Points” 13 years ago.  I am looking forward to it! 

I am currently in the WW@Work program with other associates at my company.  We have been meeting at work for about 9 weeks now and I have lost 13 pounds.  Three more pounds and I will hit my goal weight.  I will have another 6 weeks in the program to maintain this weight, and that will get me to Lifetime Membership in Weight Watchers.

The elements of the Weight Watchers program that I find most valuable are “accountability” (you weigh in each week with a counselor), “community” (you are part of a group with common goals – ah, the 5th Dimension – Relational!), and “eTools”, which make it easy to count points and track.  (There’s that measuring and tracking thing again!)  You can find information on Weight Watchers online at

The other program I recommend is a bit more ambitious, but will put you into the best shape of your life.  An injury earlier this year kept me from being able to exercise for several months.  Once I was able to get back to the gym, this program proved a little too difficult for me due to the nature of my injury and the weight that I gained from not being able to exercise.  Weight Watchers (and yoga!) has helped me to get ready for taking it on again.

The program is “Body for Life”.   It is simple (that does not mean easy!) and based on sound fundamentals – something I believe in.  The web site for this program is at, and it’s full of information and inspiration.  I encourage you to visit this site and just read some of the inspiring stories of the “champions”.  You don’t have to enter the BFL Challenge in order to make use of the plan.  But if you think that will motivate you, by all means, sign up. 

I have taken the Body for Life Challenge – officially – twice in the past ten years.  In truth, I’ve never really been “off” this program since I first started it in 2000.  When they publish the new challenge dates for 2011, I intend sign to up for the first challenge of 2011.  And I will post my progress on my blog.  I hope you will join me. 

In the next five weeks, I hope you will consider Weight Watchers, or Body for Life, or some other type of program to put yourself on the road to good health with an eating and fitness plan.  Select a program this week, and use the next four weeks to prepare yourself for your new health and fitness lifestyle!

Wishing you the best always.

About bonniejpreston

Life is an adventure. Make every day count. Enrich the lives of those you meet along the way. Don't show up at the end with a wish list. Invest in your health - the dividends paid are priceless. Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Enjoy the journey. Namaste
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6 Responses to The First Steps to a Balanced Life – Assessment and Planning

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