I was honored to write another article for Naturally Savvy, this time about how skiing can be a great teacher in our quest to live a healthy life. The article is based on my book Mountain Mantras: Wellness and Life Lessons from the Slopes, which is a wellness and leadership book that has thousands of people laughing as they read (ok, often at my expense since I make fun of myself a lot in the book).
Can regular skiing contribute to healthy living goals?
When our family decided to move from the big city of Chicago to a teeny-tiny town in the middle of Idaho (population 20,000 on a busy day), most people thought we were crazy. But one of my friends offered this sage advice, “In the business of taking care of others, you need to also make sure that you take care of yourself”. She added, “You never know what you might learn from being in the mountains, especially as you overcome your fears while taking skiing lessons!”
Her prescient comment turned out to be right on target, as learning to ski became an “accelerated classroom” that allowed me to put together seemingly unrelated experiences and create a framework for success in life and health that would be explained in my bestselling book, Mountain Mantras: Wellness and Life Lessons from the Slopes. As it turns out, the metaphor of skiing provides a “high stickiness factor” when helping people to remember tactics for healthier living.
Here are three tips that can help you gain traction on your wellness goals for the 2016 year.
1. Positivity is Your First Step
I noticed that in ski lessons, you generally meet two types of people: those that are excited to be there (i.e., “It’s going to be a great day on the slopes!) and those that show up with reluctance and a negative attitude (i.e., “I’m cold. These boots hurt my feet. I know I’m going to fall and hurt myself). The trend that I observed in my lessons was that the attitudes of these folks tended to manifest their days. It reminded me how important the way we view food is to our overall health. Food is fuel, and we need to have a positive attitude about it. When we make food the enemy, we tend to develop dysfunctional habits and even disorders.
When getting down a ski hill, you don’t just look at the very bottom of the run and rocket down. You plant each ski pole, setting an intention toward the direction you want to go, and then make your way down, turn by turn. Meeting your longer term health goals works the same way: set your sights on where you’d like to be and then break down that greater vision into smaller, manageable steps.
In skiing, it is important not to fight gravity. You need to get your weight forward, and as one of my ski instructors once said, “Throw yourself down the mountain”. You can’t sit back in fear and constantly change your mind about your next steps. In health, an ability to commit and stick with that conviction is critical in the context of ever-changing advice about nutrition. (Low carb? High carb? Low fat? High fat? and on and on). Don’t change direction with fickle trends. Ultimately, a great plan comes down to simply eating real, whole foods that make your body feel great. Listen to your body and commit to a plan that works for you.
Start to view food as fuel and as your friend. Food is not the enemy. Set your goals but don’t make them too big or overwhelming. Then commit to your plan and listen to your body — not all the conflicting advice from the news. Have a happy and healthy new year!