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Foresight 2020 Health Challenge

Announcing the Foresight 2020 Health Challenge – Your story of success starts here!


They say that “hindsight is 2020”, but we’re about to start the year 2020, and I, for one, prefer to look forward to this coming decade, with an eye toward making it the best one yet.


Are you thinking something similar? I would love to get to know you – and so I am launching the Foresight 2020 Health Challenge – so we can kick this off right together.


(Email me at h.howells@agentsofchangecoaching.com to get details and enroll!)

New Year’s has long been my favorite holiday. This is not because I want to party in the wee hours in the cold – it’s because it seems like a lot of holidays wrapped into one, and it is full of meaning for me. I have always loved to mark the passage of time, and New Year’s is an annual milestone that takes place in the winter, which is a tough and introspective time of year for me. I try to use the winter to look inward and make important changes during a time of hibernation, focusing on rejuvenation and reinvention rather than morosely longing for the sun and summer, as I’m inclined to do.


I have always said that gratitude is my greatest spiritual practice, and New Year’s is a natural time to look back at a year completed by laughter and love, with many treasures to behold. New Year’s is a kind of Thanksgiving. But it’s also like Yom Kippur – the Jewish holiday of atonement – where there lies the hope that I can correct my course, live a life aligned with my ideals and values, and steer ever closer to the trajectory that leads to my northern star.


So, on the cusp of a new decade, I am looking to the horizon, hoping for 20/20 vision in my foresight . . . and wanting to create a community of like-minded people to join me on my voyage. Can I count you in?


I must tell you that my quest for physical health has been quite the journey. I suffered from two eating disorders for most of my teenage years, never weighing over 100 pounds until I moved away from home – and I recovered from these in survival mode by simply ignoring my body, and becoming 100 pounds overweight. My pattern changed from one of starvation disorders to emotional over-eating, and this was a source of suffering as well as a dysfunctional way to cope. Along the way I lost the weight . . . three times.


Yes, you read that right. I have now been 100 pounds overweight THREE times, and returned to a more healthy body composition each time. It’s true that weight loss gets harder each time you have to do it over again, but I guess I’m real stubborn.

Having done it three times makes me feel really vindicated in my determination -- and also super, mega, MEGA-annoyed at myself for putting myself in the position I was in health-wise three times.


It was also not completely my fault. I didn’t understand how we train our bodies to cycle through sugar highs and hangry lows until we are held hostage by our metabolic hormones. We live in a society surrounded by unhealthy foods that are cheaper and easier to obtain than healthy ones; where we encourage others to eat badly and “treat” themselves in the now when we see them trying to abstain from foods that hurt them long-term; where sugar is addictive and in high supply. We treat food like love, and then wonder why it hurts so much to deny ourselves. I was subject to the same pressures as all of you. I ate to stay awake, to forego sleep, to numb my emotions, to get through grad school and tough days at work. I ate to give myself love when I feared I didn’t deserve it in any other form. I put off my own sleep and exercise endlessly because we are taught (particularly as women) that we are morally wrong if we put ourselves any higher than last on our own priority lists. I felt the pain of believing I didn’t deserve to care for myself. And I viewed my obesity as a failure, even though it was the logical consequence of using food as a drug to help me cope with the high performance demands I was meeting and exceeding in many other facets of my life.


If you join me in this health challenge, where I will be challenging myself alongside you, we will talk about how it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ll work together to support each other. We will work through the Primal Blueprint for ancestral health, and understand how to change our hormonal patterns so that the cycle of obesity and disease can be broken. We’ll look at WHY it works. We’ll brainstorm ways to set ourselves up for success so that the good choices we want to make are right at our fingertips. We’ll have 100 days to create new and lasting patterns in a community of others who can support us every step of the way.


But for now, I want to offer you a sneak-preview of why joining this challenge might help, by sharing with you five things I’ve learned that have changed the way I approach health:


1) I wasn’t broken before.

Look at these “BEFORE” pictures.


I was so happy! It was amazing to welcome my younger son to our family (as I lay in the hospital right after delivering him in the first picture), and take him for his first hike while wearing him on my body when he was about 3 weeks old (as I am doing in the second picture). I wasn’t a broken, empty failure. I was a mom, a wife, a friend, a professional, and a physically active lover of nature who had moved to Colorado to enjoy the outdoors – and I could do ALL those things and more at 100 pounds overweight. I wasn’t broken, and neither are you.


I love to read other people’s weight loss success stories – and it is inspiring to hear the way their lives have changed as they regained health. But it might be even MORE important to know that you are already a successful, whole person, deserving of living a life you love, no matter where you are right now on your path to health.

For those of us who suffer from feelings of failure and shame surrounding our bodies, understanding we are not broken is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to letting go of all the self-destructive moralizing about food that keeps us stuck, judging ourselves and making us unable to reach for our goals.


2) I didn’t have to do it alone.


Food – especially hyper-palatable, high carb food – is addictive. Plain and simple. Our bodies lock into sugar addiction when our insulin shoots high again and again, then crashes, sending us into hanger spirals where we have to eat just to be sane. This cycle is hard to break.


People who are in recovery from alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders often talk about “white knuckle sobriety” – where they are just gritting their teeth and relying on willpower, rather than accessing the support they need.


Well, it should come as a surprise to exactly no one considering enrolling in a health challenge that WILLPOWER DOESN’T WORK.

It works no better for breaking cycles of food addiction than for any other type of addiction. There are resources found in coaching that can help you set yourself up for success. We all need these things: the knowledge of WHAT to do, the understanding of WHY it works, the strategies for HOW to put it in place, and the WHO – the people who walk beside us to keep us on the path.


The first time I lost a lot of weight, I was white-knuckling it all the way. The second time, I had more knowledge. I had found the information resources necessary to understand WHAT to do to live primally, and I understood WHY it works and HOW to get there. But until I found the WHO – and found the courage to be vulnerable about my struggles, I couldn’t stick with it.


I still burn with envy of the people in the Primal community who write their success stories and describe their never-look-back moments. Mine may never come. I still need to call a friend from time to time to talk me out of ordering a cheesesteak on my way home, and I suspect I’ll always need that. There’s nothing wrong with needing that support, and it may be the key to everything. Let our Foresight community fill that need for you.

3) Calories count, but hormones matter more.


Here is your key to freedom: you are hangry and desperate because of your HORMONES. Insulin is not your friend. What goes up must come down: this is not only the law of gravity, it’s what happens every time you drive your blood sugar high. And then when you crash, you find yourself hangry and desperate. Cortisol (our primary stress hormone) is also not your friend. It makes your appetite skyrocket, even though your body knows that food is no substitute for sleep. Make no mistake – although we need both of these hormones to survive, insulin and cortisol will derail all your best efforts if you don’t change your lifestyle to get them in check. The principles of ancestral health can teach you how.


4) Your body WANTS to be healthy – but you have to let it. So does your MIND.


This doesn’t have to be about deprivation – it can be about joy. Once you optimize your hormones to work with you, not against you, your body can take it from there. The genes we inherited from our ancestors really are programmed for survival, and your body will reflect that over time. Imagine a life where you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Where your food tastes great. Where your mind is open and your body is strong. Where your stress is less and your emotions are more even-keel because you are not subject to wild swings of hormones and blood sugar. The difference is mind-blowing, and 90% of the battle for me was learning to get out of my own way.


Also, I wanted to gain physical health . . . but I was downright amazed to see the difference that I felt in terms of my mental health and well-being once I broke the sugar addiction, ditched hanger, and stopped feeding endlessly off my own stress and cortisol. I believe I improved my mental health and well-being MUCH more than my physical health, and this has actually become a stronger driver for me than weight loss over time.


5) If you really want to grow, you never truly ARRIVE.


I used to feel a lot of shame that no matter how much progress I made, I would never be what I wanted to be. This wasn’t just about health and weight loss. It was about not meeting my own ideals as a friend, a wife, a mom, a veterinarian, a co-worker, a trusted community member. Now I recognize that it is simply the curse of having a growth mindset – if I want to continually improve, I have to learn to live with the fact that I will never truly ARRIVE. I need to view that not as a failure, but as a success. It is a sign that I’m not dead, that I have hope for the future, that I believe in my own power to change.


Here are my “after” pictures: one of the excitement on my face before leading a coaching webinar; one of my Halloween costume; one at the finish line of a triathlon; and one of me hiking with visible arm muscles (!!!) with my [now 2 and a half year old] son on my back as I crossed a stream in the high country of Colorado.

I am on the verge of transitioning away from full-time veterinary practice to pursue coaching full-time. I have the ability to buy clothes in a regular (not plus-sized) store now. My doctor no longer wants to put me on a statin to drive down my cholesterol. And I just had one of the best summers of my life, camping and adventuring full-throttle with my family.


Yet I still have not ARRIVED. I never will. And I need this Foresight 2020 Health Challenge community maybe even more than you do. I am investing my own effort by your side because I need to re-set, re-commit, and re-invent again. Over and over I need to affirm my ability to make choices that are in line with my values and that help me lead the life I want.

So . . . how about you?


Are you ready for this, too? Please email me if you want to be part of the Foresight 2020 Health Challenge – I’ll send you the details of how to enroll, and how it will work, and I’ll be waiting for you with open arms. Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful decade.


(Email: h.howells@agentsofchangecoaching.com for details and to enroll!)


- HLH



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