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This time last year, I hadn’t even begun thinking about taking the first step. According to my idea of what a man my age should be doing with his life, I was right on track and working the mediocre job I was happy to have. At twenty-four years old, recently released from the embrace and security of college and its seemingly fantastic environment, which had in some way prepared me for life on the outside, the so called “Real World”. Exactly what was expected of me as an educated adult, I am still unsure of. But this much I am sure of: we are all responsible for taking care of ourselves in body, mind, and spirit, and by belittling or even ignoring the powerful relationship between these three life forces, we wind up digressing in the grand scheme of things rather than growing gracefully.

But this time last year, I refused to accept this notion that in order to live a successful, meaningful, and primarily an enjoyable life, I needed to acknowledge this body-mind-spirit relationship, and make some lifestyle changes. I was doing what everyone around me was doing, namely eating whatever I could whenever I could, drinking on a regular basis, and keeping any possibility of exercising to a minimum. Just waking up for work was exercise enough. I was living in accordance with my environment, yet somehow I was miserable. I weighed 235 pounds, 65 pounds heavier than the consistent 170 I had been since high school, and carrying around this extra weight was exhausting in itself. Add the sedative-like side effects of the anti-depressant I was taking to the mix, and it was all I could do to stay awake until the next meal. Was this what life had in store for me? Was I becoming at such a young age what I swore I would never become: the overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy working stiff?

After some very painful and reflective self-analysis, I realized that I didn’t want to continue on this path of misery and inevitable self-destruction, a lifestyle that had sadly become routine. But the road ahead, the road to becoming physically healthy and mentally happy seemed so far away. I had been living this way for some time, and just facing the mountain of work ahead of me was enough to make me want to crawl into bed so I wouldn’t have to think about it. As I was huffing and puffing while walking my dog one day, I finally awoke to the realization that perhaps this unhappiness, this lack of fulfillment in my life was somehow related to how I was living my life. That if I could just get over the initial hump of starting a new body-friendly routine, I might not find my own life so mundane and depressive, despite how my friends chose to live their lives. After all, we are all solely responsible for creating our own happiness, or creating our own misery. This epiphany, this personal recognition and understanding of the problem at hand is most essential in actually designing a plan and solution to fixing the problem. Be it alcoholism, drug abuse, or in my case, an unhealthy balance of body-mind-spirit. This is the first step.

The formula I devised for getting back on track was rigorous to say the least. I figured that if I could somehow throw myself into a strict daily routine of exercise, healthy eating, yoga, and meditation, I would have less free time on my hands to idly waste. I decided to wean off of the anti-depressant I was taking with the consent of my doctor, because I knew that the root of my unhappiness was in the way I lived my life, an issue I had been willingly ignoring and hiding from. I quit drinking alcohol “cold turkey” as they say. I never had a problem with drinking, but it would be just one more obstacle standing in the way of becoming physically and mentally fit. I joined a local gym, and sometimes had to force myself to work out and do cardiovascular exercise at least four days a week. I stopped eating meat altogether and adopted a healthy and practical vegetarian diet full of soy, vegetable, and whey proteins, which seemed to give me plenty of energy both at work and at the gym. Finally, I set aside at least one hour a day to practice yoga and meditation, which very effectively seemed to take the place of a prescription anti-depressant by calming my nerves and enabling me to think with a clear head, without the sedative effects. This was my way of taking control of my life, and the results have truly exceeded my expectations.

As I examine the radical lifestyle changes I have made within the past year, I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Today I weigh 175 pounds and have either lost the fat I once had, or turned it into muscle. I look forward to going to the gym and sweating for a couple of hours even if I don’t, and never will look like Arnold Swarzeneggar. I find satisfaction in preparing myself healthy and delicious meals from scratch, even though they are meatless. I also find a sense of comfort, peace, and happiness in my daily meditations, despite the convenience of popping a “happy pill” once daily.

This time last year, I never would have imagined how effective my lifestyle changes would be in balancing my body-mind-spirit relationship. I am now living proof of the incredible will power we all possess. A successful experiment so to speak, in the field of lifestyle management. It undoubtedly takes daily attention and work to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but for me, it’s all down hill from here. As for my friends, they haven’t changed a bit, and that’s fine if it works for them. But I am thankful every day that I took the first step towards leading a fulfilling and enjoyable life by taking control of my lifestyle. The first step is the hardest, but results make it all worthwhile.