The three things you need for a happy, healthy life


About fifteen years ago, one of my clients told me the three things a person must have in order to live a happy life: adventure, love and friendship. At the time the statement didn’t mean much to me but as I have matured I realize how right he was. When I work with overweight people I see so much sadness. I believe that food is being used to replace one of these three voids in their lives.

It’s unbelievable how many people I find spending their lives sitting at home watching television, working on the computer or playing video games from the time they get home until they go to bed. The majority of unhealthy calories are consumed after dinner. Think about all the hours you waste sitting staring into a screen while eating at the same time. People do this because they have nothing else to do.

The average North American watches about three and a half hours of television per day. At this rate if a person lived to seventy years of age they would have spent over 9 years of their life watching television. I think it would be a shame if on your death bed you came to regret how you lived your life.

What would you give to have any one of those hours back? Think about what you could have accomplished with that time. Think about what you could have become, what kind of body you could have had, and what you could have done with that body. We all have a genetic potential. Many of us will die without ever realizing even 50 per cent of what our body could have done or looked like if it was taken care of.

To me, adventure is doing something out of my comfort zone that gives me a rush, something that’s a bit scary but I also look forward to doing. Exploring new, difficult mountain bike trails, doing the keynote address at a fitness conference, jumping out of an airplane, or trying to set a new personal best in my weight training routine even though I know it is going to hurt really bad. These are some of the things I personally do that gets me jazzed up about life. You just have to figure out what will do it for you.

Probably the most scary nerve racking thing I have done so far was when I agreed to be a celebrity dance contestant to raise money for a children’s charity. The idea is the same as the “Dancing With The Stars” television show. I had three weeks to practice with a professional ballroom dance instructor. Our dance was the Jive. Anyone who knows me can understand the intensity of my discomfort because I’m a brutal dancer. My biggest fear was embarrassing myself by forgetting the routine or dropping my partner on one of our lifts (which I did on one of my practice days). I didn’t know how I was going to feel on the day of the event. Imagine doing something you suck at in a gala event with a thousand sets of eyes watching your every move.

To prepare for this, I had an idea. I convinced my dance instructor to do our routine the day before the event on the streets of downtown Edmonton. I figured if I can dance in a situation where people walking down the street would wonder, “What the hell is this guy doing?” I may be less afraid on the night of the real thing.

There we were: me and my partner, a few homeless people pushing their grocery carts and a bunch of business types gathered together to watch something unexpected at that place and time. It went surprisingly well.

On the night of the charity dance, about an hour before I was to go on, I remember being more nervous than any other moment of my life. Two of the other celebrity dancers were Jaime Sale and David Pelletier. These are Olympic Gold Medal winners in pair’s figure skating. This is really unfair! They dance on ice which is harder than dancing on a floor. How am I going to look after they are done their routines?

When they announced my name, I remember applause, a few of my co-workers in the audience chanting my name and then silence. Once the music started I went into the routine I had practiced and all the nervousness went away. We went through all the steps and I avoided banging my instructor’s head on the floor. I did something that was scary for me and I believe I am better for doing it.

When you do something really great and different you have a great story to tell. When someone asks you, “What did you do last night?” Do you want to say, “I stayed home and watched television,” or “I conquered my fear”?

Adventure is vital for a healthy existence. Without it we would never have anything to look forward to in life.

I have a client who has referred to food as “her lover.” Her husband shows her disrespect and does not provide the affection she desperately needed. It’s easy to see why people use food to feel loved. People who have rolls of fat on their body do not feel good about themselves. They are ashamed of their body and go to extreme lengths to not let anyone seem them naked.

One overweight lady I have worked with told me her boyfriend/fiancé of ten years had never seen her in the nude. When they were intimate it was always with the lights out and she only exposed parts of her body that were necessary for the moment. To me this seems insane. Sex should be two bodies colliding together like two hot meteors exploding with passion (sorry this sounds like a raunchy romance novel).

Friends can help or hinder your weight loss goal. Research shows that if the friends and family we socialize with are overweight you are most likely to be overweight yourself. Think about the people you spend time with. If their idea of a good time is to barbeque chicken wings and drink beer you will consume those calories if you want to hang out with them. If your overweight friends want to go to a movie and guzzle back a large pop and buttery popcorn (2000 calories +), you will follow to spend time with them.

Chances aren’t great that your overweight family members and friends would ever invite you to go out for a 5km walk/run. If you say to them, “Lets go to the gym instead of going out to eat,” they’ll think you’re nuts.

The key for your weight loss success is to spend less time with unmotivated overweight people and spend time finding fitter more active friends. Since they have a like-minded goal to stay, lean, fit and take care of their health you will have a better chance of doing it yourself.

Join an exercise class, a community walking group, a co-ed volleyball club, or sign up for dancing lessons — anything that gets you excited to move your body. You’ll meet new people that may want to do something other than always going out to eat, going to the movies or staying home frying up greasy foods.

The next time you decide to go on a diet, it’s not only about the types of food you eat and the calories you consume. This is only half the battle. The other part is figuring out why you are eating poorly in the first place. Maybe you just need to reduce your boredom, find some love or do something active with a buddy.

It can be that simple.

8 replies
  1. Nienke Hinton says:

    This is spot on, Paul!
    Weight also helps people “hide” from the world. Goes hand in hand with hiding from adventure, love and friendship. It’s sad how many people don’t feel worthy of these things! We all are.

  2. L.A says:

    The figuring out why (eating poorly) has been a HUGE hurdle. How do you go about figuring this out. For most people it’s right their in front of them. Not so for me.
    Paul I’ve been asking for help for so long now, I desperately need help.

  3. spike says:

    This is so true. We can blame being over weight on being so busy but we need to look at all the time we are wasting on unhealthly choices like watching TV etc. Find a healthly passion and take care of yourself and everything eles will fall into place. Thanks for the info.

  4. paul plakas says:

    Hi L.A

    Try keeping a log of the food you eat over the course of a week. Write down the time of day, the type of food, the quantity of food, your emotional state at the time and the situation you are in during your day (eg, at work, watching TV, at a party, etc) At the end of the week go over the log and see if you can identify any patterns in your eating.

  5. Just Me :) says:

    I came to a realization about a year and a half ago.

    I was an extremely obese single mother of two wonderful young men who suddenly had become teenagers and didn’t need me so much; in fact, were pushing me to get out and meet someone. So, thats what I did. I started “lookin for love” only to find that as long as I was the one pursuing a relationship, I was fine; however, as soon as anyone started to pay too much attention to me, I was suddenly faced with all kinds of negative thoughts like “he can’t be into me” or “wow, I’m too fat for this guy”. Funny thing…I was actually using weight to push love out of my life as not to suffer the hurt I had experienced in a past relationship.

    I am now happy to report that I lost 50 lbs last year and I am a totally different person…inside and out. No more shame or embarassment, and even though I still, have a ways to go in terms of weight loss, I am fitter, healthier and damn I look GOOD! Dating is awesome!

  6. Donna says:

    I lost 50 pounds five years ago and along with the weight I lost many of my friends. Our lifestyles just didn’t mesh any longer and I realized that my “friends” resented my weight loss success and often tried to sabotage my efforts. My former life revolved around friends and food. Today I have fewer friends but I am so much happier. I have become very selective about my friends and I date guys who are equally interested in fitness and healthy lifestyle choices – would never consider going back to the “bad ole’ days.”

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