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Keeping the faith
Make no u-turns when you're headed in a new direction
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Making a fundamental change in your lifestyle – one that’s going to stick – is not always easy. Even when you are strongly motivated and committed to the challenge, you may experience periods of doubt. I have found that the key to handling those down moments is what I have made my new mantra: Keep the Faith.

My journey to a healthier lifestyle has had its share of ups and downs. I started as a member of the original group of participants in the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program presented with Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, Inc. Over the 12 weeks of the free program sponsored by Charles H. and Rosalie Morris, I learned many things about healthier living, including perhaps the most valuable information: My life is in my hands!

My goals were to lose weight, manage stress, and prevent the possibility of chronic disease so that I can be a good father to my children and enjoy my life to the fullest. Not everyone needs to lose weight. A health care professional can help you make that decision, as my doctor did.

During the CRI Life Enhancement Program, I lost 20 pounds. In the four months following my graduation, I lost an additional 50 pounds – a total of 70 pounds in about seven months! How does that feel? It feels great. I have more energy. I move more easily. I sleep better. My health has improved.

People ask me how I accomplished such a dramatic change in such a relatively short time. I tell them I just took small steps that led to big changes. Here are some examples:

I stopped putting salt on my food. Too much sodium causes you to retain water and gives you that bloated feeling. Interestingly enough, I have not missed the taste of salt on my food.

I control my portion size. This one is all psychological. I don’t have to give up food I like if I eat less of it.

I work out at least 30 minutes a day to maintain my weight, and at least an hour a day to lose weight. This, as I discovered, is how MY body works. It will be different for everyone, but the knowledge I gained about how my body responds to food and exercise was the second most important thing I learned through my CRI Life Enhancement Program experience.

I started doing yoga. Yoga helps me manage my stress. The psychological and physical benefits have made a tremendous difference for me.

The phenomenal support I have received from others may come last in this list, yet it’s perhaps the most important factor in my transformation. Facebook friends have cheered me on. A former student invited me to join her running club. I was asked to share my experience with the second group of CRI Life Enhancement Program participants. Those events touched my soul and gave me encouragement to continue.

In my state of joy for what the CRI Life Enhancement Program has done for me and others, I wrote this creed that I hope will inspire you on your journey:

I am Powerful because I have Knowledge.
I KNOW that my life rests in my own hands.
I KNOW that my health is my own responsibility.
I KNOW that my body is the temple of my spirit.
I KNOW that my mind is the key to my wellness.
I KNOW that I must keep moving to give my body strength.
I KNOW that I must think before I eat, remembering that food is fuel.
I KNOW that my stress is manageable -- there are techniques I can use.
I KNOW how to enhance my life, and to take full advantage.
I KNOW that the key to my success is taking small steps that lead to big changes.
I KNOW that if I can conceive it, I will achieve it.
Because I do believe it.
And that Knowledge makes me POWERFUL!

Keep the faith ... and no U-turns!

Reginald Franklin is Associate Professor of Mass Communications at Savannah State University.