Hello, my Wonderful Friend!
Today, I want to share with you a story about my Star client who knows the secret of achieving any goal. We often like to talk about the achievements of young or middle-aged people, but forget to share inspiring stories about the elders. Yes, they have lived more years, and they have seen more and done more, but as they grow older, sometimes they lack the energy and the motivation to be more active or to improve their health. The good thing is that they are still with us and we can help them bring back their own inner power and feel more energy to stay healthier and prolong their lives. There is no doubt that a life of good quality and healthy habits will allow elderly people to better connect with family, to have more fun and joyful time, and to continue being active contributors to society.
Especially for you, I have prepared a story about an elderly woman who achieved her fitness goals (despite her age) and has become a great role model for others. Get yourself a fresh cup of tea and allow yourself to relax for the next few minutes and enjoy your reading. It’s story time just for you to get inspired now, and to encourage others later on!
In 2015, I was coaching a lady by the name of Hamda: a 64-year-old widow with four grown-up children. Hamda came to me for help with anxiety related to her health issues, as well as wanting to reduce her weight. Usually, during the first session, I recommend a very effective technique that has worked with most of my clients in the past. I explained to her the concept of positive affirmations and that repeatedly seeing, reading and writing positive affirmations of how she wants to feel, act and look like in the future can affect the subconscious mind to such a degree that it slowly starts transforming the body to align itself with healthy thoughts. Some clients are skeptical at the beginning of coaching about the power and benefits of affirmations until they try them and see the results.
The next day after the session Hamda started reading and writing her statements in her language ten times a day. I also suggested writing down the affirmations with a bright marker on colorful paper and post it in places that she spends most of her time; These are some of the affirmations that she was reading daily: “At any age, I choose to feel younger, stronger and healthier! When my energy is low, I know that it is temporary and I can continue to exercise to feel better! I can be happy, energetic and fit at any age! I have what it takes to renew my body and to achieve my ultimate health goals. I take full responsibility for my health and for my happiness! My past failures, pain, and worry remain in the past because they belong in the past! I enjoy the process of creating my bright future! I understand and listen to my body, I exercise daily, I eat healthy food, I maintain healthy lifestyle habits. I have enough energy, will power, time and resources to achieve the results I want!”
Hamda started reading and writing the affirmations right after waking up and before going to bed. She posted them in her bathroom and bedroom. Even though Hamda had issues with her weight and worried a lot, she still had the energy to run a successful family business. Hamda had a close relationship with her children. When her husband died from a heart attack, Hamda sold his business and opened a perfume boutique, something she had always wanted to do.
During one of our initial sessions, she told me: “My business was rapidly growing, while my body was growing at the same speed. I do not understand why my mind is still so clear and fast, but my body is so heavy and lazy. I am out of breath after climbing two flights of stairs. I feel like I’ve lost control over my body, my heart hurts sometimes, and I am scared to die early, like my husband. I have so much to do; my family and my business need me. I have gained seventeen kilograms in five years since I started my business. I have the energy and the willpower to run three branches of my business and zero willpower to take care of my body.”
Hamda had two main issues: she loved food, and she didn’t move much. Especially at the end of a long and tiring day, her willpower would be so weak, that she would eat late and a lot. We both agreed that she needed to commit by showing some actions toward a healthier life. Together, we developed a program for Hamda, where she chose the activities that she wanted to try out: it was yoga and evening walks outside. The research shows that empowering elders profoundly affects their motivation and that we need to involve seniors in planning, selecting, and evaluating their own physical activity program. It is important to let them make their own choices.
Hamda’s daughter, Sarah, hired a personal yoga trainer and started doing gentle yoga exercises with her mother two sessions per week. They were holding each other responsible and tried not to miss a single session. Four times a week Hamda started walking with her two grandchildren for thirty minutes a day. Hamda’s older son, Saeed, bought his mom a fitness tracker Fitbit with a simple screen to show the number of steps she took each day. This gift certainly helped Saeed’s mom to stay focused on her goal. After three months, Hamda increased her walks to one hour per day. Later on, she met other women of her age, who were regular walkers, and continued walking with them routinely. After the first package of ten private sessions of yoga was completed, Hamda decided to do yoga two times a week and shared with me that she started feeling sensations in her own body and gaining a better sense of balance. She once called me and shared with excitement in her voice: “You know Gulnara, it looks like I was disconnected with my own body for so many years…We are taking it slow with my yoga trainer, but I feel alive again. You know, I am so surprised… I have never thought that at my age I can do with my body what my trainer is pushing me to do.”
You are probably wondering what factors of motivation helped Hamda to stick to the program and achieve desired results? Firstly, she was open to my suggestions but actively participated in choosing her own favorite activities and the frequency of her sessions. Secondly, she had a clear goal to reduce her weight by 17 kilos. Thirdly, Hamda was prepared to invest her time, money and energy to her goal and was ready to pay the price for feeling and looking healthier. And the last and fundamental reason behind her success was support from her loving family!
At first, she started with food. Hamda impressed me with her discipline in choosing to eat higher quality food and reducing her portions. Hamda found a great and fun yoga trainer, who was passionate about helping people. With time, Hamda bonded with her trainer and was looking forward to every next session. By walking with her grandkids, Hamda had time to talk with them and to listen to their stories. Later on, she connected with a support group of other walking ladies. Once Hamda said to me: “When I think of my childhood, growing up we didn’t have the opportunity to attend sports clubs, gyms or walking tracks. It was a land of the sandy desert surrounded by the ocean with extremely hot weather outside…and no facilities, but Allhamdullilah (which means ‘Thank God!’ in Arabic) people were very active and moving a lot back then. Nowadays, new generations, mashallah (which means ‘as God has willed’ in Arabic and is used to show appreciation for something) have everything.”
The most beautiful thing about Hamda was that she felt young at heart and was not afraid to try, to take a risk and push herself. After four months of our coaching program, Hamda showed me the notebook where I was giving her the home assignments and the list of affirmations that she was reading out loud daily in her own language. I was impressed to see how neatly she wrote down her thoughts about her activities and her progress after our sessions. I did not understand a single word, because I cannot read the Arabic language, but I saw a sense of pride and self-confidence in Hamda’s eyes when she was showing me her notes. Hamda was disciplined, but not too hard on herself; she was committed and she celebrated small wins. She had to push herself, but she did not focus on the goal too much. She really enjoyed her activities and the whole process of doing something great for herself. After our program, she reported that she had more energy to go on with daily tasks and felt much lighter, less worried and more energetic. Even though the metabolism of older people slows down and makes it harder to lose weight, by eating healthier and exercising Hamda fixed her metabolism rate and had become best friends with her own body. After the first few months, she lost five kilograms and planned to continue her journey to a stronger and healthier body (and more fun and active lifestyle). Today she is 15 kilos lighter and feels 15 years younger! Hamda is my Star-client, a great role model for others. I was privileged to be a part of her positive change.
We all have people in our lives who are growing older, and perhaps they wish to be more active and happier, but many of them have a hard time finding that energy because of their age. How can we shift our focus from cure to prevention? How can we help them to strengthen their health instead of focusing on curing the illnesses? How can we show our elders that they have the power to make that positive change by shifting their negative thinking and believing in themselves at any age? Initially, it may require a great deal of energy and effort from adult children, family members, and health care providers to empower the elderly. We can do so much for others when we ourselves have the power to support the generations before us with patience and to enter their vulnerable, yet the beautiful inner world, filled with joy, pain, past stories, and future hopes.
Do you have an aging person in your life whom you can help? Keep your energy reserve full and high so that you have what it takes to function effectively while still being able to be strong for someone you love.