For most of my life, I was a two-sport athlete: hockey and soccer.

Well before focusing on hockey and soccer, I played almost every sport except tennis. My parents raised me in a fashion that had me outside after school, during the summers – staying away from the TV and video games.

Now, that doesn’t go to say I never had Sega, Super Nintendo, and Play Station 2, but you get the picture: an active kid.

While the title of this two-part piece implies I am naturally thin, life changed quite a bit after 2009-2010, freshman year of college. 37 pounds gained in one year of college, bad blood-pressure, sluggish, and not feeling like the youthful self I was a year ago had me wondering: what happened? Am I going to continue to slip down this slope or make a change that could put me in a position where I’d be proud looking back on the change, the work, the sacrifice?

And today that’s where I am, looking back over the last eight years thinking of the change, the work and hours put in and the sacrifices taken.

Today we’re going to talk about three particular ways that I continue to focus on my health since making the change eight years ago. And in part two, we will talk about my journey in more detail with some reflection. Although we’re all at different stages in our health and wellness, personal accounts can always be a great opportunity to inspire others, which is what I hope this two-part series does for you.

Have a support system – those you surround yourself with are a huge influence on the activities and mentality from day-to-day. Even if it’s one person who comes along to the gym, for a run, a rock climb, a bike ride, whatever the fitness activity is, it makes all the difference. There are going to come days where the mentality will set in “I’m over this. This routine is boring.” Trust me – it happens, and it will happen a lot. There are times where taking a day off are needed, mentally and physically. Having a support system who wants to see you succeed, stay healthy, and achieve your goals will be the ultimate difference at the end of the day.

A plan for dieting – staying healthy requires some different disciplines, but the top of the pyramid goes to your diet. There are dozens of ways to get a diet plan in place – through a nutritionist, self-research, and a variety of websites (bodybuilding.com, everydayhealth.com, fitbit.com, muscleandstrength.com, and countless others via google). With many of you who are professionals working full-time jobs, a good portion of your day is spent on what you get paid to do! There isn’t a whole lot of time to spend hours in the gym or getting involved in physical activities – but there can be time to prepare and plan your nutrition. Here’s the harsh reality – losing weight is essentially done by burning more calories than those consumed. This is impossible to do unless garbage eating habits are changed.

Mental tenacity – your mental tenacity will be enhanced through the support system you surround yourself with; however, there is a level of internal mental strength needed. For those that fear their mental strength isn’t strong enough, you aren’t alone. Mine was quite atrocious. Beach Body OnDemand has a top ten ways to improve mental strength with some highlights including: take this journey one step at a time, follow a checklist, and thinking about why you started this process. Everyone starts somewhere different – we know that. Mental strength is saved for last because it’s the hardest to develop and further reinforce throughout your health journey. To this day, I still work on mine.

Working on your health is a matter of choice. No one is forcing you to make healthy or non-healthy decisions. I was lucky to be a thin, athletic and energetic individual growing up. When that all changed in 2009-2010 after visiting my doctor, it was a calling. It’s was to get healthy and get my life back on track. I’ve witnessed close friends and family members lose hundreds of pounds and go through remarkable transformations.

It’s never too late – you can make it happen.