Last year, I was a judge for the Miss America pageant. That meant a full week of driving back and forth between Atlantic City and my home in New York—and a lot of gas station snacking. On one of those fateful trips, I walked into a convenience store on the Jersey Turnpike with a mission: Buy a delicious snack to get me through a busy afternoon. In the past, I wouldn’t have thought twice about grabbing a big bag of pizza-flavored Combos, those chip-cracker hybrids that were designed in a snack lab to be unquestionably delicious (and addictive). The bag would have been empty in minutes.
But that day, I knew better. I knew those pizza Combos had to be tremendously terrible for me. Out of curiosity, I took a look at the nutrition label: nearly 800 calories in one bag. I’ll pause for a moment while you pick your jaw off the floor.
Two months before, I made a major life change and hired Mike Vacanti, a personal trainer, to help me think about my health differently. Mike isn’t the type of personal trainer who I meet up with at the gym a few times a week. He oversees the food I eat and plans and runs my daily workouts. I turned to him in the gas station and said, “Mike, if you weren’t here, I would have eaten the whole bag.”
That moment in the gas station was significant because it showed me that I was changing how I thought and how I reacted to decisions about health.
But it wasn’t the moment I knew I had to change.
The Wake-Up Call
That moment came during a routine checkup six years ago. I stepped on the scale in the doctor’s office and realized I had gained 13 pounds. I was 33 at the time, and I finally realized my body wasn’t going to do the work for me anymore. It was time for me to take action. My body had treated me well, but I knew that wasn’t going to last forever.
Even with that wake-up call, it took me five years to really start making healthy changes. I just couldn’t get into a rhythm, no matter the diet or training schedule I tried. I was frustrated with myself for realizing I needed to change what I ate and how much I exercised but not finding anything I could stick to. I remember sitting on a plane and just saying, “F*ck it. No more excuses. No more giving up. I’m going to change.”
I decided to be really honest with myself. I asked myself: What is really going to work? What is going to keep me on track? To me, the answer was obvious: I needed a babysitter. I met Mike, and I knew he wouldn’t let me get away with anything. The decision was made.
These days, my health is a top priority. I owe it to my family, and I owe to the businesses I’ve worked hard to establish. My health was the first thing I encountered in my life that didn’t come naturally to me. And that was a very hard pill to swallow.
Find Your Path
It’s been a long road to finding the healthy lifestyle that works for me. And I hesitate to say you should follow my path because what’s worked for me might not work for you. But there is one thing you can do that will change how you think about yourself and your health: Know yourself. Audit yourself. Become as self-aware as you possibly can. Understand what you need to do to make those changes.
I got to a place financially that allowed me to afford what I needed, but I also know that hiring a trainer to follow you around is not going to be in the cards for most people. The cool thing is I know friends and family who achieved the same results I did after finding the perfect app or following the right people on Twitter. It provided them the motivation and community they needed to stay on track.
Now all I ask is that you're equally honest with yourself when you answer: What will it really take for you to make the change?
I figured out exactly what I needed by being brutally honest with myself: I needed someone to babysit me. Now all I ask is that you're equally honest with yourself when you answer: What will it really take for you to make the change?
For some, money still may be the bottleneck. To that I say this: Nothing is more important than your health. So before you buy that next 42-inch TV, go on an extra vacation, or buy season tickets to your favorite sports team, it might be worth taking a step back and seeing how you can make a strong financial commitment to your health. I am the extreme. It’s not practical for everybody to go out and hire a personal trainer, but gym memberships are becoming more affordable, fresh produce is attainable, and YouTube has hundreds of free workouts.
No more excuses.
Take the time to really sit down and be honest with yourself. That’s the first step. From there only you know what has to be done. Make health a priority. Not because it’s the right thing to do. Not because it will make you better at your job. Because you owe it to yourself. Starting now could mean 20 extra years of doing what you love. Isn’t that reason enough?
Gary Vaynerchuk has built businesses all his life. In his 20s, he grew his family liquor store from $3 million to $45 million in five years, launching WineLibrary.com, one of America's first wine e-commerce sites. Most recently, Gary launched VaynerRSE, a $25 million seed fund, to continue his successful investing career. (Full disclosure: VaynerRSE is an investor in Greatist.) For more information on Gary, check him out on Twitter and Facebook.