By Russell Rawlings

Wellness was not a familiar term when I did something about mine in 1978. That was the year I lost 140 pounds and changed my life forever.

Whether that qualifies me to write on the subject of wellness remains to be seen. There’s certainly more to wellness than losing weight. On the other hand, wellness would be difficult to achieve without some semblance of weight control.

If there is any advantage to having been the fat kid in school all the way into my senior year of college, it would be my experience with weight. From gaining it to losing it, from living with it to keeping it off, I know weight, and it knows me.

Let me begin with my guiding principle, the one thing that I write about and speak about with greatest confidence when matters of weight and wellness are being discussed. It is the single-most undisputed fact I have gleaned from decades of observation and introspection:

You only get one body.

No matter what your situation is, no matter what you believe in, no matter what you weigh, you only get one body. It’s up to you to decide what you do with that body, what you put into that body, and what you get out of that body. The vessel we’re walking around in is the ultimate accounting system, measuring intake against output in determining how we look and how we feel. I can rationalize every useless and unnecessary calorie that finds its way into my body, but at the end of the day all bills come due.

In my younger years, when looking better certainly played a pivotal role in my desire to lose weight, I focused most of my attention on the number on the scales and the size of my clothes. I vividly recall the only belt that I owned being a size 56-inch waist. As the pounds came off, the guys in the press room at the newspaper where I worked took great joy in punching out new holes for me until the belt reached halfway around to my backside.

Then, as I grew older, and now, after turning 60, I have developed much greater appreciation for feeling as good as I can possibly feel. My metabolism has decreased and with it went my margin for error, but that is no reason to give up or give in. On the contrary, that is precisely the time to fight harder and smarter for the quality of life that can only be achieved through healthy living.

No matter your age, the time to begin, renew or continue your commitment to personal health and wellness is now. Today. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and find your best friend – the one individual who has the greatest influence over your health and well-being. And take a look around you, at the many blessings you enjoy, taking none of it for granted. Family, friends and loved ones alike, they all have a stake in your successful quest to live life to its fullest potential.

Why? Because there is no greater gift than the gift of life. Treasure it, protect it, and make the most of it. And remember, you only get one body.

Russell Rawlings serves as communications director for the North Carolina Bar Association and writes on the subjects of weight and wellness. This column was originally written for the newsletter of the National Association of Bar Executives Communication Section.