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Brita Belli
October 7, 2019

Small steps to big changes: Helena Garlicki’s approach to personal health

"I’m 66 years old and I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life.”

As you are aging, what is more important than health? Everything else is secondary.

“I’m 66 years old,” says Helena Garlicki, “and I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life.”

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The Marin, California-based retiree has embarked on a personal health and wellness journey inspired by her 17 years as a training consultant, studying trends, distilling research, and finding the most efficient ways to live her best life. She’s in the process of designing a workshop based on her personal discoveries for other Revel members.

Although Garlicki doesn’t miss the 70- 80-hour workweeks ofher consultant days, when she provided training workshops across Asia forFortune 500 clients, she does miss the teaching. “I love when a lightbulb goeson for people,” Garlicki says. Garlicki trained corporate clients in softskills – selling, leadership, team building, presentation – but was laid offduring 2008’s dwindling economy.

As she looked to find new purpose, she turned inward, embarkingon a journey of health and wellness. “As you are aging, what is more importantthan health?” she says. “Everything else is secondary.”

With the same rigor she had applied to her professionallife, Garlicki began sifting through reams of medical reports online about whatto eat and how to exercise. A lot of it was conflicting, but she found kernelsof truth through trial and error. One of her most important discoveries camewhen she added heavy weightlifting to her daily exercise regimen. “After twoweeks of weightlifting I started upping my weights,” Garlicki says. “All ofsudden, I lost 15 pounds.” She’d discovered the real connection betweenbuilding muscles and burning calories. “If you are weightlifting, you actuallyneed to eat more,” she says. “Women bodybuilders eat 5,000 calories a day.”

Garlicki says she eats about half that, but after a lifetimefull of dieting – including Weight Watchers, Atkins, low-carb, low-fat,vegetarian and South Beach – she’s found her own perfect formula. That includesa super heathy but high-calorie breakfast each morning consisting of a big bowlof steel cut oats with flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds (for protein),coconut or almond milk, maple syrup, cloves (for digestion), cinnamon, walnuts,almonds, and berries that is nearly 1,000 calories and keeps her full and fullof energy until the afternoon. 

Her exercise routine is similarly down to a science: yogatwice a week, gym three times a week with high intensity training, and hikingon weekends. “Muscle building has made a huge difference,” she says. “It has tobe until you can’t lift another rep.” She adds: “Your body is all aboutconserving energy. The research says if you keep doing the same thing, yourmuscles will shrink – you need to tear them a little.”

In part, Garlicki is hoping to stave off negative healthimpacts associated with aging. She’s had serious health issues – including neurosurgeryand aneurisms – and says she’s been misdiagnosed in the past. “You have to beyour own advocate,” Garlicki says. Her wellness routine includes mental healthas well. She studied meditation for seven years at Spirit Rock in Woodacre, California andadvocates for small incremental actions that can lead to big changes. “For me,it’s about small, but consistent progress,” Garlicki says.

It’s those small steps that led her to be able to do a handstand in yoga which she once resisted out of fear. It started with just 10 seconds. Now, she can hold a handstand against the wall for 4 minutes.

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