It is going to happen. You are going to “fall off the wagon” occasionally due to special events, vacations, lack of motivation, someone or something in your life sabotaging your efforts . . . When it does happen, there are a number of things you can do to get back on track with your health and fitness program. Here are thirteen tips for us all to keep in mind:
1. Be kind to yourself.
You are not perfect. You are never going to achieve perfection. So there is no point in beating yourself up psychologically when you occasionally demonstrate your own humanity.
2. Keep it in perspective.
Consider your slip-up. How does it compare to your old habits? Did you fall right back into your old destructive habits or was this different?
These days, when I “fall off the wagon,” the scenery around me as I’m picking myself up and dusting myself off looks quite different that it used to.
So when it happens, I stop and compare my lifestyle before I developed this program for myself and what the program looks like when I am conscientiously following it. Inevitably, I find that my deviation is minor when compared with how I used to live and what my eating habits used to be.
3. Understand why you abandoned your program.
It is extremely important to your success to understand what happened, i.e., why you are not following or temporarily stopped complying with the overarching principles of your health and fitness regime. Understanding how you got off track is the key to getting back on track — and staying there.
Was it a minor deviation such as a one-time splurge at a wedding or other family celebration? Has something happened in your life that has caused you to engage in “emotional eating”? Are you upset, stressed, ill? What motivated you to abandon your program and lapse into old habits?
Or are they old habits? Perhaps you have developed some new bad habits that are not as destructive as your old ones, but sabotaging your ability to achieve your health and fitness goals nonetheless?
There have been treatises written about why we do not eat in a manner that promotes and facilitates optimum health and fitness. Somewhere on the planet right now, hundreds of people are observing, studying, researching, analyzing why people develop weight issues and, more importantly, why they are so difficult to conquer.
To all of that effort, I say “fuhgetaboutit.” Not that the vast resources available aren’t valuable — to a certain extent they are, if only to validate your feelings and help you realize that you are both quite normal and definitely not in this battle alone.
But here’s the bottom line:
Only you know the answers to the relevant questions. Only you can look deep within and extract the honest answers. It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t enjoyable.
I hear people with weight issues say, “I don’t know why I overeat.” Yes, you do. But facing the answers to the questions requires engaging in a searching, no-holds-barred self-inventory that most of us would rather avoid.
But success demands that you do the difficult work and understand the factors that motivate your own behavior. No one else can do it for you.
4. Deal with the factors that motivated you to veer off your program.
You thought that figuring out why you did not follow your program faithfully was challenging? The old cliche is true: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
There have also been treatises written about why, once we understand and appreciate what motivates us not to eat properly and exercise consistently, we don’t just “deal with” those issues. We all know that it is much easier said than done.
A therapist once told me, however, that we will be presented with the opportunity to work through issues repeatedly throughout our lives — until we face them head-on, work through them and are able to move on. So it is with weight management and fitness.
I have run head-on into the same metaphoric wall countless times. I have lost the same 40, 50 or 60 pounds repeatedly — only to find them again.
Only I have the power to decide that this time will be different because I am going to work through the issues that allow me to become defeated once and for all.
5. Do not let anything or anyone interfere with your exercise routine.
You simply have to be dogmatic about it. You have to sit down with your calendar in front of you and find those times when you will exercise. Block them out in red. Label those times “unavailable,” “busy,” “out of office” or whatever term you wish to use. After you have committed to a routine, stick with it. Do not let anything interfere, including your own attitude.
Of course you’re tired. But you will be more tired if you remain sedentary.
6. Do not let anything or anyone interfere with your food plan.
You can still go out to eat. You can still go to parties and entertain in your home. You simply have to adjust how you do that. There are many strategies you can employ and still socialize around food.
Well-meaning — and not so well-meaning — friends and relatives will try to dissuade you that you can eat “just one” or “splurge just this once.” But a derailed train does not easily get back on and continue down the track. If you are like me, I simply cannot eat “just one” of certain things because one bit turns into a binge. And if I “splurge just this once” it becomes easier to “splurge just this once” the second, third, fourth . . . times. When I get into the habit of being disciplined and committed, I have to be dogmatic about the way in which I eat as I am about exercise.
It’s your life. It’s your health. It’s your food plan. Friends and relatives need to respect that. Part of being strong enough to take care of yourself means being strong enough to gently but firmly communicate that message to them. They may be shocked at first, but they will adjust. And if they don’t? If they insist upon attempting to sabotage you every time you get together, you may, unfortunately, find yourself having to make a choice between spending time with them or taking care of yourself. This is another area in which doing what is right for you can be extremely difficult and unpleasant. But sometimes it becomes necessary for your own survival.
7. Celebrate your successes!
I’ve come a long way since last summer when I was constantly out of breath, felt miserable, took five different kinds of medication daily and had three different types of inhalers. When I get discouraged, I think about my circumstances once year ago and how far I have come. I remind myself that I can accomplish anything if I am willing to commit to the goal and work steadily to achieve it. I look at the pile of clothes that are too big and headed for charity, never to be worn or hang in my closet again. There is a lot to celebrate and more good things to come.
A little self-validation can go a long way toward pulling me out of the doldrums.
8. Accept compliments graciously.
You deserve them!
The other day I wore a pair of pants to work that I found in the back of my closet that morning when I was desperately searching for any item of clothing that fit properly. I had forgotten all about them!
As I was driving to the office, I thought about how long it had been since I had worn those pants. I concluded that they last fit in early 1999. I bought them for a trip to New York City to see my friend, Clint Ritchie, that spring. I have a photo taken of me with some friends on the steps of the ABC Studios where “One LIfe to Live” is taped in which I am wearing those pants. My recollection is that they were rather snug then, so I came home put them away and just re-discovered them.
They are baggy now.
So a couple of people at my office noticed that I was wearing pants that fit better than the really baggy and ill-fitting ones I have been wearing. They said things like, “Wow, you’re looking good” and “See how good you look in clothes that fit better?” So I was doing the happy day around the office, singing “today we’re going to party like it’s 1999” and calling those pants my “party pants.”
At that point, my colleagues were rolling their eyes and good-naturedly imploring me to go back to my office! 🙄
But those silly moments sustained me for a few days and when I am tempted to abandon my program, I think about things, some silly, like my “party pants” and find the strength to persevere.
9. Reassess your goals.
I am never going to be “skinny.” “Thin” is too ambitious a goal.
I just want to be within the normal weight range for my height and age. I will settle for that. I will be ecstatic, in fact.
I want to be able to walk further and further, tread water for expanding time periods and keep increasing the intensity of my water aerobics program. I want to feel healthier which means that I will look healthier.
I gauge my success not by a number on a scale, but how I feel and my clothing fits.
10. Establish interim goals.
Short-time, incremental goals are palatable and psychologically sustainable. So it is a wonderful idea to have an overarching goal, but also establish benchmarks that you can achieve along the way.
For instance, a monthly or quarterly target can help you stay focused and not get discouraged because the journey to optimum health and fitness is a long one — and, in fact, a permanent lifestyle change is required.
I have an interim goal that I have not yet achieved: The ability to wear a particular skirt and blouse. Those items of clothing are my favorites from the period of time when I purchased them and they fit well. They are hanging not on the rack amid my other clothing, but on a special hook in front of the other clothes. That way I see them every day when I go into the closet to select something to wear and am reminded of my goal.
When I first took those items from the back of the closet and put them on display where I see them every day, there was no way I could button either item — the buttons were several inches away from the buttonholes.
At this writing, I can button both the skirt and the blouse, but they still feel snug enough that I would not feel comfortable wearing them. Yet. I will soon.
And the day I wear them again, I will establish another interim goal because although wearing those items of clothing symbolizes the significant progress I have made, there is still so far to go. As I continue on this journey, those clothing items must also become way too big and eventually be donated to charity.
When I get discouraged, I tell myself, “You didn’t get this heavy and out of shape overnight. You’re not going to achieve optimum health and fitness overnight, either.”
11. Seek out the help you feel you need.
In order to work through the emotional aspects of weight gain and management, it may be appropriate and necessary to seek professional assistance. That is a decision that every individual must make for him/herself.
12. Develop a support network.
Professional assistance aside, I think it is really important to have a core support system comprised of two or three people who will support your efforts unconditionally, without judgment or interference. They could be family members (but not likely, in my experience), neighborhood or childhood friends who know you well or even a fellow blogger or two with whom you have gotten acquainted. It doesn’t matter who your support buddies are, so long as you have some people you can talk to when you need a compassionate, support ear.
13. Research and learn from others who are on the same or a similar journey.
There is a plethora of insightful, well-researched literature available addressing the topics of weight loss, weight management and nutrition. Sometimes the most valuable aspect of reading about someone else’s experience is simply that: The reassurance and validation that comes from knowing others are struggling, too.
I avoid diet books because, after all, this isn’t a diet, it is a lifestyle change and I don’t want to read or be influenced by anyone or anything that suggests or speaks/writes from a vantage suggesting otherwise.
A number of years ago, I read a book that literally changed my life: Fat is a Feminist Issue. I highly recommend it.