My excuses run the gamut --- from illness to getting busy with work to moving to another state to plain ol' lack of motivation and laziness. Hey, I ain't gonna pretend for a second that I'm some perfect fit person who does everything right 24/7/365. I'm human. I gain weight and lose fitness and strength just like the next person if I don't stay consistent.
But I've learned over the years how to catch myself when I want to beat myself up for slacking and how to get back on that horse after a layoff (even if it's been moooonths). Hopefully, my experiences can help you when you find yourself struggling to get back into the whole health and fitness thing.
Chill the Eff Out.
Before you go off the deep end with feelings of guilt and shame and self-loathing, acknowledge that you are a human being and sometimes shit happens. You're allowed to not be perfect. You are still a person of worth, regardless of your dress size or fitness level. You're still the same person you were before, even if it doesn't seem like it. You still kick ass. :-)
Trust me, I've been there. I've been 20+ lbs. over my normal weight, I've been dangerously underweight and sick, I've been a lazy bum on the couch watching bad tv night after night. And every single time, I hated how I had just "let myself go." I'd ask myself, "What the hell is wrong with me?" and why couldn't I just get back to eating healthy and clean and working out everyday. It sucked hating myself and my body that much. It was draining and demoralizing. I berated myself everyday, feeling like the biggest hypocrite for not walking the talk.
And it did nothing to boost my motivation to get back into my old fit routine.
So please give up the idea that negative reinforcement is the key to fat loss. Like I said before, you can't hate yourself into leanness. Any progress you make will not last. When you are able to show yourself some compassion for normal weight fluctuations and slip-ups and periods of inactivity, you can really move forward. Because we take care of the things we love.
Do Just One Thing.
If you find yourself struggling to make it to the gym like you used to, lower the bar to a more doable level. We tend to think in all-or-nothing terms, that we need to hit the gym for an hour plus every day or it doesn't count, it's not good enough. I still fall into that pattern every once in a while. It's okay to have those feelings, but realize that all-or-nothing usually ends up being nothing.
So put your workout clothes in a bag in the car the night before and drive to the gym after work. That's it. You don't have to even go in. Just make the effort to drive to the gym. If you want to go in, great. But have no expectations on yourself to do so. I know this suggestion sounds ridiculous, but what's the alternative? Sitting on the couch at home again, feeling like shit? At least you are taking a step forward. #progressnotperfection
We forget just how many steps are involved in establishing a workout routine. You have to put on your clothes, drive to the gym, walk through the doors, decide what exercises to do, how many sets, reps, time, then you have to drive home, take a shower, and stretch and foam roll those sore muscles. That's a lot. And forget about changing your diet. Aaaaaaaahhh! There are a lot of decisions being made. But when we get into the groove of hitting the gym on the regular, the power of habit takes over and makes those decisions much much easier. So until then, take it one teeny, tiny baby step at a time. Make each step ridiculously easy and simple. You'll be surprised by how effective this strategy will be over time.
Momentum is a powerful force. What's that saying? An object in motion stays in motion. The hardest thing to overcome is the activation energy needed to get started. It's like riding a bike. It takes more effort to get it going than it does to keep going. So throw yourself a bone and acknowledge that just getting started is hard, so it's okay to struggle, and it's okay to take it slow.
Give Yourself a Pat on the Back. Often.
Acknowledge every positive step along the way, even if it sounds small or dumb. You worked out twice last week? Awesome! Acknowledge that effort. You ate a salad at lunch instead of a fast food sandwich? Fan-freakin'-tastic! That's a great step forward.
I was listening to part of a podcast tonight featuring Dr. Rick Hanson, the author of a book called "Hardwiring Happiness." And one thing he mentioned really hit me. He said that we are hardwired to focus and remember the bad things that we do or that happen to us. It's what helped our ancestors stay alive.
We can have the perfect day, but if one bad thing happens (a flat tire, a catty comment from a coworker, etc), that's what we obsess about. It stays lodged in our brain so much more so than any good thing and makes us feel like crap. This can lead to prolonged sadness, depression, anxiety, and more over time. Dr. Hanson says, "What fires together, wires together." So the more we focus on the bad, the more we are rewiring our brains for negative feelings. And vice versa.
So keep your eyes open to the bright spots in your life, even if it has nothing to do with health and fitness. Positive reinforcement will boost motivation and keep that momentum going till you can build those healthy habits again and find your groove.
And now it's your turn...
These 3 steps have worked for me numerous times, and I hope they do the same for you.
You can do amazing things. You just have to believe it.