You’ve done it before. We all have.
You resolved to do something, and you’ve been doing pretty good overall. Then you have one of those moments. Maybe you forgot your resolution for a second; maybe you were tired and grumpy and just decided you didn’t feel like keeping it up.
So you have a momentary backslide.
You choose a goopy, greasy donut instead of a bowl of granola. You skip the gym in favor of an Orange is the New Black marathon. You snap at a coworker you’ve been trying to be more patient with.
And you feel awful.
In this moment, you have two choices: Hit “reset” and move on, or let it tank your whole day.
Which do you choose?
And Cordelia Replies…
I’ll be honest and tell you that this past week, I’ve been choosing the tank-your-day option. My much-needed decision to quit treating my body like poo (again) has not only been thoroughly neglected; it’s been deviously undermined at all steps. By me.
I’d miss my morning Zumba routine because I was buried with work, then figure the rest of the day was shot, so I might as well eat like crap for dinner.
Eating like crap for dinner gave me sub-par sleep that night, so the next morning, I had twice as much coffee and snacked too much to shake myself out of my grogginess.By Thursday, I’d clearly shot the whole week to hell, so I figured there was no point trying to right the ship on Friday. Might as well enjoy a weekend of gluttony and sloth and start over again on Monday.
But here’s the thing: Our habits don’t form because we did them consistently from Monday – Friday. They don’t form because we were flawless all day long. They form because we keep plugging away at them, on a regular basis, even when we mess up. (Especially when we mess up.)
But when the habit you’re trying to form is something that’s especially hard for you? When you’ve been struggling with it on and off for a while and feel especially terrible about that? It’s all too easy to turn a minor setback into a total snowball of negative decisions.
The Ripcord Excuse
I’ve come to think of this as the ripcord excuse.
Ripcords have a purpose. When your mission’s gone bust and the plane is going down in flames, it’s time to head for the escape hatch, pull the ripcord, and abandon station. Sometimes, cutting your losses is the smartest thing you can do.
But if you keep your hand permanently on the ripcord, ready to pull it at the slightest sign of trouble or discomfort, it becomes the wrong kind of escape mechanism. It becomes any easy out for any time you make a mistake – or decide you don’t feel like trying anymore.
Believe me, I know. I hate physical Quits. There’s a reason this month’s Quit is a reboot and I still haven’t successfully given up the snooze button, three whole years after deciding I needed to. I have zero willpower when it comes to physical challenges.
If I’ve got an emotional or logical challenge in front of me, like quitting my day job even after we lost half our income unexpectedly, setbacks and obstacles don’t faze me. They actually make me perversely more determined. But if I’m trying to move my body more when it’s used to being sedentary, or get my lazy ass out of bed when I feel like sleeping in, I will happily call it quits on my Quit the instant I have the tiniest excuse to.
And this just reinforces the belief that I never can, and never will, be able to accomplish these things. I never even give myself a chance to prove me wrong, because the instant I fail, I chuck the whole Quit into the garbage and give up.
So, this week, I am going into things knowing full well that I will fail. I will punk out on my workout because I’m busy/I woke up late/I just plain don’t want to. I will choose the healthier meal option, then gorge myself on that option because hey, the ingredients are better. I will do all sorts of weak and dumb and shady things to avoid treating my body more kindly – then I will pick myself, shake myself off, and face my next choice with fresh determination.
And I will continue doing this, each choice new again, until a better trend starts to develop.
No more hand on the ripcord. No more easy ways out.
What circumstances make you run for the ripcord? How can you learn to stay put and keep trying?
If you liked this, be sure to check out:
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[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end. I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]
Sometimes, it takes a while for a Quit to take. Like, for instance, this little gem that I announced way back in October 2011 and am now dusting off and re-dedicating myself to.
Like most Americans – and most American women in particular – not treating my body like poo is one of those ongoing Quits I keep attacking in fits and starts.
I generally try to make healthier choices food-wise. I’ve cut out things like soda (which I really don’t miss) and have majorly reigned in my love affair with carbs. Now that don’t work in an office, I’m no longer tempted to raid the fundraiser candy bar box for an afternoon pick-me-up, and my go-to meal for dinners out tends toward the salmon-and-salad portion of the menu. I even had a lovely run of Pretending to Be a Gym Member for a whole month last fall, even going so far as to purchase a new workout wardrobe and genuinely think it would be seeing regular use.
But, on the whole, I don’t feel like a “healthy” person. And now that I’ve adopted the freelance (read: sedentary-in-front-of-computer) lifestyle, that feeling has been hitting me more and more lately. While mentally and emotionally, things are better than they’ve ever been, the physical side of my existence feels decidedly blarg. And it’s time to stop saying I should do something about it and actually, you know, do something about it.
The Time Has Come (for Realsies)
I don’t like feeling not-healthy. I feel like my quest to become an ever-evolving, ever-awesomer version of myself has left one side of the equation completely out.
It bugs me that in spite of numerous resolutions to learn, I still don’t know how to cook anything more complex than an omelet, so any attempt to “eat better” can’t go terribly far.
It bugs me that I get winded after a 20-minute Zumba “beginner” routine (on those rare occasions I manage to prod myself to work out).
And it especially bugs me that, at the age of 30-mumble, I can no longer get away with crap the way I used to in my early 20s. When I fail to move around on a regular basis, I can feel it. When I give myself a weekend of junk food free passes, I can really feel it. I feel like my body is registering the effects of my bad choice with a directness it never used to in my carefree younger days. And I don’t much like it.
Getting healthier is no longer one of those “I should probably do that because everyone says so and my pants are tight” things. It’s an “I really need to do this because lately I feel like crap” thing.
More Than Just Exercise
This month is going to have a holistic physical health focus. Yes, I need to start exercising, but I also need to learn how to be better to, and more accepting of, my body in general.
I need to treat it nicer. I need to fight it less. I need to acknowledge that neglecting my physical health directly brings down everything else I try to do and be throughout the day. I live totally in my head and my emotions, and I need to learn to pay a little more attention to my physical existence in the world.
So, here’s the agenda for this month:
- Get into a regular workout routine, no matter how tame. The whole gym scene is clearly out of the picture, a) because I hate working out in front of other people and b) because this polar vortex thing makes it seem really stupid to waste a couple hours getting to and from a gym when my husband’s PS3 will let me Zumba in the easy comfort of my own living room. It won’t be much, to start out, because I am horrifically out of shape – just a 20-minute routine as close to every day as possible. Hopefully, that will increase over time. The big thing is just that I start moving more on a daily basis.
- Eat better. Learning to cook like a real adult will probably be a Quit for another month, because I think it will take a full month dedicated to just that to make it happen. But, whenever possible, I need to start integrating more fresh veggies, whole grains, and all that other good stuff into my regular diet. I’ve been slipping a little when things get hectic or stressful, and that’s no good.
- Make healthier energy choices. Sleeping in way past my alarm, regulating my energy with a scientific combination of caffeine and bourbon, and popping Aleve whenever things get off-kilter are not doing anything to contribute to my feeling better. More balanced and more natural is the new focus. If I just make smarter choices and keep a smarter routine, the other stuff shouldn’t feel so necessary.
- Stop beating myself up for not looking like I did when I was in college. This will be a hard one. I still have this secret hope that I’m only a few Zumba routines away from fitting back into the old pants I stowed away just in case. But it’s entirely possible that even if I got into marathon-running shape, I’d still never be the size and shape I used to be. I may never feel like an adult mentally, but my metabolism has already made the leap, and I need to learn to accept that.
So, that’s the deal-i-o for February. Who’s in?
Are you down for making yourself feel less like poo? How can you focus on boosting your physical health, even in the tiniest of ways?