Learning To Deal With Life's Unexpected Events
“Sorry Coach, I just don’t have time.”
“I had a lot of social engagements. It’s the (fill in the blank) holiday season. YOLO!”
“There was a lot of stress at work this week, I didn’t have the energy to make good choices.”
“I had a lot of (fill in the blank) parties to attend, and I’m sure you know the types of foods they have there.”
“I hurt my back/knee/neck and didn’t move all weekend, so I just ordered delivery and watched Netflix.”
“I felt embarrassed to take a picture of my food (for various reasons), and then forgot to make a note of it later.”
“I’m not seeing a lot of change on the scale, so I don’t think this is working.”
Whether you call them reasons, excuses, justifications, rationalizations, or you are pleading Murphy’s Law, the reality is that you have fallen victim to the very common virus called “LIFE.” Regardless of age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, we all struggle with the stress of time management, work/school/life balance, mental health, interpersonal relationships, and social responsibilities. All the while, we are supposed to maintain a certain level of health and fitness in order to avoid the added stress of visiting the doctor’s office and taking an assortment of pills on a daily basis. Life is really hard and things tend to happen at a seemingly never-ending rate.
“What can I do, coach?”
To start, it’s important to reflect on the barriers affecting your ability to achieve consistency with your health. Using the Ate survey after taking the picture can help you and your coach identify patterns that may be influencing your nutritional decisions. Once you have determined which obstacle is causing problems, you can develop strategies to overcome the most predictable barriers and get you back on your path.
The most commonly used reason for getting Off-Path is definitely time. There are 24 hours in a day for all of us, and we do the best we can to stay occupied during the majority of it. This makes it difficult to include new habits and routines such as walking, cooking, and meal prepping. The first step to creating the time you need is to plan ahead and make a schedule. Even though “things happen,” the majority of days are fairly predictable in terms of knowing when we will eat, with whom we will eat, and where we will obtain our food. The more mindful you are about your eating patterns, the less guesswork you will have to do to answer those questions and you will be prepared when the hunger strikes. It will surely require more effort to change things like waking up a little bit earlier, sacrificing a bit of screen time, or doing an activity like cooking even though you are exhausted, but as one of my favorite Greek songs says, “Whatever is worth it, hurts and is difficult.” (Pyx Lax).
Next, with the advent of delivery apps, the abundance of restaurants, and the annual holidays on the calendar, we constantly find ourselves in situations where we have to eat food that has been prepared in a restaurant. Keep in mind that it is completely acceptable to pig out with friends, have a big juicy burger during the game, or enjoy a delicious cheesecake with a loved one. However, it’s wrong to think that you must go Off-Path just because you didn’t prepare the meal yourself or because you have to celebrate with others. Take time to read the menu, and be mindful of your portions and the goal that you are working toward achieving.
Lastly, another reason one might use to explain why they haven’t been consistent with their health is due to emotional issues such as anxiety, shame, and a fear of failure. Sometimes, we just feel like saying “whatever” and take an unplanned break from the plan, then feel guilty about our transgressions, and ultimately decide to quit because we believe we have failed. These feelings could be caused by seeing the results on the scale, listening to a comment from a friend or family member, or seeing some fit-fluencer tell you how lazy you are for not looking like them. My advice to clients who feel like this is to remember that, as long as you are alive and well, you haven’t failed at anything and there is still time to un-quit.
“All conditioned things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.” According to legend, these were the final words of the Buddha. Regardless of whatever “thing” happened in your life to cause you to leave from the path on which you have placed yourself, it too shall pass and tomorrow will bring another day. Refocus yourself, develop a plan to get back your consistency, and keep following your path towards your goals.
Tom Mourikis is the founder of AZLO Coaching, a nutrition and exercise service with a focus on mindfulness, education, and accountability. He has degrees in Movement Sciences and Physical Education, as well as certifications as a Nutrition Coach (NASM) and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA). After having previously lived in Chicago, Athens, and Guangzhou, Tom currently lives in Lima, Peru, with his wife and 2yo son.