Since March I’ve been ignoring my health. I stopped exercising and I started eating past the point of full. When I stopped caring about those things, I told myself “this is just a break.” Final exams were coming, and I was devoting my life to studying, at the expense of my health.
I told myself I needed to take a break because what was going on in my life was stressful. I would start again as soon as finals were over. I deserved the time off, and I deserved to eat that extra helping of whatever happened to tantalize my taste buds. I needed the extra time from exercise to sleep or study, I must have my 6-8 hours! I needed that chocolate to reward myself after a study sessions.
Shortly after finals were over, nothing happened. The “just a break” got a little longer. I needed the extra time to sleep because I had been up late talking to my boyfriend. I couldn’t waste the food that was on my plate because I was trying to save money. I didn’t have time.
What I was telling myself, “just a break”, “I deserved . . .”, and “I needed ___ to feel better,” etc were excuses.
Exercise enhances energy and brain performance, even old-school mathematicians knew that. Eating healthfully improves the brain’s performance and increases energy, not to mention longevity. As for the extra time talking to my boyfriend? While a good relationship is good for us, the lack of sleep and exercise, are bad for me. If I hadn’t known all of this, my excuses may have been valid. I might say I was being hard on myself if I hadn’t known all of that, and more when I stopped taking care of myself anyway.
What I was craving was stress release, and I found it by going back to old habits. I took action without gaining insight into what would be a healthy way to decrease my levels of stress. For example a useful insight might be- maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine will help reduce my stress. My routine was flexible, my goal before I quit was to exercise 3-5 times a week for thirty minutes. My healthy eating habits were also flexible: the number one priority was only eating until I was full, and the number two priority was to get enough vegetables and protein. May I always eat dark chocolate.
Another useful insight might have been that I needed some self care. Such as ten minute mediations, like the ones at My Thought Coach. Of course a little more studying and a little less social interaction would have been good self care too, rather than managing my feelings around the problem.
My break turned into a bad habit that brought with it fifteen pounds. The fifteen pounds sat, and my clothes were tight, I was sluggish and more moody.
The next several months involved a lot of introspection. Why did I stop exercising and start eating too much again? We just went over that. Why did I stay that way? I didn’t know. School was over. My sleep schedule was back to normal. I didn’t have those excuses anymore. I kept thinking that tomorrow I would start being healthy again. Somehow I got it in my head that I also needed to start my budget again in order to stop over-eating. That I couldn’t keep track of my food until I started keeping track of my money.
Reasons why I could not start behaving in favor of my health kept rolling in. While I have some shoulder problems, that hadn’t stopped me before, and it was one of the reasons stopping me now. I couldn’t start again until I could figure out why I wasn’t doing it! Although really, I wasn’t letting myself. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a why that felt just right. (I was even using my feelings as an excuse!)
I have found for myself that a lot of time on “Why” is not helpful for change. Why is not useful when I want to be doing something differently and instead I contemplate the answers to why in my navel. That is what I did while the pounds and lethargy stayed. I had come up with plenty of answers to: “Why?” And I kept not changing.
Something else I learned:
Nothing Changes, if nothing changes.
I started asking “What” and “How” questions. What was I doing when I was healthier? How was I doing it? What I was doing included: writing down what I ate and keeping track of the composition of the food; exercising 30 minutes 3-5 times a week and keeping track of it; drinking more water; eating more vegetables; thinking that being healthy is possible; consciously focused on appreciating the benefits of my actions; and putting my focus in more motivational directions.
How I was doing it included: using My Food Diary to track the food, exercise and water; if I had a spare 45 minutes I would go for a walk, or to the gym and I started hiking with friends again; I planned my meals in advance; I reminded myself that being healthy is possible and visualizing how I am when I am healthier; I took a few minutes to appreciate the results of a healthier lifestyle, such as more energy, or more toned legs; I sought out motivational material and added it to my RSS feed or del.icio.us account, like this.
I thought about the “what’s” and the “how’s” and started doing them. I didn’t need to know why I had stopped. I have been getting back on track for a week now, and already I feel better. As for my relationship, adding back exercise and sleep has not hurt my relationship. In fact, it helps and gives us something to work toward together: better health. That seems like a win-win to me.
I’m not criticizing myself for the time away from a healthier lifestyle, I’m learning from it. In the first situation, I took action without taking some time to see into the situation. In the second situation I took too much time contemplating “why” that I put off action. I refocused on how and what I could do differently and what had worked in the past, I stopped making excuses, and then I did it. I’m already feeling better. Whenever there is action without insight, or insight without action, I find I stagnate.