How to keep consistent with healthy habits when life throws you off track

My dad likes to say that life is what happens when we’re making plans. My clients certainly find this to be true. They want to keep consistent with healthy habits but life always seems to block their best intentions. And the idea of work life balance starts to feel unrealistic.

You know what though? So much of that life is more predictable than we pretend. That is, we know we’ll be disrupted at work. And we’ll sometimes need to work late. We know the weather won’t always “cooperate.” It’s really not a surprise when kids create a mess or need to be picked up from some activity at the last minute. 

So, why not plan for these things?  

The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is thinking there shouldn’t be problems. Planning your calendar while expecting  ideal circumstances sets you up to not keep consistent with healthy habits. It’s one of the biggest reasons I see for people getting stuck in the lose-regain-lose-regain weight cycle. 

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To execute consistently on your plan I recommend having a backup plan. Here are three options to consider as you create yours:

  • If A, then B: This is about alternatives. “If it’s dark when I get home and I don’t feel safe going for my jog, I’ll ride my stationary bike.” Or, “ If I work late and cooking dinner feels like a drag, I’ll grab a Chipotle Wholesome Bowl on the way home.” 
  • Minimum standard: Setting a baseline minimum prevents all-or-nothing from taking over, particularly when you have an extended situation that makes it easy to put your healthy habits on the back burner. “No matter what, I exercise for 5 minutes every day. Whatever’s going on, I have a piece of fruit every morning.” 
  • Have a plethora of options: Have a list of 10 different exercises (e.g. lunges, planks, jumping jacks, even stretches) that you can combine together for a 10-minute workout. Develop a list of go-to meals that you can throw together at a moment’s notice (I talk about this in my Back on Track Challenge that’s coming up again next month – let me know if you want to be first to be notified when it’s starting). Then keep certain foods stocked that you know will fit the bill. 

These are ideas to get you going. Now brainstorm several in each category. (Even come up with your own category and share below!)  If you regularly take action on your healthy habits – or try to – this will be a significant boost to your consistency.  

Work life balance is deciding how to handle the circumstances that come at you in ways that allow you to keep consistent with healthy habits. Ultimately, you want to avoid being “surprised” by things you could readily predict. Be flexible and plan for contingencies. That’s how you create the lifestyle that “gets you there and keeps you there.”

What happens when you mess up or go off plan?

How do you decide whether to stick with your healthy habits or to give up? Does it depend on the situation, like whether someone brought cookies to share at the office? Or if it’s raining at the time you planned to go biking?

Actually, it doesn’t. What it really depends on is… 

What it really depends on is whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. In other words, when you mess up is it an opportunity to grow or is it a reason to claim defeat?

This topic is particularly pertinent to children as what they learn when young will impact their future mindset. But while parents are concerned about instilling grit and resilience in their children, as adults we often practice these traits selectively. 

Consider how you react to different mistakes: 

Say you forget about a lunch date with your friend. You probably feel bad about it, apologize and move on. Maybe you figure out how your schedule went awry and change your process for going forward.

What if you sleep in, never hearing the alarm, and miss your workout? Can you move on with the same ease as the missed lunch? Or does it confirm your belief that you can’t stick with an exercise routine?

Or, consider the same failure viewed differently by different people. Two women overeat one night at dinner. One sees it as a momentary lapse and gives herself grace. She uses the experience to be more mindful in the future. The other sees it as confirmation that she has no willpower and beats herself up. The next morning she thinks “what’s the use…I blew it last night” and proceeds to grab a pastry and cafe mocha on the way into work.

The defining moment is how you interpret the mess up!

growth mindset
Photo by Miriam Alonso: https://www.pexels.com/photo/young-female-sleeping-on-bed-in-morning-7622514/

Do you want to stick with your healthy habits? Then you must rethink what you make these kinds of situations mean. And the longer your way of thinking has led to you giving up, the more effort it will take to rethink for a different, better result. 

Do not say to yourself, “this is just the way I am.” 

I get it. If you’ve behaved in a certain way, day after day, for years, it doesn’t feel optional. But growth is continual. It’s a choice. We don’t stop growing because we’ve reached a certain age.

So, when you notice that you’re making excuses based on circumstances, practice new ways of talking to yourself. Ask yourself questions that build resilience and cultivate a growth mindset, moving you forward to achieve your goals. 

That’s what a healthy hottie does.

5 ways to get yourself into a healthy routine

Getting yourself into a healthy routine can be tough. And sometimes we even make it harder than it needs to be. But the brain likes ease and if you learn to take advantage of it, creating and sticking with healthy habits will be much easier. 

Here are 5 ways I do that:

  1. Seek health AND enjoyment: make a long list of all the actions that will help you lose weight and feel good. Next, rate each action from 1-5 on how enjoyable it is for you. Start with those you rate a 4 or 5. As they become routine for you, consider adding the next level down. But start with where health and joy crossover.
  2. Develop non-negotiables: I don’t drink wine Monday – Thursday; the only exception is when I plan ahead for a holiday or being on vacation. The mental ease this creates for me is beautiful. I never need to argue with my toddler brain at the moment because the decision is already made. Start with one or two non-negotiables to integrate into a healthy routine. Once those are solid, add more.
  3. Schedule you first: if you try to squeeze healthy habits into your schedule once everything else is calendared, you likely find they don’t fit. Schedule those first and honor them like an appointment you have with someone you wouldn’t flake on. If this concept is new to you, at least in practice, start with small increments and build from there. 
  4. #winning: at the beginning of everyday ask yourself “How can I get 1% closer to my goal?” Then at day’s end ask, “What got me 1% closer?” And here’s the key: the things that get you 1% closer are all of the elements that make up your healthy routine. It’s not the number on the scale or how your pants fit one morning. Regularly see yourself as winning.
  5. Change how you talk about it all: instead of “trying to lose weight” or “trying to be good” or “not eat this/that,” talk about your healthy routine as something that feels amazing. As the best way to live. Talk about how excited you are to play tennis or hike, or about last night’s tasty, healthy home-cooked meal. Remember that your routine is FOR you, not a punishment. 
Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

When you implement these five strategies, you’ll find it easier to follow through the healthy things you want to do. And if you need help getting and staying on track, let’s talk about what it’s going to take for you to make changes for good.

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