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.”

Want to gain weight this holiday season?

I didn’t think so. But what to do with the barrage of holiday favorites incessantly coming at you?

Do you white-knuckle your way through parties, office potlucks and family dinners, feigning a penchant for raw broccoli? Or do you give in and overdo it because “the holidays only come once a year?”

Neither choice gets you what you want. One leaves you deprived and primed to overeat. The other leaves you hungover with the regret of poor choices. Both set you back on any progress you’ve made.

There is a third way, which is to eat mindfully, choose your favorites and identify healthy options. I know, not easy when you see a plate of magic bars in the break room at 3pm. And how do you bring something healthy to a potluck that doesn’t get shoved to the side, untouched until you take it home?

I’ve curated a list of ten holiday recipes to make at home or take to parties, that are tasty and satisfying, without sabotaging your healthy habits:

1. I love this creative take on a veggie plate. Serve at home or take to a party. Beautiful!
2. A tasty gingersnap cookie recipe for vegans (or those of us who play vegan from time to time).
3. This kale stuffed butternut squash could be a side or main dish.
4. Now here’s an extravagant mashed cauliflower recipe (with room to play on how much fat you want to add).
5. When you’re hungry and it’s not mealtime, having snacks on hand can keep you from making poor food choices. These granola bars are a tasty option that will satiate and not deprive.

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6. Brunch can be filled with pastries and pork (not saying I don’t eat those). Try adding this winter citrus salad.
7. Love this roasted red pepper dish, a twist on the typical salad/veggie option. Like the veggie tray (#1), a beautiful holiday presentation.
8. I’ll admit it’s not my thing, but eggnog is a holiday favorite for many. Try this slimmed down version and see what you think.
9. I’ve made a couple energy ball recipes with dates and really like them (similar to RX bars that you find at grocery stores). But these are a step above! I WILL definitely be making peppermint fudge no bake energy bites.
10. Accommodating everyone’s food restrictions and preferences is near impossible. But you can get close with this healthy sweet potato casserole. It’s a vegan, gluten-free alternative to a perennial holiday favorite. (You can have brown sugar and marshmallows on the side for those with a stronger sweet tooth.)

Try several of these or search out your favorites. The key is focusing on food options that are healthy AND that you enjoy. If you do that about ninety percent of the time, I suspect you’ll be pretty happy with the results.

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