We’ve all heard a lot about the Abuse Excuse. It was very popular with criminal defense attorneys in the 90’s. Basically, the person who got killed or injured deserved it because they had repeatedly abused the person who was accused of doing the hurting or killing. The defense would use the Abuse Excuse to try convincing the jury that the defendant was so messed up by the abuse, they didn’t know or couldn’t help what they did.
When it comes to weight loss and making healthy choices, we do something similar. We keep finding excuses for why we can’t lose weight or eat healthier or work out. We abuse our excuses by using them over and over again to give us permission to keep eating badly, for skipping our workouts or for just not doing the work. We all know the excuses: “I’m so busy!”; “I’m so tired!”; “My knee/ back/ whatever hurts!”; “It’s been a really tough day/ week/ month!”; “I’ve got a lot on my plate right now so I can do it when X is over”; and our all-time favorite:”it’s someone else’s fault.”
I’m not going to discuss the validity of your excuses because I am sure some of them are valid at times. We all are really busy, we have a lot going on, many of us have chronic pain or bad joints, and a lot of us generally feel pretty cruddy most of the time. Welcome to the modern world! We all need a break and for most of us, adding in healthy eating and working out is just adding more things to do on a list that is already too long. I know the feeling: I work out twice a week, I commute 4 hours each workday, I live alone so all the household duties are also on my plate, and I crammed in another workout recently plus I post to this blog twice a week. Just the list of things I need to do is a bit long and then there’s whatever I want to do that I try to cram in there also. I’m not complaining, because I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for all of this. It comes down to a matter of priorities: what we need to get done- what’s important to us- those things get done and the things that are less important or that can wait a little get shoved to the back of the line. It’s normal. That’s how priorities are supposed to work. The problems come when our priorities are skewed and the tasks that really should be waiting a while are pushed to the front in favor of those that are more important. It’s excuse abuse: instead of abusing alcohol, drugs or food, we abuse excuses, and like too much alcohol, drugs or food, they end up hurting us too.
Our excuses are our way of justifying why things like losing weight, eating healthier and working out are not priorities and why they should get shoved to the back of the line. That is what it boils down to: if these things were important to us, they would get done. Our excuses are how we justify to ourselves why these goals are not important to us or why something else is more important. Really, how important is it to lose weight, eat healthier and stay active? It’s critical. That’s how important it is! It’s not about “looking good” or “being thin.” It’s about being healthy and if you aren’t healthy, not only are you not going to feel good, but you are opening the door to disease and physical disorders such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and inflammation, just to name a few. Inflammation is now thought to be the source of a host of illnesses, including heart disease and thyroid conditions. All of these conditions stemming from poor eating choices and lack of activity will make your life more difficult if not downright unpleasant and frankly, some of them can kill you. I think that qualifies “eating healthier, losing weight and being active” as critical priorities. Obviously, you don’t have to drop everything, quit your job and make your health your sole priority (even though that’s kind of how I handled it, but I was pretty much knocking on Death’s door at the time), but how hard is it to take a few hours a week to improve your health? That’s what it comes down to: a few hours a week. That’s all it takes to buy and prepare healthier foods and add in some more activity. It’s not hours each day (although at first new habits take a little longer). It comes down to a couple hours of shopping each week, a couple hours of working out each week and about 45 minutes to an hour each day cooking and prepping food (about the same time it takes to drive out to a fast food place or a restaurant). Since I cook at home, I’m usually watching tv, playing with the dog, on the phone or online while my food is cooking- not any different from when I’m eating the take out!
When it comes to our priorities and excuses, we can tell ourselves we are doing our best, but the all-time favorite is usually our fallback excuse for why it wasn’t done: “someone else is to blame!” After all, there is only so much that’s in our control and we can’t control anyone else, so when they mess with our schedules, what can we do? This is how our priorities end up skewed: we put the blame on someone else. “I wanted to eat healthy but my family only wants junk food/ fast food/ take out.” The blaming-someone-else excuse is classic on My 600 lb Life. Frankly, I’m a little surprised there isn’t a poster in the doctor’s office that says “Blaming someone else is not a valid reason not to lose weight.” Yes, there are things that are out of our control; the only thing we can do is control our response to these things. Example: last summer I was invited to a birthday luncheon at a restaurant I had never heard of. There was no menu online and all I knew about it was “the pizza’s really great!” Pizza is not on my list of preferred choices, so my options were; 1) not attend; or 2) take a chance on the menu. So I took a chance on the menu and there weren’t a lot of great choices for me: most of them were sandwiches with a whole lot of bread, pastas, the pizzas, and deep fried appetizers. So rather than say, “I had to eat those things because someone else chose the restaurant even though I really wanted to eat healthy,” I said no thank you to offers of deep fried appetizers and pizza and had a really great salad and a sandwich minus the bread (which left the meat, cheese and veggies). It wasn’t my preference but I made the best choices I could in the situation. Blaming someone else was not an option: no one was going to force me to eat deep fried cheese, calamari and pizza! I did split a brownie á la mode with one of my friends, but I chose to do that, just like I chose the salad and the breadless sandwich and not eating the appetizers!
Yes, changing your priorities is work and sometimes it’s more work than we wanted. Confession: I am really REALLY lazy. I’m that cliché where you open the dictionary to “Lazy” and there’s my selfie! If I could stay in bed reading or playing with the dog all day, I’d do it. On some weekends, I don’t even get out of my pajamas until late Sunday afternoon (only because I have to!) Yep, I am that lazy! So you can imagine the idea of “working out” went over like gangbusters with me. It’s right up there with cooking my own food, grocery shopping and housework:”Really? you want me to go out someplace and do a lot of activity and have nothing to show for it but ‘good health’? Or you want me to go to the store, buy a lot of whole foods, then lug them all home, put them all away and then take them out later and cook them?! Have you not heard of ‘restaurants’ or ‘take out’???” That’s pretty much how my brain works. I hate that every Sunday I have to go through the whole grocery shopping ordeal, and that each night I have to set up my breakfast and lunch for the next day, and depending on what day it is, I have to pack my gym bag for my workout. I hate getting home late from exercising, usually cold and wet, and then having to cook or at the very least heat up dinner. Do you know how many take out/ fast food places I pass on my way home from working out? The biggest draw for me when it comes to eating out isn’t that “oooh, it’s so yummy;” it’s that I don’t have to cook the dang meal or clean up afterwards! So when it comes to priorities, “eating healthier, losing weight and being active” were always pretty low on the list and as for excuses not to do those things, I have always been extremely creative! I am the epitome of the couch potato. Give me a task to do and I will whip up an excuse faster than Martha Stewart whips up another “Good Thing”!
The easiest, simplest and most often used excuse for not eating healthier, not losing weight and not being active is blaming someone else. Except it’s not valid 99% of the time. What is the real reason for not doing those things? “I didn’t want to.” That’s the bottom line, what it boils down to, and where the buck stops: I. Did. Not. Want. To. We make excuses to make ourselves feel better and to give ourselves a pass on the bad behavior. We tell ourselves I wouldn’t have overeaten but they kept pushing the food at me. They chose a bad restaurant. There was nothing at the party but chips and cookies. All they had to drink was sugary sodas. We blame someone else for our acquiescence. Rather than choose not to eat/ drink things we know aren’t good for us or aren’t on our preferred eating plan, we give in and blame someone else for our failure to make progress. Frankly, that was my excuse for gaining/ not losing weight when I worked the Job From Hell. I handled the increasingly stressful situation badly and rather than do the “hard stuff” (grocery shopping, cooking and exercising), I did the “easy stuff” instead: I sat around, wasn’t active and ate all the take out and fast food I wanted. That was when I learned about what is really hard: it nearly killed me. I’m not kidding. My health went down the toilet and it hurt to walk, to sit, to stand, to breathe and it kept getting worse. It didn’t matter if I blamed myself, the Boss From Hell or anyone else: I was the one who was getting hurt, and I was the only one who could change that. Your body doesn’t care who you blame; the only thing that matters to your body is whether or not those priorities are getting done. Are you eating healthier? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you being active? If not, your body does not give you a pass– your health just keeps getting worse. You need to stop shifting the responsibility to others and take control of your own decisions. (This goes for others things in addition to health and eating, too!) You don’t want to eat burgers and fries, so tell the family or whoever that you’re voting no on the fast food, and if you get outvoted, you still don’t have to eat the burgers and fries! FYI: most fast food places have salads now, so if you’re stuck at McDonald’s or Jack in the Box, get a salad! Or eat a burger without the bun (Carl’s Jr. is advertising that very menu choice now!) You can even decide not to eat anything! Yeah, it might not be fun, but if nothing there looks appealing to you, then choose not to eat! It might be a little uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure you won’t die! (although if you do have a medical condition that requires you eat, then eat something, even if it’s just a little thing.)
Taking responsibility sucks. It’s right up there with grocery shopping, cooking and housework. It’s part of being an adult but I’m telling you truthfully, the cost of not taking responsibility is far too high and there are no refunds. It’s terrible health, physical misery and growing despair. You are the only one who can change that by taking responsibility for your decisions, by not making excuses and by not blaming others for your choices. Your body will not give you a pass, but it will give you inflammation, extra pounds and a lot of pain. You can blame everyone else all you want: you are still one who hurts.