Monday Morning Disease: Weight Loss & Motivation

Yes, there really is a syndrome called Monday Morning Disease, although it mainly affects horses.  I came across it many many years ago reading James Herriot’s books.  For those of you who have never read him, he was a vet who practiced in the Yorkshire dales (northern England) beginning in the 1930’s. His own description of himself was “a shaggy cow doctor,” because most of his clients were farmers and his patients were livestock. If you ever want to know how to deliver a calf that’s a breech birth, he’s the go-to guy! Because my dad and I are such pet people, his books were part entertainment, part history and some super practical pet first aid.  I learned how to wrap a cat from him, how to lance an abscess and a few other practical bits that sadly included diagnosing canine distemper.

Monday Morning Disease (Equine exertional Rhabdomyolysis) was fairly common when a large portion of farmers still used horses to farm. They’d be pulling equipment Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off. On Monday morning the horse’s legs would be swollen due to the constant exertion followed by the sudden lack of movement. It’s a muscle disorder usually from poor circulation or problems with glycogen storage. While rhabdomyolysis happens to people too, this post is less about muscular disorders and more about motivational problems.

Most of us hate Mondays (at least those of us who aren’t perky or insane).  I am a devout Monday-hater and have been since I was a kid. Growing up I had a collection of Garfield comic strips taped on my bedroom door and most of them were in the I-hate-Mondays vein.  (My favorite was Garfield grousing that the world will probably end on a Monday because it’d be a real shame for God to end the world right before a weekend!)

Pretty much every Monday morning, I moan and groan and hide under the blankets for as long as I can. Even though I love my job and sincerely don’t mind the long commute, I really really hate getting up early in the morning and I know each Monday that it’s going to be another five days before I can sleep in, stay up late and do what I want all day long.  What makes it so much worse– for me, at least– is the same concept as the Monday Morning Disease in horses: we’ve been going and going all week long and then we come to a sudden stop.  It’s like everything catches up with us so it’s as if Mondays are actually de-motivational! During the week, it’s Getup-Getready-Takecareofthepets-Packlunch-Grabbreakfast-GetGas-Drivetowork-Workallday-Drivehome-Runerrands-Hitthegym-Takecareofthepetsagain-Makedinner-Dohousework-Getreadyforbed-Gotosleep-Getupanddoitalloveragain.

It’s not a horrible schedule but it’s long for me because I live alone.  Pretty much anything that needs to get done, I have to do it and if it doesn’t get done during the week, it has to get done over the weekend or it just doesn’t get done.  The flip side for families or couples is while there are more people to handle things, there are just more things to do! There is no ‘easy option’ when it comes to working, managing a home and everything else that goes along with modern life.  Pretty much all of us are in this Go-Go-Go lifestyle and then we get a chance to catch our breath…..Whew! But once we’ve gotten our second wind, it’s hard to get back up to speed.  We’ve lost momentum and suddenly everything feels so much harder than when we were bouncing off the walls to get things done.  This is what I mean by Monday Morning Disease.

And it doesn’t have to happen only on Monday mornings.  Getting back up to speed and re-building that momentum is damned hard.  When you’re going along as fast as you can from one task to another, it doesn’t feel like it’s hard because you are so focused on “get this done- move on the next one!”  When you slow down or stop, you’re having to start again from that dead stop. It’s the difference from starting your car in the morning after it’s been sitting dormant all night versus starting it up after you’ve stopped just long enough to fill it with gas. The cold engine takes a long time to get warmed up: the air coming from the vents is cold; the windshield needs to defrost and the car doesn’t respond as quickly as it normally does when it’s been running for a while.  By contrast, a car that’s warmed up starts quickly and smoother than one that’s cold.

We can remember what it was like when we were kids and how awkward it felt going back to school after the summer long vacation.  Where’s my backpack? Where’s my lunch box? Where are my uniforms? Ugh…school…. It’s the same when it comes to weight loss, nutrition, and exercise: we stop or slow down long enough to lose momentum and get out of the habit and suddenly it feels like we’re pushing a boulder up the mountain.  Everything feels so hard and it seems to take such a long time so we start looking for any excuse to get out of it!

Pretty much every Monday morning, I start thinking of some reason why I ‘can’t’ go to work, just like every Monday and Wednesday evening, I start manufacturing reasons why I can’t go to the gym. I do the same thing on Sunday afternoons: “I’m too busy to go to the gym today!” I know what the real problem is and it has nothing to do with how busy I may or may not be or how tired I feel: it’s because I slowed down long enough to take a look at my schedule. I’ve got a lot going on (don’t we all??) and it can feel overwhelming at times, so I start justifying reasons why I ‘can’t do XYZ ‘when the real issue has nothing to do with what I can and cannot do: it’s what I want to do that’s my problem!

There’s a lot of examples of this mentality on My 600 lb Life. The patients sincerely want to lose weight and be healthier, but they sincerely don’t want to be inconvenienced with annoying things like eating healthier, giving up junk food, and -ugh!- exercising! We’ve all heard about things like ‘decision fatigue,’ and how willpower is a muscle, and I think that’s part of Monday Morning Disease.  Most of us have problems with healthy eating and keeping our exercise routine over the weekends simply because they are less structured and there’s more opportunities to socialize. Giving ourselves a break from choosing healthy options and making it to the gym is normal.  We’ve been busy all week so we reward ourselves with a little relaxation.  How lax we want to get is up to us, but come Monday morning our routine is staring us in the face. Again! Like those horses James Herriott wrote about, our decision and willpower muscles don’t want to work! We’ve been working them really hard all week and now that they’ve had a chance to rest, they’re rebelling!

It’d be great if we could do like those English farmers did: ring the doctor and have him take care of our problem! But our ‘muscles’ are really part of our motivational anatomy so no doctor can ‘fix’ them for us.  We need to find reasons to skip the croissants at Starbucks and opt for something healthier, and why it’s important that we keep our workout schedule. When we bargain with ourselves to give the ‘muscles’ a rest, we’re buying what we want now instead of investing for something better in the future. There’s a reason we chose to eat healthier, work out and lose weight and when we feel our willpower/ decision muscles starting to give up, we need to remind ourselves of what those reasons are.  It might be something as serious as improving a major health issue or something as benign as looking good at your brother’s wedding, but whatever the reason is, it was important enough to start you down this road in the first place, so I’m sure it’s way more important than the raspberry cheesecake cookie at Subway or the everything croissant at Starbucks!


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