It would be nice if weight loss were smooth and linear, and while I’m wishing for the impossible, how about a million bucks, too? We all know it’s easier to lose weight when nothing crazy is going on at work and you can eat the healthy lunch you brought without phones going off and people popping into your office asking “where are you on the Saunders project?” It’s the same thing at home: when it’s calm, it’s easier, but usually the boys’ ride to soccer practice has to reschedule, the dog loses the fight with the neighbor’s cat and your spouse’s trip to Boston gets bumped up a couple of days to today. Yay, chaos- also known as the Real World! This is pretty much how it is for most of us at home and at work.
It’s so so tempting to tell yourself “I’ll lose weight when it’s less stressful!” So…. let’s put it on our calendar for the second Tuesday from Never? Because that’s when it’s going to be ‘less stressful.’ There will always be fussy, high-maintenance clients, bosses and coworkers who hijack your time, and fly balls coming out of left field to disrupt your carefully orchestrated schedule. And that’s just at work: when you have a family, especially with kids, you’ve pretty much joined the circus with every day being opening night until they move out. Yup: the Real World is pure chaos!
I’m not telling you this so you get discouraged: I’m telling you this because most of us like order and schedules and plans. We plan our healthy meals; we schedule our workouts and we make grocery lists full of nutritious whole foods. Sounds lovely! We’ll be losing weight so fast…. until our meticulous plans meet our actual lives and suddenly, we’re doing the Seat of Our Pants Weight Loss Plan. Instead of sauteed broccoli with meatballs and marinara, we’re suddenly doing frozen bunless burgers with bag salad. Instead of the turkey lettuce wrap for lunch, we’re having hardboiled eggs with carrot sticks. Instead of our water aerobics class on Wednesday, we’re doing laps in the pool on Thursday night. It feels like we’re running to catch up and, even worse, it feels like we’re failing at weight loss.
Not true!In Real Life most of us pride ourselves on being flexible when it comes to work and family life. That’s pretty much the way life works- things happen, we make an adjustment and keep on going. Rigidity is what happens right before something breaks! But when it comes to our weight loss, healthy eating or working out, we stubbornly adhere to a rigid plan of How It’s Supposed to Be, and when it breaks, we’re surprised, disappointed and think we’ve ‘screwed up royally!’ I will admit that in the beginning of a new lifestyle, routine and predictability are a true benefit. It makes it easier for us to make the adjustment, but we all know it’s going to be short-lived at best and before long, we’re going to be bobbing and weaving as usual. The trouble is that no one has ever told us that changing our weight loss and work out plans on the fly isn’t failure- it’s adaptability! We all know and accept that sudden changes happen at work and with family, so we need to write that into our weight loss plan too! How many times do we get stuck working through lunch? Is that going to stop just because we decided to ‘eat healthy?’ Not hardly! So plan for it: when I have to work through lunch, I have X planned! When I have to work late and don’t have time to fix dinner or go to the store, I’ve got X in the freezer. When I can’t make my scheduled workout, I’ve got my gym bag in the car so I can stop in the next day that I do have time. This is how the Weight Loss meets the Real World, and it’s not much different from how we deal with other Real World occurrences. When the ride to soccer practice gets canceled, instead of canceling your plans, you make a shift and do your errands or shopping after you’ve dropped them off and then swing back to pick them up. You probably don’t even think about this as a problem: it’s a normal occurrence! When you have to work through lunch, you probably have a similar shift in your repertoire: either you skip lunch, eat later or have something delivered. So when you start bringing something healthy, you still have the same options either to skip lunch or eat later and if you do opt for delivery, order a salad or veggie wrap or something similar to what you brought.
It seems fairly obvious but our mindset gets in the way and tells us we’ve failed or screwed up because we’re ‘not sticking to our Weight Loss Plan’! That would be that rigid inflexible plan that can’t exist in the Real World. This is inflexibility is why so many weight loss plans are unrealistic- they don’t allow for adjustments. Making healthy high protein breakfast smoothies for breakfast is great until we don’t have time to make them because ‘something comes up,’ as it always does, and if we’re supposed to changing our smoothie ingredients on rigid schedule, we just blew our plan. (My mom gave me one of those smoothies-on-a-schedule diet books!) I know my schedule: I didn’t even try it! Too inflexible and too complicated!
Staying flexible with our healthy eating, weight loss and activity plans lets us continue to make progress. We have to approach our weight loss goals with the same mindset we have towards everything else in our lives. If we didn’t make adjustments in our jobs and families, would we still have jobs and families? Would we throw up our hands and say “I just blew it with the kids! Guess I have to give them away!” Or quit our jobs when we missed a deadline or didn’t hit it out of the park on a project? That’s extreme overreacting and no one would seriously consider giving either of those actions. But that’s exactly what we do when we’re talking about weight loss. Allowing ourselves to adjust not only keeps us on that bumpy road to better health, it gives us a fighting chance to reach our goals, so bob, weave, and hang on!