Life comes in waves. When we’re riding high, everything feels easy, but when we’re low it feels like we’ll never get back on form, the whole world is against us.
Like an economic life-cycle, some waves occur over a period of months, some days and some minute to minute, second to second.
You may have heard yourself say, “that was a good Summer”, or “I hated that Winter”, and what you are doing is taking note of all the ups and downs in the previous months and figuring what the net result is.
Did the goods outweigh the bads, or was it the other way round?
It is human nature to reflect over the last few months, and when we plan we tend to think in the same way – months or years ahead. But breaking it down to each day, or even each hour can be more practical.
In health, our habits and motivation seems to go in waves too. When you’re in the zone and hitting the gym five days a week, you feel unstoppable. You feel so amazing and despite all the effort you put in, it feels easy. There’s no struggle getting out the door, just a buzz of excitement.
You may even tell yourself that you’ve found the answer to life! All you need to do is keep this up and you’ll feel great forever!
And then something happens. You catch a cold, you take a holiday, work gets busy. Five days training drops to four, you have to cram in a session here or there and you miss your favourite class.
Before you know it, your priorities have changed. You know you should be training, it made you feel so good! But you just … (don’t tell anyone) … can’t be bothered.
The negative chat starts to enter your head and you beat yourself up for not doing what you know makes your life better.
How did this happen? You were doing so well!
You wrack your brains and try to remember where the spark of inspiration came from last time that led to you being such a gym bunny and feeling great, but you just can’t remember.
If only you could recreate that moment you’d be back on track! Was it a book you read? A conversation you had? A movie you saw? How did it happen?!
The reason it bugs you so much is that it’s had a knock-on effect on your diet too. The clean-eating has been swapped for fast, processed, on-the-go food. You feel groggy but you’re so far off the wagon you figure you may as well keep going. The ‘wagon’ seems so far back in the past it feels impossible to get back now anyway.
So what’s the solution to this inevitable sin wave of life?
The first step is to stop beating yourself up and think big. Step out of your day to day and get up to the 30,000-foot view of life. It’s okay. You’re allowed to take your foot off the gas for a while. The infinite number of variables in life force a shift of priorities from time to time, and that’s just life!
Unless you are a professional athlete and you are paid to train, eat, nap and recover, then I’m guessing you have other things going on in your life from time to time! Work and families have a pesky way of breaking the health habits, don’t they!
The dips are inevitable, but as we have discovered in this book, we need to invest in our health every day.
So here’s what I recommend; after you’ve taken the 30,000-foot view and realised that it’s okay to have the odd off-spell, then zoom back in on the day, the hour, the minute and ask, “what’s the net result?”.
Did you have a ‘net positive’ day? The reason I like this thought so much is that it gets rid of the idea of ‘the wagon’. Built into the fabric of our language is the idea that there is a wagon that you are either on or off.
When you’re on the wagon, everything is rosy. Getting to the gym is easy, munching on salad is a delight and you turn down your colleague’s cake at worth with confidence and charm. But then you fall off the wagon. It may have started slowly at first, or it may have been one massive blow-out after a stressful week.
Either way, once you’re off, there’s no point going back. It’s ruined. All the work you put in, all those months of training and clean eating are gone.
Or at least that’s what our minds tell us…
Whether you think about being ‘on the wagon’ or not, this mindset is all too common when it comes to our health, but all it takes is a simple switch of thought to make it so much easier.
When you look at each day, or each meal even, and ask ‘what’s the net result?’, then it doesn’t matter if you have a blow-out meal, there’s still a chance to make up for it!
Just destroyed a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? No worries, you just know that you need to balance your calorie intake that day (or the next if it was late at night) and that’s easy to do by doing an intermittent fast. The surge of sugar needs to be managed by doing some exercise and having a low-sugar day, and you know you must also pay attention to the likely cravings that will come as a result of having a high sugar day followed by a low one.
But after all that, the net result is a positive one. You have taken a step in the direction of health after a little blip. In the words of my favourite little bear, Winnie the Pooh, ‘no bother’!
It’s liberating, isn’t it? The knowledge that each sugary meal can be made up for by the next, or the sedentary day can be undone by movement and the late night recovered by a few early ones helps you to make each day a good one.
When we accept the 30,000-foot view that our life will go through inevitable waves of habit and energy, but then zoom into the actions of each day and balance them to create a net-positive result, you know that you are taking forward steps in the journey of health.
I am not saying that it’s okay to smash a tub of B&J’s every day as long as you exercise and fast, but you won’t. I know you WANT to be on the wagon. Everything about life is better when you’re moving and eating well, so when you’re in those habits you won’t want to break them anyway.
But when they eventually do break, and they will, you can catch yourself before you fall into the abyss and remember that all you need to do is find the path to the net positive result.
One bad meal or a missed week of training doesn’t have to spiral out of control, you just have to find balance and then progress in a positive direction in your journey of health.
What’s the quickest route to a positive change?
One good, small action is better than no good actions. And then another, and another. Before you know it, you have MOMENTUM. And momentum, coupled with the compound effect, are the most powerful forces in nature.
If you feel like your habits of health are slipping, don’t panic. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t worry. Just take a small step in a positive direction to create some balance.
If you’re going through a tough or busy time, expect the devil on your shoulder to win the argument from time to time, but understand that THAT’S OKAY and you can bring it back at the next meal, the next training session and the next early night.