“Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well…and not today’s pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man.”
– James H. West
We all get exhausted maintaining a daily wellness habit. Every one of us. There is no shame when we falter—or even when it seems like we willingly drop the habit and run the other way—but there is often surprise at how it could happen “from out of nowhere.”
That’s because it didn’t. “Studies show people who lose weight and keep it off, and people who gain it back, have the same number of slips,” says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Diet Simple. But “people who keep it off are better able to problem-solve; are more likely to have, and call on, a support system of friends, family, or professionals; and take control of their environment.”
Maintaining a wellness habit sometimes seems like climbing to the top of an arc; the uphill is difficult, the crest time is awesome, and the descent may be so gradual that it’s almost invisible. But there are signs, and there are signs because it’s expected that these habits will move from difficult to achievable, to common place to…well, regular life. Once what had once been a positive, almost indulgent self-care habit has moved into the “regular life” category, what should be our most crowning achievement actually becomes more vulnerable to taking for granted or lumping into daily drudgery. “Pursuing diet and fitness goals is a lot like that,” agrees Leanna Skarnulis of WebMD, “from time to time you’ll fall off. The key to getting back on is to acquire the skills and self-knowledge that will enable you to recover…” (Skarnulis, 2016).
A Perfect Circle
“To ensure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”
– William Londen
As part of our Streel Level Wellness family, you know that we’re all about acronyms, here. The acronym ARC is a great way to help ourselves be one of those people who maintain their wellness habit after a slip. In fact, if we listen to what the slip is trying to teach us, we can bounce back stronger than before.
A is for Acceptance
We need to accept that the slip, the slide or the unhealthy pattern that we returned to has, yes, happened. And with that accept that we are human and these patterns have been with us at least for years, if not for a lifetime. Also, we need to accept that, perhaps it’s time for a change. When we were building our health habit, these behaviors became the safe bastion against whatever unhealthy temptation was out there. But we’ve either stepped away from them or taken them for granted. Either way, that indicates it’s time to change. But before all that comes the largest acceptance of ourselves; forgiveness. We can be our greatest coaches and our hardest critics. We must forgive ourselves if we are to bounce back. “Forgive yourself” Skarnulis encourages, “…and enjoy it” (2016). That last part may be the most striking. If so, we’ve forgotten that our wellness habit, our life, is to be enjoyed. That change we need to make must be a fun change or it won’t be a lasting one.
R is for Remember
Remember lots of things! Remember why we started this habit in the first place; remember what’s on the line. Successful life change usually means that the urgency has dropped because we’re healthier—our well-meaning friends or doctors may be off our backs, the ambulance may have stopped giving us lifts—but the wolf is still at the door even though he’s stopped howling. Also, we need to remember our great accomplishments in light of our present slip up. What’s 10 pounds compared to 200? What’s once cigarette compared to not smoking 3 packs a day? What’s one day wasted with TV compared to full weeks? The trick of this remembrance is to never minimize the seriousness of the slip up and the danger it presents, but to also not give it too much of the energy we need to beat it. Look at it in the context of our successes. Finally, to use the slip up against itself, remembering that this didn’t just sneak up on us. “The key is to know where your problem areas are and have a plan for dealing with them,” says Tallmadge, and this slip up is a great learning experience (Skarnulis, 2016).
C is for Care…and Commit…and Change…
Okay, C is overworked, but C has a lot of energy. C is where we actually bounce. Once we’ve accepted we’re human and our health habit may have worn down, and remembered why we’re fighting this fight and that we don’t totally suck, then it’s time for a bit of gritty honesty. “Did we, in our exhaustion, just stop caring for a bit?” That answer is just between us and our wellness, but to keep it street level, the answer is usually “Well…yeah.” It’s normal. That’s why we remember, is because it recharges our care battery. Once that battery is recharged it’s much easier to recommit to our wellness habit with fresh zeal. But what are we committing to? “Rigid diets don’t work,” says Tallmadge, “I teach people how to slip and bounce back. Include treats each week without feeling guilty. Have a brownie every Friday” if that’s what makes a lasting wellness habit, but do it mindfully, budgeting into your diet (Skarnulis, 2016). Maybe it’s not a brownie, but the change we make, if steeped in what we learned from our slip and accepting that we deserve to enjoy the process, will build an even stronger, longer-lasting wellness habit. It will show that we’ve come full-circle.
That’s the interesting thing about arcs; two arcs make a circle. If building our wellness habit was the upward arc, and bouncing back from a slip was the downward arc, then we’ve made a circle. We’re heading up again, and always moving forward. We haven’t lost it all, or gone back to start, we’ve actually completed one the lap around the track!
Completing our arc proves only one thing; not that we failed, but that we never left the race. As long as we never leave the race, the more laps we complete, the more we ensure our inevitable victory.
Skarnulis, L. (2016) What to Do When You Want to Give Up Your Diet. WebMD.com. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/what-to-do-when-you-want-to-give-up-your-diet#1