Since you began your “I’m gonna get into better shape” journey, you’ve been learning how to integrate better nutrition and physical activity into your daily life. And I’ll bet that you’ve come to realize that living healthfully in today’s 24/7 grab-and-go world requires navigating countless minefields of tempting trash treats and hefty speed bumps every time you want to get in some physical activity. When men and women start a journey to improve their health, shed pounds, and become fit, the original enthusiasm begins to fade right around the fourth week of slugging it out. Red alert when you start to hear these words spill from your lips “I was doing just fine UNTIL …” as you contemplate throwing in the towel. Go ahead and fill in the blank with the UNTIL___ stresses – my job has me traveling more; my boyfriend dumped me; I got a new micromanaging boss; I sprained my ankle; I’m suddenly financially strapped; I’m depressed and anxious about someone I’m care giving. The possibilities here are endless.
So the next step in your quest to become lean, healthier, and more fit is to learn how to manage these life stresses without reverting to old habits – eating your way through the stress, dropping the workouts, ceasing to do things that give you joy, and abandoning your self care.
When I wrote Fit to Live, I began the book with a quote from Charles Darwin. “It is not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Scientists have known for years that survival is based upon the ability to be flexible, to modify habits as needed in response to life’s ever changing environment. This is about regrouping when life throws you a curve ball and the two critical elements of regrouping involve the ability to adapt and adjust. I love to use them together as a verb I call “A²” or “A Squaring.” The goal is to show that no matter what hits you in life, you can adapt and adjust without resorting to self destructive behaviors.
Adapt is a mental attitude that says “I’m facing a situation that I have to come to grips with.” It’s about accepting the situation – my boyfriend or girlfriend has left me – with as minimal negative effects on yourself – shame, guilt, anger, denial, dissociation, inertia, stress-eating – as possible. What you’re doing is getting real and wrapping your head around whatever the stress is. You’re accepting a new reality.
Adjust is the technical end of the regrouping equation. Now that you’ve mentally adapted to the new reality – I’ve gained 30 pounds – you’re ready to map out a strategy to deal with this stress. It’s about formulating a plan and implementing it.
Mastering the art of regrouping as soon as possible will affect everything you do in life, whether it’s shedding weight and getting fit, or coping with a new baby, a change of career, or the loss of a loved one. Studies of the great centenarians have shown that a common characteristic of these amazing 100-year-olds is that they are “stress shedders.” They fully experience a stress but don’t allow it to paralyze and destroy them. They have an innate ability to A² fairly quickly and move on with life. You can, too.
Becoming a master of adapting and adjusting requires a lifetime of practice. Anything rewarding in life involves practice, from motherhood to great artistry. The great news is that it over time it does indeed become easier. For that matter, after a while, you can get pretty macho about this, and say “Go ahead, bring it on. I’ll show you how I can adapt and adjust!” Upon returning from business travel that involved one delay after another, one of my patients proudly declared, “It didn’t matter that I was stuck at that airport tired, hungry and surrounded by fast-food places. I just paid attention and made the right choices. For that matter, I even got up and walked around to get in some more steps for the day. It’s a heck of a lot better than sitting on my butt at the gate!” Now, those are the words of someone who’s mastering the A² mentality.
Now, let’s go back to the “I was doing just fine UNTIL___” issue. Right now, make a list of your own unique “UNTIL’s.” Think back to the last 10 times you tried to shed some weight and get more fit and then it all fell apart when what happened? It’s often an eye opener, as you start to see patterns. For instance, every holiday you blow it, or whenever you’re in a hotel you become one with the mini bar, or you head to the fridge every time your boss criticizes your work. Once you identify the pattern, you can start building a strategy for dealing with that particular stressor so that you’re prepared when it hits again.
Here are some easy steps for you to take the next time you hear yourself shouting “Oh no, incoming!” as these stresses start hitting you from every angle.
1. Acknowledge the new stress. Do not panic. Do not deny it. Let the reality sift through you. Take a deep breath and be with the new stress.
2. Adapt by wrapping your head around the new reality. For example, you hopped on the scale for the first time in six months and you’re up 40 pounds. That’s a reality. Let it sink in. Your cholesterol and blood sugars are up. Get the numbers. Take measurements. You’ll need these to adjust to the reality.
3. Gather facts. As soon as the dust settles, make certain you have all the facts you need to address this new stress. This can be challenging so try not to get so emotional you become anxious and blind to reality.
4. Get support to help guide you. It often helps to find resources in your life to assist you as you begin to comprehend the new stress. Reach out and ask for help.
5. Adjust by formulating a strategy and plan. Once you can think more clearly and have accepted the new reality, hope is born from creating a way to manage and cope with the stress. That hope becomes your driving force.
6. Do not abandon your self care while learning how to adapt and adjust. You may have to shift your schedule and actions, but do not stop caring for yourself. You still have to nourish yourself and keep physically active, if not to just maintain your sanity while coping. For example, if you’re spending time at a hospital supporting a friend or family member, you still eat healthy foods, and may find that some of your walks are around the hospital grounds instead of at the gym. That kind of flexibility is the foundation for optimal adapting and adjusting.
I will guarantee you that your ability to achieve your best body and healthiest lifestyle is based upon how well you can adapt and adjust to the stresses and challenges that threaten to derail your best efforts. Practice these simple steps every day and reap the benefits of an amazing transformational win win – your physical fitness and health transformation, as well as your transformation into a master of adapting and adjusting.
Think Small Lose Big
- Week 1: For Lasting Change, Start with a Power Mind
- Week 2: The Secret to Dropping Real Weight is to Eat Real Food
- Week 3: The Next Step is the Big Step
- Week 4: The Lifestyle Rx for Muffin Tops and Menopots
- Week 5: Don’t Self-Destruct! Adapt and Adjust!
- Week 6: Shoot for Progress, Not Perfection
- Week 7: Find the Motivation That Sticks
- Week 8: There Is No Finish Line