Do you go through periods where your healthy lifestyle choices have gone out the window and you feel like you can’t get back into them again?

Do you feel tired, sluggish and unmotivated? Does the thought of trying to improve your eating and exercising habits just seem too much?

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If you answered ‘yes’ to the questions above, you are not alone. Most people, including me, go through periods when we feel like we’ve ‘let ourselves go’, have stopped exercising, are eating poorly and just generally feeling ‘blah’.

The most frustrating aspect of feeling this way is that it can be difficult to change. Poor lifestyle habits have the tendency to become self perpetuating, making it harder and harder for you to break them. Hence the term, ‘rut’.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is for why you got into the rut in the first place – sickness, stress, laziness, the busyness of life… The fact is, your in a rut. So how do you get out?

Whether you’re losing weight, training for a competition or race, getting your fitness back, or improving your health, this post outlines some strategies and tips to get you motivated and inspired and give you the kickstart and practical steps you need to get you out of the mud and back in the game.

Ruts must be viewed as temporary

A rut is not a permanent place, it’s a temporary one. It’s just a small obstacle in your overall journey of life. If you take this view of your circumstance, you’ll be much more motivated to make the effort to get yourself back on track.

As soon as we start to accept our rut as our permanent situation, it’s like the mud turns into sinking sand and we become more entrenched every day. Getting stuck in a rut doesn’t make you a failure, but staying in the rut does.

Getting out of ruts requires effort

I like to envisage that being in a rut is like having your car stuck in a pothole or mud puddle. The initial effort to get the car moving is quite significant, but once it’s moving it only requires a small amount of force to keep it going. This is called momentum.

Momentum is your greatest asset when making lifestyle changes. Once you get going and start seeing and feeling the changes in you body it spurs you on to keep going. Eventually your changes will become habits and something you wont have to think about all the time.

It will always take a large amount of effort to break your bad habits and formulate new ones, but once you get going the momentum starts to carry you.

Don’t believe it when ‘quick fix’ weight loss and lifestyle solutions say that losing weight and developing a healthy lifestyle is easy. It’s not. It’s hard work. However, in saying that, everyone has the power to make choices and change their situation and that’s the great thing about life.

So knuckle down, give yourself a pep talk and do the big ‘heave-ho’ to start moving in the right direction. Slowly but surely over weeks and months, the momentum will become stronger and your new habits will become permanent. You wont have to work hard forever.

You have to want it bad enough

We become stuck in a unhealthy lifestyle rut when we consistently choose unhealthy food over nourishing food, when being inactive becomes the norm rather than the exception.

I believe that permanent lifestyle changes require us to take stock of what we want more. In order to change we must say goodbye to ‘old’ ways of doing things in order to do something new.

What areas of your life are you trying to improve? Do you want it bad enough to sacrifice something for the achievement of that goal? Change is always about letting something go and embracing something new.

My motto is simple: If you’re still making excuses, you don’t want it bad enough.

Don’t underestimate the power of goals

One of the most pivotal moments in my life was running 21km for very first time. That didn’t happen by accident. It was a purposeful goal which I’d set and it was the reason I got out of bed 5 mornings a week to train.

Have a goal in mind. Maybe you want to come off your blood pressure medication or you want to get your cholesterol reading below 4.5. Maybe you’ve got 5kg to lose or maybe it’s 50kg. Perhaps you’d like to get back to your pre-baby weight or fit into a special outfit.

Whatever that goal is, articulate it, be specific about it, and give yourself a deadline.

Be accountable to someone

Theres no point setting yourself a goal that no body else knows about. We’ll easily let ourselves down, but most of us will think twice before we let a friend or loved one down, or even a complete stranger.

On the morning of my scheduled half-marathon, I did not want to do it. I was scared, overwhelmed and all I could think about was how much it was going to hurt. The ‘problem’ was that 100 + subscribers all knew that I had set this goal and in that I’d made myself accountable to them. My reputation as a writer and a nutritionist was on the line.

It was a no brainer. I put on my runners and 2 hours and 9 minutes later I felt a sense of personal accomplishment that I’d never experienced before. All because I couldn’t let my readers down.

Make a plan

Preparation is key.

What is it that you want to achieve? What are the habits you are trying to establish? What are the changes you are going to make to achieve your goals? What strategies are you going to put in place to overcome particular obstacles?

Establishing new eating and exercise habits needs vigilant attention. You’ll need to engage in some kind of planning and organisation if you want to succeed.

I recommend making a plan in these areas:

  • Meals and snacks – check out this post on the benefits of meal planning.
  • Exercise sessions – schedule them into your day and give them the same priority that you would a doctors appointment or grocery shopping. Just do it!
  • Mini-milestones – these are the mini-goals that will eventually lead you to the achievement of a larger goal. My mini-milestones for my half-marathon were 8km, 10km, 15km and then finally 21km.

Recruit supportive people

Gather people around you who will help you achieve your goals and steer clear of those who will hinder you. There’s nothing worse than peer pressure when it comes to making healthy lifestyle choices and unfortunately the pressure is usually to make unhealthy choices and not the other way around.

We are good enough at sabotaging our own healthy lifestyles, let alone having to deal with other people trying to sabotage our efforts as well.

Tell your loved ones your plans, goals and desires. Ask them to encourage and support you. Ask your partner to not offer you dessert after dinner and tell the kids there will no longer be chocolate biscuits kept on the premises. Tell your colleagues that you will only contribute fruit platters and vegetable sticks to the branch morning teas and get your best friend to come on the journey with you.

Never give up

Developing a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong journey. It’ll be filled with ups and down, ruts and potholes, cake and celery…

The most important thing to remember is never give up! Failure happens when you stop trying, so just keep giving it a go.

Keep setting your alarm to exercise first thing in the morning. The morning will come when you’ll decide that the feeling of disappointment in yourself that happens as a result of going back to sleep is not worth the temporary discomfort of getting out of your bed to exercise.

Keep making healthy food choices as best as you can and as often as you can. Eventually these healthy choices will start to characterise your diet as a whole and healthy eating will become the norm and not the exception.

You can do it, the power to choose well is in all of us!

Is it time to re-negotiate?

Sometimes life changes. We start studying, we stop studying, babies are born, kids go to school, we start a new job, we move in with someone, a relationship ends… Often we can get stuck in a rut because the habits for healthy eating and exercise that once worked with our lifestyle don’t work any more. We keep trying to do them but become frustrated because it’s no longer working.

Sometimes we do need to persevere with things, but other times we need to let go of the old habit and do something new. If something is not working then it’s time to renegotiate your situation.

This year, moving The Healthy Eating Hub into its new facility and my youngest child heading off to school has meant a dramatic change to my daily routine. I’ve spent the past few months not exercising much and my diet being somewhat out of whack. I kept trying to do the same things I’ve always done, but they weren’t working. I was becoming more and more frustrated.

It was time to renegotiate. To find a new time and place to exercise, to plan different options for food and to re-shuffle my routine to better suit all the things I need to get done in a day. Since doing that, I feel so much more in control.

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