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Episode 228: When Life Gets in The Way of Your Healthy Habits (Part 1)

If there is one common trajectory every one of my clients follows it's this: they start off highly motivated and excited to get started, they stay totally dialed into the process and are pushed forward by the results they see, and then inevitably they hit a wall.

A parent gets sick. 

An unexpected move happens. 

A child goes through a tough time. 

A big trip comes up. 

The school year starts. 

Their spouse gets let go. 

They start a new job. 

They run into a busy season.

What determines my clients' success is not those initial results, and it isn't their ability to avoid these life happenings. It's how they respond when these scenarios hit. 

I'm going to be real with you, some of them legitimately ghost me. They feel ashamed for 'failing' or for having a big backslide and so they avoid the conversation altogether (even though I am the last person that would judge them since I know it's such a normal part of the process of lifestyle change).

Or sometimes it isn't that they feel ashamed, they just throw in the towel because it all feels like too much. 

But then there are the clients that lean in and say, "This is what's going on, help me walk through it," or "This is what happened, help me get back on track." 

These are the clients that I know have truly made a change, because now they're working with and around failure, instead of viewing it as the ultimate stopping point. 

This happened with a couple of my incredible clients recently and so I thought I'd dedicate an episode to sharing how we either got them through these rough times or helped them get back on track fast, quick, and in a hurry. 

 1. Start with central nervous system regulation.

This is the least sexy step and the one most will skip. That also is a big mistake. Big. Huge. (Name that movie.). 

The fact is, when you're in fight or flight, the logical part of your brain that's responsible for finding creative solutions to problems gets turned off, and the part of your brain responsible for all or nothing thinking and catastrophizing gets turned on high. As long as you're in this head space, you're going to find it extremely difficult to create and maintain healthy habits. 

Some simple ways to convey safety to your body and get you out of fight or flight are a few minutes of 4-4-8 breathing (in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4, out through your mouth for 8), a deep inhale with an extra gulp of air at the top, meditation, grounding (put your bare feet on the earth), watching funny animal videos, cold exposure (you can just put a cold wash cloth on the back of your neck, face, or even just run cold water over your hands and notice all the sensations you experience).

2. View your healthy habits as tools to making it through this time, not as additional stressors during this tough time. 

This is a big mental shift that can make a huge difference. If you view eating well, working out, and going to bed at a normal hour as hinderances to your productivity because they take time away from all that life is throwing at you, of course they're going to be the first things you axe. 

But if productivity is you driving a race car, then you eating well, moving your body, and getting rest is not you hitting the breaks, it's you stopping at the pit stop to fill your gas and rotate your tires so you can keep going. 

3. Develop habit flexibility. 

 More often than not people choose to start a health journey when life is a bit calmer, when motivation is high, and when they feel they can really give their all. So they do. They give their all, usually being more restrictive, and aiming for perfection.

And then the schedule starts to pick up, stressors creep in, and suddenly they feel like they're faced with two choices: figure out a way to continue being perfect with their diet through all the craziness (unlikely) or quit. 

But there is a third option: learn to ease your foot off the gas instead of slamming your foot on the break and running into a light pole. 

Maybe you were feeling really good not eating sugar, cutting out alcohol, and cooking all your meals at home. But if that becomes unrealistic, try incorporating treats in moderation and learn how to make good choices when eating out (like going for a Chipotle bowl loaded with protein and veggies instead of heading to McDonald's for a big mac and fries). 

Rigidity is the death of consistency, being flexible with your habits and learning to adapt what you're doing to different life phases and situations is essential for your continued progress.

4. Stop majoring in the minors. 

When life goes wonky this is not the time to be putting mental energy or effort towards the little things. Supplements, drinking apple cider vinegar, following superfood trends, and meal timing should not be on the menu. They're taking up precious willpower and adding to decision fatigue with very little benefit in the long run.

These habits are cherries on the sundae, only to be utilized when you have the proper bandwidth for them.

During times of stress, hone in on being really consistent with the most basic, foundational habits. As Michael Pollan would say: Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 

5. Be diligent with your boundaries. 

When we find ourselves in a stage of life where it feels like we're floundering, trying to barely keep our head above water, we're so focused on not drowning that we miss the fact that there's a life jacket floating behind us, a swim instructor within shouting distance that could guide us to shore, oh and the water we're drowning in is actually only 4 feet deep if we would just extend our foot to the ground. 

All of this to say, we're so reactive to the stress that we miss the solutions around us. And those solutions come in the form of saying no, asking for help, blocking off time in your calendar to - oh I don't know - eat your lunch, delegating tasks, and taking things off your to-do list that aren't essential while you navigate this particular season. 

I recently saw a post on Instagram that I think you'll find really helpful in the realm of setting boundaries. It said: 

"I started dividing my to-do list into 1) things I have to do, 2) things I want to do, and 3) things other people want me to do. Life changing! I often don't get to 3 and I finally realized omg, is this what it means to have boundaries?!" - Jenee Harris 

Hopefully after reading these 5 tips you're feeling more confident about your ability to stay consistent through whatever life throws at you. But we're not done, there's more where that came from!

Click here to subscribe to the podcast so you get notified when the next episode drops where I share 5 more pieces of wisdom to overcome (and rebound from) your most challenging moments. Promise - no spam. 

And of course if you feel like you could use some support implementing these strategies, click here to book a free consultation with yours truly! 



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