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    « Congratulations! | Main | Drinking for heart health? »

    Banish Your Excuses

    People make excuses about as easily as they change their socks.  Not enough time.  Not enough money.  Not enough information.  My back hurts.  My feet are flat.  I love food.  Blah, blah, blah, ad nauseum.

    Today is Thanksgiving, a day when people abandon any semblance of self-control and eat themselves sick just because the food is available.  This holiday, however, is little more than an excuse to binge.  As if the words on a calendar somehow give tacit approval to ignore the body's dietary necessities.

    FWIW, my holiday meal consisted of a portion of turkey breast, a portion of potatoes, and a few ‘naughty’ indulgences - a portion of broccoli casserole, some stuffing, and a dinner roll.  I did eat a small piece of pecan pie for dessert.  It wasn’t the most upstanding dietary accomplishment in my life, but I didn’t walk away from the table 2000 calories heavier either.

    As you are aware, the nationwide binge eating will repeat itself at Christmas.

    Nevertheless, we are here to talk about excuses - the lies we tell ourselves to justify our inactivity, inadequacy, or temporary inability to do what truly needs to be done. Personally, excuses disgust me.  Take a few seconds to recall someone who offered up an excuse instead of results.  For example, did you think to yourself, “Oh, OK. I understand” when you heard the excuse for why the report you expected at work didn’t end up on your desk?  I doubt it.

    If you have kids, you hear excuses every day – I know my four children are LOADED with them.  However, I expect excuses from children – they are adults-in-training after all.  Hearing excuses from adults, however, is pretty sad.

    Banishing Your Excuses

    Adults who make excuses, especially with regard to their health, are pitiful.  It’s time for us to be totally honest with ourselves and understand that point.  Making excuses is sad.

    If you’re one of those people that has made excuses in the past but is ready for a change, there’s good news: you can get started right now. 

    Make a Decision

    On New Year’s Eve (about 5 weeks from now), a bunch of people are going to make a “decision” to “lose weight”.  With admirable vigor, they will begin the process of dieting and going to the gym in an all-out attempt to cut the fat.  Despite the initial activity surge, about 98% of them will quit whatever program they start by the time Valentine’s Day arrives.  Most won’t make it past MLK Jr.’s birthday – just 2 weeks into January.

    A decision isn’t a decision until you’ve followed through with it over the long term.  A wedding engagement is a good example of true decision making.  From engagement to wedding, there’s a lot of opportunity to abandon everything, especially when disagreements about wedding details and other planning stresses come into play.  The reasons we stay committed to following through on the decision are varied but probably include an amount of external pressure (from family & friends) and keeping the focus on the end result – marriage.  When the going gets tough, the tough remember that the goal is worth the effort.

    Making a decision for your health requires the same commitment and the same external pressures.  External pressure (a training partner, for instance) and a focus on the end result (a healthy, able body that responds to the demands you place upon it) are mandatory to your success. 

    Maybe you don’t know what the end result feels like, which makes it hard to focus on the ultimate goal.  That would be another excuse – one that prevents you from ever getting started.  You can banish it by reading the stories of people who HAVE transformed their bodies through exercise and proper nutrition.  I transformed my physique, so you can use my story as a starting point.  A simple online search will provide you with literally thousands of other stories of people that made a decision for their health and followed through with it.  Read people’s stories with the understanding that your biology isn’t so different from theirs, so you too have the ability to create a transformed body.

    Put Yourself First

    Far too often I hear of people who decided to abandon their quest for better health as a means of pleasing someone else.  A weak decision coupled with a weak commitment made this the perfect excuse for some to quit what they begin.

    Back in February, I had the perfect opportunity to quit my training program in order to focus my attention on someone else.  My marriage was on the rocks and my wife had come to me with the news that she was filing for divorce.  Ironically, she informed me of her plan as we were getting dressed to go to the gym.  After the initial shock wore off (which took about a week), I decided that the only thing I could do was to keep training.  I had to improve myself – to be stronger, healthier, and more confident – in order to be a better husband to Alice and father to my children.

    At first, it occurred to me that I should stop training in order to spend more time with Alice.  This belief was quickly abandoned, however, since much of my marital strife was the result of a lack of self-confidence and dislike for my physical appearance.  In other words, I knew I was fat, and that knowledge manifested negatively in my relationships.  Only by sticking to my exercise and nutrition plans could I change my body AND my mind for the better and thus become a better, more confident husband to my wife.  I put myself first and everyone was better off for it.

    You might face opposition from your spouse, co-workers, and friends.  Often these are people who feel threatened by your newfound vigor and potential for success.  Nobody likes to have their excuses stripped away, and fat people are notorious for dragging people back into physical complacency.  Overweight members of my family and former coworkers have openly stated to my face (“jokingly”, of course) that they “hate” my wife for being fit.  Their words belie the unspoken assumption that my wife was intentionally going to the gym and improving her health as a personal mission of embarrassment to them.  Like Alice seriously thinks, “In your FACE, Liz!” as she does bench presses.  Please. 

    Alice and I go to the gym for ourselves.  What others think about out motivation is irrelevant.  We put ourselves first, and we enjoy a happy, healthy lifestyle as a result.  Training together actually helped bring us back together as a couple, and our relationship grows stronger with every workout.

    Face Your Fear

    Fear can be a great limiter or a great motivator.  It’s all in how you use fear to your own advantage.  Stepping into a gym in an overweight body is a scary thing to do, but it’s far less frightening than hearing the news that you have diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.  You honestly have to decide which fear you’re willing to live with – a temporary fear that is based on nothing more than what you believe others might think about you or the very real fear of living long-term with a dread disease that might put you in an early grave.

    I remember the first time I ever put on a pair of sweats and stepped into a gym.  I was petrified.  I thought that everybody in the gym was going to be a super-fit hyper-motivated go-getter that would look at me as a pitiful waste of air.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  Most of the people in the gym were helpful to an extreme, giving advice and sharing knowledge to help me along the way.  Trainers gave me tips on improving the effectiveness of my exercises and other gym members were a great source of motivation as they acknowledged changes over time.  My fears of the gym, I discovered, were completely unfounded in reality.

    Your confidence will improve far more quickly than your body will once you tackle the fear of going to the gym.  There’s a certain rush of pride that stems from knowing you followed through on a decision to be better today than you were yesterday (the opposite is equally true – there’s no greater dejection than knowing that you failed yourself by giving in to fear).  By doing what’s right for yourself, you immediately gain confidence in yourself.  Repeating the action only emboldens you further to take more positive action.  Before long, you’ll be the helpful gym member teaching a new, overweight newbie how to get the treadmill going.

    Banish Your Excuses

    You can make a decision, or you can make excuses, but you can’t do both.  One is the opposite of the other.  There are no legitimate excuses.

    Face it.  If you’re reading this and you’re overweight, you’ve been making excuses (and poor decisions) for a long time, which is why your body has its physical and aesthetic limitations.  Starting today, you can make healthy decisions that will pay dividends in the not so distant future, or you can just keep doing what you’ve always done.  Only one of those options, however, is going to lead to a happier and healthier you.

    Further, if you start down the path to health and decide after a few workouts and “diet” meals that you just can’t keep going, at least be good enough to be truthful to yourself and others – admit that you quit intentionally.  Save us the lame excuses you offer as an “explanation” for giving up on yourself.  We really don’t want to hear them.

    Yeah, that’s a bit blunt.  Under normal circumstances I’d apologize for stepping on some toes, but not this time.  If a little discomfort helps knock someone out of an unhealthy rut and puts them on the path to better health, then I can be happy with the results of my effort.

    No excuses.  Get on with it.

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