When you are on a weight-loss program, you have to plan. As the old saying goes: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When you are determined to lose weight you have to plan, that’s for sure. You know exactly what you’re eating in exactly what proportions for each meal and snack. You make sure you’ve done your shopping so you don’t get caught without what you need, and you have your meals prepared ahead of time. You make sure you have your gym bag with you when you go to work so you have no excuse not to go to the gym at your scheduled time.
These decisions you are making are the reason you are succeeding at your weight-loss program. If you leave your diet and exercise habits to chance, then you really are guaranteeing your failure. Sooner or later you will end up grabbing some junky fast food because you didn’t pack your lunch, and when you’ve done it once, then doing it again gets easier. If you start forgetting to bring your workout gear, then you’ll start skipping workouts and the next thing you know, you’re spending your evenings channel surfing on the couch while eating potato chips again.
Success is definitely determined in large part by planning, but what do you do when all the planning somehow fails? Too much flexibility can mean failure, but so too can no flexibility. Things happen. For you to continue to lose weight when life throws you some curveballs, you have to learn to roll with the punches. When it comes to weight loss, that usually means finding the next-best alternative. Sometimes you luck out and find an even better alternative than your original plan!
Here are some common reasons you might have to ditch your plan and come up with an effective solution.
1. You have to travel.
Now first off, I have to say that it’s not nearly as difficult as people think to stay on course while traveling. It does take some planning, however. You can always take food with you such as raw almonds, oats and flaxseed, and you can usually take fruit and prepared vegetables with you on a plane if you’re not crossing a border. Coolers you can carry are plentiful and even fashionable these days, which means you can bring precooked meats. If you’re driving, even better. You can pick up a cooler that plugs into your car, enabling you to take your fridge with you!
You can make sure to book hotels that have gyms — few don’t these days, even the lower-priced chains. If you absolutely cannot book a hotel with a gym, you can find a gym close by that will sell you a short-term membership, or you can go online and check out the jogging/walking trails nearby. Many hotels have kitchenettes, which is your best choice. Then you can head to the grocery store and pick up what you need as soon as you get there. This will save you lots of money, too! Even if you can’t get a kitchenette, request a microwave and fridge ahead of time. These are available at most hotels.
You can also go online ahead of time and search for restaurants that will serve your needs. Most independent restaurants will do whatever they can to make you happy, but many chain restaurants have everything premade, so you’ll have to check their menus ahead of time to see if they have what you need.
Surprise travel can be a little more problematic, but you just have to keep your end goal in mind, be creative, and you will find ways to make it work. Try to always keep some raw almonds on hand so if you end up in a situation without food for a long period of time, or if you absolutely cannot access healthier choices (because of a traveling companion who also happens to be your boss, for example), then you have something to hold you over until you can access good food.
2. Your day gets out of hand.
Your day can get out of hand even when you’re single and relatively free of responsibilities. But when you have kids and work, it can happen often. Not to sound like a broken record, but planning can help a lot in this respect. So can learning to say no, instead of taking on more and more tasks and responsibilities. But even with all that, there will be times when your boss keeps you late, the traffic is bad, you don’t have time to make dinner and you still have to get the kids to practice. It’s easy to just get the kids in the car and pop through a drive-through for some burgers and fries on the way. In your old overweight life that’s what you would have done.
You can still grab some fast food if that’s your last resort, but choose wisely. Most fast-food establishments now have healthy choices. Choose a salad and grilled chicken, or get a small grilled-chicken submarine, get them to scoop out the inside of the bread, forego the sauces and add lots of vegetables. Learn what you can about healthier eating so always know which choices are better. Most people are shocked to find that a Caesar salad can have more fat and calories than a burger and fries put together!
3. You’re sick, injured or have an operation.
Diet all figured out. Sticking to the program. Exercising five days a week, rain or shine. Then it happens. You get the flu and can barely muster enough energy to make it to the washroom. Or you sprain your ankle badly, have to stay off your feet altogether for a week and then can do little for the next six weeks while it heals. Or your appendix bursts and you have to have emergency surgery and rest.
When you’re sick, you’re sick. Try to eat as healthfully as you can. If you feel up to going for a walk then go ahead. But this is not the time to push yourself too hard. The reason you feel tired and have a lack of energy when you’re sick is that your body is trying to fight off an army of viruses or bacteria that have invaded it. Pushing yourself to do too much in this circumstance will not improve your fitness, but it certainly can delay your recovery. Listen to your doctor and your mother: rest, drink lots of fluids, eat chicken soup and, when you’re feeling better, slowly work your way back.
When you have an injury the answer is simple: work around it! Depending on your injury, you will still have plenty of things you can do. If you can’t run, maybe you can bike. Can’t run or bike? Then maybe you can swim. Can’t do lower-body workouts? Do upper-body workouts. Every single athlete faces injury — often many times throughout their careers. If they stopped doing everything because of an injury, then their careers would not last too long, that’s for sure.
Working around an operation is much like working around sickness. Your body has to heal, so you cannot push it too hard. However, the health-care workers will get you up and moving around as soon as you can do so. Ease your way back into exercise, but don’t stop. Do whatever you can, making sure to stay within your doctor’s recommendations.
Yes, under any of these circumstances you’ll backslide a little with your fitness, but remember that health, fitness and a lean body are all kept with lifelong habits. In our lives we all experience these drawbacks, but if we keep with our good habits, then our health, fitness and weight will stay optimal throughout our long lives.