What does “no excuses” really mean to you? It is an expression we hear often and it is used as a motivational cheer for working towards fitness, health, personal and professional goals. Often it means we do it, not matter what choices and changes we need to make. I must admit, I don’t think that way.
Lifestyle changes need to be sustainable over the long-term. Anyone with a gym membership (who consistently attends all year) has witness this… In January the gym parking lot is full. You have to wait longer to use the equipment. There are a lot of new, enthusiastic (or maybe grimacing) faces. The locker room is crowded. Right? How many are left by the end of January? Or February? How many in March? April?
I think some of the problem is an all or nothing, no excuses mentality. We feel that we need to go from desk or coach potato to serious athlete overnight. And we need to go from MacDonald’s to clean eating overnight (or Paleo, Vegan, whatever plan we think may be our new magic bullet). Then we have a busy day where they feel rushed off our feet. And miss a workout and/or indulge in something that we should not eat on the new plan. What happens? Typically we may scold ourselves for failing. This can lead to a downward cycle of shame. We tell ourselves, “I messed up, I might as well also enjoy that milkshake (or whatever else seems attractive, easy and comfortable).” Maybe we start making “excuses”. But it can be difficult to get back on track as we already have the mindset of failure.
Here is something that helps me… Instead of “excuses” reflect on the reasons you did not meet your goal today. Yes, there is a fine line between excuses and reasons. For me, reasons are easier to work with. They inform me how I need to better prepare myself to face life’s challenges and they give myself permission to forgive and move on.
I also am better at sustainable change if I don’t scold or guilt trip myself. I think “making excuses” contributes to the pattern of scolding oneself and then excusing oneself. That pattern can also lead to giving up if it goes too far.
Sometimes the solution is easy, if I missed today’s planned workout, then maybe I can rearrange my workout schedule so today is my rest day. (Rest days are important by the way!). Or maybe I can fit in a short workout at home at a different time than usual. If I indulged in a sometimes treat like a glass of wine (or chocolate, dessert, whatever)… That’s okay. I personally do not want to sustain a lifestyle without an occasional treat. Rather than shame myself, I just own up to the fact I enjoyed a treat today but the rest of the day or week can still be on-plan. No biggie. (I know this may not work for everyone especially with trigger foods or addictions, but often allowing a little flexibility can make it a lot more sustainable).
Whatever goes “wrong” in our short-term plan to live a fit lifestyle, it is important for me to avoid the cycle of excuses and shame. Realizing this was a turning point in my fitness life. I still face day-to-day challenges and choices. Some days I make better choices than others. But every day I am closer to a healthy lifestyle and I am also enjoying the process!
I wrote the post as part of the #NoExcuses Challenge through Fit Approach and #Sweatpink. While working on challenges, the trap of “excuses” is very easy to fall into if one or two challenge activities do not fit in your life that week. It is easy to give up when that happens. I think it helps to remember why we do challenges. I find challenges fun in the short-term and they generate some creative ideas and opportunities to try new things. Thank you to Fit Approach, Sweat Pink, and challenge sponsors Augusta Sportswear, ShowerPill, ActivMotion Bar, Actio926, Flipbelt, Zola Coconut Water, FRS, and WIN Detergent!
Disclosure: I really have none as I have received no compensation or promotional items. I did write this as part of a fitness challenge and may possibly win a prize if I am lucky.
LaKisha Riddick says
I agree! “No excuses” didn’t work for me. In fact, it made me even more defensive about my choices. I’ve learned that excuses are subjective to an individual because they are based on that person’s belief about their own capabilities. So if they don’t believe they can do it, then they will find a way (actively or passively) to NOT do it. What has worked for me is what you’ve suggested, finding reasons why I should make healthier choices. I’ve also had to change my perspective about my own ability. I can do something now (at my fitness level) and then build up to doing more later. Great post!