Starting Over

Against a pale green background are square letters arranged to read "Focus/on/your/goals"
  • July 30, 2021

I’ve had trouble keeping up with my lifestyle changes since the COVID lockdown started, and I’ve gained back some of the weight that I had lost in 2019. Not all of it, but enough that I’ve been concerned about the effects on my health and lifestyle. I don’t want to go back to being sick and tired all the time. But I’ll admit to feeling pretty discouraged that I couldn’t keep up my prior successes.

Maybe you’re like me and have struggled to maintain your health goals this past year and a half. So, what can we do?

Well, the good news is that the human body is remarkable at recovering from our little lapses. Thankfully we aren’t doomed to a life of regret. We can get back to being more fit and healthy, but it requires that we make a concerted effort to get back to our good habits. One of the things that we say at Pritikin is, “Progress, not perfection,” and that holds true here as well. So let me just lay out a few steps that can help us get back on track.

Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not the end of the world if you’re not where you’d like to be. Don’t think of it as a failure. You have a new chance to start again today and still gain the benefits from a healthier lifestyle. I’m really preaching to myself here. I tend to get really down on myself when I eat junk food or don’t exercise enough. It’s natural for us to feel bad, but you can’t let it trap you in a downward spiral. You’re not a bad person; maybe you just need some help to get on track again. It’s ok.

Admit that you have weaknesses. Then, face it head-on. Maybe there are foods that you’re really tempted by, or maybe you struggle with exercising regularly. Acknowledging the areas that you would like to improve is the first step towards finding new ways to deal with those issues. Every day is a new chance to improve your health. Maybe I wasn’t great over the weekend because my family had a barbecue. While it’s not great to indulge, it’s far worse to continue indulging.

Remember your goals. I love to play golf, and my goal is to be able to walk 18 holes while carrying my bag. I’m not there yet, but I’m closer than I was. Walking 18 holes means that I can play some great courses that don’t allow carts. I want to be able to do that, so I’m really inspired to get stronger. It’s hard to stay motivated to make these lifestyle changes without having a clear goal in mind. I know of a patient who's goal is to be able to play with his grandkids without being tired. Whatever motivates you, it’s important to remind yourself WHY you’re changing the way you live.

Adopt strategies to stay on track. Having someone else to encourage you as you work towards making new habits can make all the difference. My wife and I are both making these healthy changes and are each other's accountability partners. She encourages me to take a walk in the evening or makes sure that I have a big salad with We keep each other motivated. Don’t Break the Chain is another strategy that can help you make lasting positive changes in your life You commit to completing a daily goal, and you add a checkmark to your calendar when you complete the goal each day. You start to build a chain of checkmarks and thereby build a long-term habit. Building a new habit is hard and feels unrewarding but, with this method, the reward is making that check mark to keep the chain (and new habit) going. Accountability partners, giving yourself small goals every day, and finding healthy rewards for motivation are all ways to keep on track.

Even small changes are good for you. It’s easy to think that you have to be perfect from day one, but that’s so far from the truth. My mom always said that everyone fails but the key is to keep trying. So, I do my best. I may fail sometimes but I try not to focus on that. I have to keep moving forward, a little bit better today than I was yesterday.

You are not alone. I know that it can feel like everyone else in the world gets to eat pizza and you don’t. I know that sometimes it feels like you are fighting a constant battle and it’s just too much. But there are people all around who are rooting for you to succeed, and they want to see you happy and healthy, living a great life. Maybe it’s people who did Cardiac Rehab with you, CR staff family or other people in your life that are rooting for you. Remember that we’re all in this together.

Your life is different now, but it’s still a great life. I can’t work 12 hours a day and then eat at McDonald’s for dinner. I don’t eat steak nearly as much as I would like. I don’t really like exercising some days. But instead of complaining because of what I’ve lost, I’ve chosen to focus on making the best of the life that I have. Knowing that I’m giving myself the best shot at living a long and healthy life is wonderful.

Listen, I’m just like you. I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot. But I really want to be healthy and to be able to make memories with the people that I love. The only way I can do that is if I keep at it every day and try to be a little better with my food choices and putting my health first. You need to do the same. Maybe you’ve had a cardiac event, but this is your chance to make changes and get healthy.

Keep fighting. You’re worth the trouble.

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