A Virtue of Vigour – 6: Avoiding Old Habits

Even when you achieve success with health and fitness and get yourself to an ideal weight, it can be easy to lose this success. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The time of the year is a particular factor. If the climate is especially cold in winter, it is all but expected that you will put on more weight as the cold weather will make you reluctant to exercise, if you’re not prevented outright by extremes. Another is to do with festivities, particularly the Christmas Season when it is easy to eat, drink and forget about many of these commitments.

There are two others to consider on top of these normal seasonal ones. One is a significant change in circumstance. This could be due to childbirth, a move, a new job or if you are injured or ill for a significant period of time. There are obviously many more possibilities than these and they can all affect your routines and habits just as they affect the regular flow of life.

It is important to remember firstly that all of the examples I’ve given are important. You must be ready to make personal sacrifices for children in particular. I wouldn’t want anyone to place themselves before their children. The same goes with beginning a new job. It is again obviously important that you put a significant focus into adjusting to a new working environment which more of then than not, will mean working extra time to ensure this transition goes smoothly. And finally Christmas and other feasts and holidays should rightly be enjoyed and there is no reason not to take a break at these times.

That all being said, there must come a time (and not too long after) where you refocus and get back into the regular habits you had before to make sure both you (and your body) doesn’t forget. A simple way to think of this might be for say Christmas. Perhaps you will take it easy from Christmas Eve until the 26th of December. But after that, be committed to getting back to the gym or going on a run the very day after – and in the morning. For a new child, maybe this means going for night runs or at least doing some light exercise in the house and remembering to adjust your diet in line with your reduced physical activity. You really must not let it go on too long. One of the best things I did was sign up for a half marathon on the 2nd of January one year. While I still enjoyed this time of year, I was mindful throughout that I had a big event coming up and I was sure to take proper time to exercise on the days between Christmas and New Years.

The big one to consider here though is the slow slip into old habits that can sometimes happen without you ever noticing. This is the one you really need to watch for because it creeps up. The reason the above examples are considered first is because while they will generally be aberrations from the norm, they can be the beginning of a long term slip.

In the introduction, I mentioned that I had gained and lost a significant amount of weight twice and this was due to just such examples listed above. Of course, I have gone up a few kilograms here and there but this is relatively minor and it will happen to most people. The real danger is a long term slip.

As an example, say you have stopped drinking soda/soft drink but due to stress or another factor, you have found yourself drinking it more often. The important thing is that you notice this and make an effort to stop early, otherwise, it will become a habit again. Another example would be when you have been exercising but due to an injury, you stopped for a week or more. However, once you were better again, you still did not begin exercising or only made lukewarm attempts.

It is easy to state that you should avoid this and just not do it. But these are words and what really needs to happen is you need to notice and do something about it sooner than later. Gaining a few kilograms over a short period of time due to certain factors can also possibly deflate your enthusiasm or at worse, throw you into a despair that sees you giving up. This is again something you need to be mindful of and make efforts to stop.

One bit of practical advice I can offer here is just related to how you think. Making excuses are easy and it is even easier to say you don’t have time to eat properly or exercise for such and such a reason. But we all manage to make time for things and it is just a matter of priorities. If after all, you are so busy that you actually do not have time to exercise, you are likely very fit anyway due entirely to how busy you are. You equally wouldn’t have as much time to eat. But chances are that even at the busiest times of year, you make time for certain things and you need to make time for your health too.

Big life changes and indulgence at festive times of year are not bad things and if your body is well-regulated, your body will power through these times but it is essential that your mind does too and you maintain focus on the ultimate aim and goal. These times will come and go and sometimes it will be hard but don’t use this as an excuse – because that is what it will be.

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