Why Can't I Be More Consistent?

One thing I hear quite often is that people are frustrated by their inconsistent routines.  They want to eat healthier and move their bodies more and then they don’t. 

Sometimes they do, and they feel great, but they can't figure out what is blocking them from going to this imaginary "next level" of consistency. People do "well" during the week and then poorly on the weekend or vice versa.

If this happens to you, there are a few things going on so let's break it down. 

First, even though it may go entirely against your instinct, you may be trying too hard and expecting too much.

The more people judge behaviors as good or bad, the harder it is to always do the good and never do the bad. The judgment fuels a feeling of restriction and deprivation that causes us to do the exact things we don’t want to do.  

For example, if you tell yourself sugar is bad and you shouldn’t eat it, you are going to want to eat it.  If you tell yourself you have to work out all the time, then you aren’t always going to want to work out all the time. 

Then, when you feel sluggish or subdued because you haven't done the behaviors that you associate with vitality, you blame it on your behaviors. But what if it was due to your expectation?

The mind/body connection is very powerful. Some people even feel bad physically after eating certain foods just because they think they will or they feel tired because they are telling themselves they didn't work out and that they will have less energy. It can be a self fulfilling prophecy.

We are also sold this idea, that if we eat a certain way and move a certain way - all the time, we will look and feel a certain way.  This isn't actually true. And when we can't maintain these behaviors all the time, (because that is unrealistic) we feel like failures and blame ourselves.

What about blaming the unattainable and unsustainable image of a consistently happy, healthy, successful person that we have been sold? 

No one blames the image - they keep trying to "fix" the problem keeping them from being this super perfect super human being that most likely has a super incredible life that we don't have.

But what if there was nothing actually wrong with your life? 

The other thing that may be going on is that we focus on food and body behaviors to distract us from discomfort in our lives.

What if your positive attitude slips because as you move into the week - there are things you don’t want to be doing but you are blaming your discontent all on inconsistent food/body behaviors as a distraction? 

Similarly, what if it's really the stress of the coming week that affects your energy and even leads you to want more sugar in the first place?

But then the sugar gets the bad rap and then it’s a constant cycle of don’t eat the sugar - which makes us eat the sugar and then we feel bad because we expect to feel bad and around and around we go.

Meanwhile - the work issue, relationship problem or {insert uncomfortable situation here} never gets addressed and we continue to think we have an issue with food and exercise when that is only the symptom but not the issue. 

So if you are having peaks where you feel amazing, and you enjoy the movement and the food and how you feel - that is awesome.  What else is going on in those moments in your life in general to make it awesome? Is it only the food and movement that is making you feel good or something else?  Who are you with and what are you doing?

How can you bring these feelings into your every day without attributing them all to the food and movement? 

Being aware that it is not only about the food and movement helps us disconnect the equality we place on food and movement and feeling good. This disconnect is necessary so we don't get trapped into thinking there is only one way to achieve how we want to feel.

The goal would be to relax and not judge the subsequent valleys or lows because that pressure contributes to it happening. Then you can explore the valleys to see what else is going on in those moments. If my low mood is not about food/body, what could it be about? Food/body is often a metaphor for what is happening in our lives. 

If nothing else, letting the valleys be ok results in feeling better already. Your behaviors will then shift- or they won’t change but either way you feel better.  Letting go of bad feelings also makes space to find real solutions if there is an issue that led to the food concern in the first place. 

When you put constant restrictions and expectations on yourself -  you tie yourself down and stay stuck.  (It feels counter-intuitive since our society promotes this striving and pushing all the time - always telling us we are doing things wrong and could do it better - often in order to sell us stuff.)

When you have a wheel stuck in the mud, does it help to keep pressing the gas? Letting go of the striving actually gives us more energy. 

It can also be helpful to reflect on how long you have been cycling between "doing it right and doing it wrong".  If it has been a while I would ask - how has worrying about it or feeling bad about it helped? Has that motivated you to make changes? Get curious, is there another issue the food story might be masking? What will it mean when you attain this routine you are grasping for? 

Is your goal realistic? Are you avoiding a deeper issue?

Ultimately, the goal is to approach the issue from a different direction. Let go of the singular focus on food and body and the striving in order to move toward what is going to make you feel better in each moment. Feeling guilty, frustrated or like a failure is not usually going in the "feel good" direction.