Build a Bridge, Get Over It

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July 31, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness

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Sometimes, this journey is a struggle.  You make progress, you push forward, you do so well for weeks and weeks and weeks.  And then life gets in the way.  Your personal life takes a turn, things at home get tough, work becomes stressful and unrewarding.  Then you have a week where you gain weight, or the repetition of the same sorts of things to eat over and over again gets to you, or you get tired of working out, tired of the gym . . . you just get TIRED.

I have a friend who has hit a wall.  The pressure I am sure has been mounting for some time now.  You know when you can just tell, you talk to a friend on the phone and you can tell she is at the point of breaking.  You ask how things are going and you get a ‘things are ok’ sort of response.  Well, in this case, even the ‘things are ok’ response was pretty much a lie.  Things were not ok.  Work was not going well for her, it was totally stressing her out, working a lot of hours for not a lot of pay and often not seeing the immediate fruits of her labor.  It was stressful at home as well, work trips for her husband that are coming up that will take him away from the house on a weekly basis.  She’s lost her motivation at the gym, even her motivation to go to the gym.  Sure, she gets there, but her heart isn’t in it.  She’s struggling with food, not eating like she normally would, which feeds into the downward spiral.  Eat poorly, feel badly about yourself, so continue to eat poorly.  Vicious cycle.  Add to that a healthy ability to drink, and you have the perfect storm for someone to head straight to the bottom.

Isn’t that always the way, though, that we end up backtracking, that we falter on our journey?  I mean, we do pretty well when things are going well.  It is easy to go to the gym when you are happy, it is easy to eat well when you are happy.  It is when the pressure begins to mount that we waver, that we stumble.  It’s easier to curl up under the sheets and eat chocolate to help feel better when you get down, right?  Going out drinking with friends sure beats the hell out of a coffee / tea outing when all you want to do is let go of your problems.  I get it, I’ve been where she is before.  I’m sure we all have.  And I am sure that if you look around the internet, you’ll see that overeating and lack of exercise are largely tied to our emotional state of being above all else.

So what do you do to help get your friend back on track?

I like to think of it as building a bridge, and then helping her to get over it.  Right now she is on one side of a problem, so it is my job to help her find a way to get to the other side.  First things first, she needs to get the emotions out in the open.  Talk it out, cry it out, write it out, whatever is going to help put everything out in the open, I need to encourage her to do.  Then she needs time to stay in the dumps.  It is OK, I repeat OK to have some down weeks, weeks where you don’t push, where you allow yourself to go off the rails a bit, back off on the exercise, back off on the food if that is what needs to happen.  It is part of that feeling badly, part of self-soothing.  But ONLY for a little while.  Go to long, say, more than 2 weeks, and you start to form habits.

After that, it is time to help her move forward.  I accept that I cannot fix her work problem, that is sort of out of my hands.  And I cannot change her husband’s work either.  For that matter, she cannot change either one of those things easily either.  I think the saying goes something like for the things you cannot change, the only thing you can do is to change how you respond to them.  So instead of responding with poor eating and no exercise, which only hurts her in the end, we need to figure out ways to get her back on track.  Maybe it is getting up and going for a walk when she feels stressed out at work vs. eating a donut from the break room.  Or maybe it is trying some new recipes instead of eating the same food that she has been eating for weeks on end.  Sometimes even our good routines need to change so we don’t get bored and give up.  Maybe she needs to do a different workout routine, say, stop running and weight training for a bit and instead take some fun classes like Zumba and yoga.  If you are completely off the reservation, trying to go to your old routine isn’t likely to work in the short term to get you back on track, so keep up the crazy and try something different.

Of course she has to try to fix the life problems as well.  If work isn’t going the way she thought it would, then she needs to either make changes within the existing job, or make a plan to find a new job.  If her husband’s travel has him gone from the house for so long, then she needs to have an honest discussion with him about how he needs to make a plan to find something new too so they can be together.  These are the bigger problems though that will take time to resolve.  But having a plan to fix them will also make her feel better, and a happy person is one who is far more likely to eat well and stick with exercise.

When you see a friend struggle, don’t ignore it.  And I mean on the healthy lifestyle side.  I think we are willing to talk to our friends when we know they are having personal issues and confront them about how they are feeling and what they are doing to get happy again.  But we are FAR less likely to intervene when we see those same problems have a visible effect on someone’s eating pattern or exercise schedule.  We figure that it isn’t any of our business.  But if you know your friend is trying to reach a goal, and the self-destruction is putting that goal out of reach, then being a good friend means having the hard conversation about healthy living.  It means talking about eating poorly, it means telling her she needs to get her butt back to the gym.  It isn’t fun, it isn’t easy, but it has to and should be a dialogue that happens.

Build a bridge, and then get over it.

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