Help Me Be Consistent, Or At Least Deal with Inconsistency Better
June 1, 2011 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Tips for generating personal consistency? You're going to fall out of the saddle in life, and you're going to have to get back on. How do you make that getting-back-on process easier? Example problems inside.

Example No. 1: You decide you want to work out every morning. You're doing well, but a completely common family issue knocks you off the routine (let's say, child with an illness). Once that's dealt with, you get back on the routine. But another common issue knocks you off the routine again (let's say, work event you're required to attend). You deal with that and get back on the routine.

How do you deal with this constant off-again, on-again issue with your routine?

Example No. 2: Similar to above, only it's nutrition. You decide to eat healthy. But your boss invites you for drinks and pub food. OK, you go, because it's both personally enjoyable and good for your working life. Back on the routine tomorrow. One week later, there's a scheduling mishap, and you find yourself starving and in front of a McDonalds. Yeah, so, you're off the routine again.

Again, how do you deal with the constant off-again, on-again?
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Be a turtle, not a hare. It doesn't matter if you miss one workout a week or eat pub food once a week. You just have to get started again. It's the patient development of the pattern that matters.
posted by yarly at 2:37 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stupidly enough, logging everything daily makes it a heck of a lot easier to stay on the saddle, and to climb back on when you fall off.

My favorite geeky way to do this is Health Month, which has a MetaFilter team and JUST started its June cycle. MeFi team mates are happy to sponsor you, so it's also either $5/month or free with sponsorship.
posted by bearwife at 2:43 PM on June 1, 2011

I have learned to regard things like health and nutrition as things that actually HELP me cope with problems like family issues, work issues, romance issues, etc. So when something bad happens, I'm actually more compelled than usual to start taking my fitness/nutrition/sleep goals seriously.

As for number 2, I've gotten better at carrying little snacks with me so that I am almost NEVER starving in front of a McDonalds. But as long as I am ALWAYS oriented toward "on-again" then it doesn't matter if I sometimes crack.

Also it's important to pay attention to how you feel after eating junk food. Check off boxes -- do I feel:

A) Full
B) Nourished
C) Disappointed
D) Still Hungry

And so forth. I've found that no matter how beautiful a piece of cake looks, I almost always feel gross by the time I'm done eating it. Also, eating a lot of sugar makes me hungry again even faster. So over time it's gotten easier to stop myself by thinking "It looks delicious but you won't actually enjoy it as much as you think." I tested this on a bar of chocolate the other day -- I kept eating more and more of it, waiting for that amazing bliss to set in. And it never happened! I was left feeling vaguely queasy with a nice taste in my mouth, and that's it. Apparently I need to re-learn this lesson over and over, but it's happening FAR less often than it used to.

Situations like the evening out with your boss wind up seeming like anthropological experiments to me: What is it like to eat this "food"? Hmm, interesting. Okay, now back to what *I* consider food.
posted by hermitosis at 2:45 PM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Not quite related, but I find doing a review in Omnifocus helps a lot in terms of taking care of things that need to be taken care of, including those sorts of repetitive tasks.
posted by Brainy at 2:51 PM on June 1, 2011

I understand your frustration entirely. It really is a constant struggle.

One thing I'm experimenting with is to use the "down time" to make plans. So you might be too sick or busy to go to the gym for an hour today. But you can still plan your workout for next week: organizing your gym clothes and keeping them in a bag ready to go, visualizing what you're going to do and when you're going to do it, calling friends to see if they want to schedule a date to go to the gym together next week, etc.

Also, sometimes it's helpful to write an actual little post-mortem about what went wrong and brainstorm about how you could fix that in the future, as if you were describing a setback you had at work. e.g., "Something unavoidable came up at work and I don't have any reasonable food at the office. In the future I will make sure I have a box of Powerbars in my desk/a bag of baby carrots in the mini fridge/some UHT milk and protein powder/whatever." or, "Today I snoozed through my alarm and woke up too late to meditate/eat breakfast. I will take a Melatonin tonight at 9pm so that I am sure to get enough sleep by the time my alarm goes off tomorrow." This can help you get excited about it again, as long as your plans are realistic and not too grandiose. Plan-making can also be a welcome distraction from beating up on yourself.

(boy, do I need to take my own advice here!)
posted by en forme de poire at 2:51 PM on June 1, 2011

Don't get "off" in the first place! Then you won't have to worry about how to get back "on."

It might seem like you just had no choice in the situations you found yourself in, but you do have a choice.

For instance, someone important invites you to drinks? Great. Agree to do it ... but once you're there, order seltzer with a lemon. Don't apologize. Turn it into a conversation topic.

I've been at professional social functions that were based on drinking alcohol but where some of the attendees were nondrinkers. As far as I know, no one gave them a hard time about it. Everyone should know there are people who don't drink alcohol because they're Mormons or Muslims or recovering alcoholics or pregnant, or because they have other health concerns or just don't like the taste.

I find it hard to believe you're often in situations where you're forced to eat at McDonald's, but if you are, just get a salad and go light on the dressing. As a vegetarian for 20 years now, I can report that one is very rarely forced to eat at McDonald's. Take personal responsibility. You're hungry and it's the closest thing around? Too bad. Sometimes in life, we get hungry but we still have to keep waiting to eat. This will be one of those times.
posted by John Cohen at 2:51 PM on June 1, 2011

I think the advice that you have more of a choice than you think is good. You don't have to eat a full meal at the pub. Have something small and eat some veggies when you get home. Or get a salad with dressing on the side. There's all kind of things you can do to make sure you don't feel forced in to bad decisions.

Also, perhaps making sure you're allowing yourself some indulgences (planned and properly placed) will make it easier to resist temptation because of the situation. If you aren't feeling as deprived, it might be easier to not say, oh screw it everyone else is eating a burger and fries.

As for scheduling work-outs, maybe be open to going at a different time. You couldn't make it in the morning, so try for lunch time or in the evening. Sometimes these things are impossible and you just have to miss one. But that shouldn't be a slippery slope to missing more.

And also keep in mind all those things _are_ life. They're going to happen. Do the best with what you can at the time and don't allow it to mentally derail you.
posted by lurking_girl at 3:20 PM on June 1, 2011

One of the things that I liked about HealthMonth was that they encourage you to do goals X times per week, not everyday. So you say you will work out 5 times per week: you log into HealthMonth, it asks if you worked out today, you say "No" and then it says "You're still in your goal for this week - Good Job!!"
posted by CathyG at 4:20 PM on June 1, 2011

You decide to eat healthy. But your boss invites you for drinks and pub food. OK, you go, because it's both personally enjoyable and good for your working life. Back on the routine tomorrow. One week later, there's a scheduling mishap, and you find yourself starving and in front of a McDonalds. Yeah, so, you're off the routine again.

I think the answer is to make these things part of the routine. (Also, repeat after me your new mantra: "Beer is good for you. Beer is good for you. Beer...") So, assume in your eating plan that at least one night a week you will end up at the pub. Either leave the space to eat a burger without guilt, or just plan to order the healthiest thing on the menu. There's always some kind of chicken wrap or something, and no one is standing over you with a gun making you finish all the fries. And assume that you will end up eating fast food once in a while, and learn which things on the menu work with your eating plan, and which don't.

The point is, build those things into the routine, so there's no getting derailed and needing to restart.
posted by Forktine at 6:17 PM on June 1, 2011

I would highly suggest not documenting every last success and failure. Why bother? You already know who you are and what you want and need to do.

You can't change the things that have already happened, you can just choose different things in the future. So you don't work out for whatever reason. So you eat some crap food. That's OK. Work out next time. Eat good food next time. And if next time doesn't go like you wanted for some reason? That's fine, too. Do it next time after that.

I was able to quit smoking about a year ago (and stay that way) thinking like this. You're not a person that sometimes eats healthy food and sometimes eats crap food. You're a person that eats healthy food. That's it. That's who you are, even if sometimes you end up eating unhealthy food; that's not who you are.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:29 PM on June 1, 2011

Plan in one day 'off' per week.

A simple, flexible plan you can stick to is ultimately going to be much better for your health than a rigid one you can't.

And always remember the Twinkie guy.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:45 PM on June 1, 2011

I have a poster on my wall that says "A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn". I find that really helpful when I find myself missing a daily goal. I might have handled the bend badly, but I haven't totalled my car. I can keep on driving tomorrow. And eventually, I'll be a better driver.

The only point at which I fail is the point at which I turn the ignition off.
posted by Solomon at 4:34 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I find myself often encountering the same problem you have, where a routine gets slammed around a lot. So I started doing my simple rule of "Second Best".

"I should go work out and do the long form martial arts stuff outside. But it's raining. What's the second best thing I can do, given my circumstances? I guess I do the stuff that I can do inside, for now."

"I'm starving and I need to eat something, anything, before I get into work. This corner store has a bunch of junk food, what's the bes thing I can get, given my circumstances? Banana bread and some fruit juice, I guess."

If your life is constantly being assailed by disruptions, the Rule of Second Best still gets you in the right mindset, and has you doing something productive instead of making the routine you want into an all-or-nothing affair. You may not get the "routine" but you will get benefits and be conscious of the choices you're making in light of these things.
posted by yeloson at 12:34 AM on June 3, 2011

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