Why The “Pause-Button Mentality” Is Ruining Your Health and Fitness

pause button mentality“I’ll resume healthy eating after my vacation… once the baby is born… after Dad gets out of the hospital… January 1… Monday.”  While this kind of “Pause-button mentality” seems reasonable, it could be ruining your health and fitness.  Here’s why, and what to do about it.

“Why HEALTH MATTERS does not offer a ‘pause’ feature?”

After all, what’s the harm in letting clients take a break when:

  • Going on holidays
  • Overwhelmed at work
  • Pregnant, or just after birth
  • Injured, or
  • Caring for a sick family member?

As a client, the thought process boils down to:
If I miss some workouts, eat the wrong things, skip the homework… I fail.
Aren’t I more likely to succeed if I take a break, just until I have the time to do it right?

This is what I call the ‘Pause-button mentality’.

Now, don’t get me wrong.
I think it’s normal — even commendable — to want to do your best.  To consider taking time to regroup and then resume (or start over) when life feels easier.

At the same time, this completely natural and well-meaning impulse is one of the fastest, surest, most reliable ways to sabotage yourself.

Here’s why — and what to do instead.

Starting fresh after you lose your way is a really comforting thought.

That’s probably why New Year’s resolutions are so popular, especially following the indulgence-fueled holiday season.

“Give me that cheesecake. I’ll pick my diet back up on Monday!”

In fact, we’ve learned in our nutrition coaching programs that the idea of a do-over is so alluring you don’t even need a mess-up for the pause-button mentality to take over.

But here’s the problem: The pause-button mentality only builds the skill of pausing.

Whether it’s tomorrow, Monday, next week, or even next year, hitting that imaginary pause button gives you some sense of relief.

It allows you a little respite from what can be really a tough slog.

(And the middle is always a tough slog, it doesn’t matter what kind of project you’re working on.)

This perceived relief is compounded by the illusion that if we “start fresh” later we can find the magical “right time” to begin.

Listen, I get it.

It can feel absurd to try to improve your eating and exercise habits while you’re in the midst of chronic stress / looking for a job / starting a new job / going on holidays / caring for aging parents / raising small children.

That’s probably why there are so many 21-day this and 90-day that.  What adult has more than 90 days to go after their fitness goals with an all-out effort?

But what do these intense fitness sprints teach you?

The skill of getting fit within a very short (and completely non-representative) period of your life.

What don’t they teach you?

The skill of getting fit (or staying fit) in the midst of a normal, complicated, “how it really is” sort of life.

This is why the yo-yo diet thing has become such a phenomenon.

It’s not about willpower.  It’s about skills.

In most fitness scenarios, you learn how to get fit under weird, tightly-controlled, white-knuckle life situations.

You build that one, solitary, non-transferrable skill — to slam the gas pedal down, drive the needle into the red, and squeal down the road for a little while, burning the rubber off your tires until you (quickly) run out of gas and crash.

What you don’t build is the ability to get fit under real-life conditions.

That’s why it doesn’t stick.  Not because you suck.

But because the natural and predictable consequence of having a limited skill set is short-term progress followed immediately by long-term frustration.

What will be different next time?

I was having lunch with a friend who insisted that her low-carb diet plus daily running was the secret to staying in shape.

I had to follow up with a painful question: “Well, why aren’t you actually in shape?”

After a long pause: “Uhh, I’ve had a hard time sticking with it.  It’s been holidays and the kids have been home and she trailed off…”

“But, once everything settles down, I’ll get with the program and get in shape again!  I guess I’m just on a little break.”

This story illustrates the point perfectly.

Here’s someone who’s built here fitness on a house of cards.  She knows only one thing: How to get in shape by following a very challenging program when the conditions are perfect.

And whenever life isn’t perfect, which is most of the time, she hits the pause button.  She waits for a better time.  (All the while losing the health and fitness she previously worked so hard for.)

That’s why, when our clients ask to press pause, we usually ask them:

“What will be different when you come back?”

Nine times out of 10, the honest answer is nothing.  Nothing will be different.

Life is just…happening.  And it’ll happen again in January, or after the baby is born, or after Mum gets better, or at any other arbitrary point you pick.

And what then?

I’ve wanted to press “pause” myself. (and have tried this methods lots of times)

There’s never going to be a moment when things are magically easier.

You can’t escape work, personal, and family demands.  Nor can you escape the need for health and fitness in your life.

What if you tried to hit pause in other areas of your life?

Imagine you’re feeling overwhelmed at work.  For the next two weeks, all you want to do is focus on preparing an upcoming workshop.

Trouble is, you’ve got two young children at home who tend to grasp, koala-like, onto your legs and demand your full attention.

“Honey,” you say to your partner, “I’m just gonna press pause on being a parent for now.  I’ll be staying at a hotel.  Don’t contact me.”

I don’t know about you, but that would NOT go over well in my family.

You can’t really press pause — and you definitely can’t hit reset — on being a parent.  (You’ve thought about it, though.  I know you have.)

Just like you can’t stop showing up online.  Or “take a break” from being married and not wind up divorced.

Generally, when it comes to life, we know we’re not always going to be on our A Game. Sometimes we’re superstars. Most of the time we just do our best.

We muddle through.  We keep going.

So why do we expect it to be any different with fitness?

The point is to keep going.  Sometimes awkwardly, sometimes incompetently, sometimes downright half-assed.  But to keep going nonetheless.

The “all or nothing” mentality rarely gets us “all”.  It usually gets us “nothing”.

That’s when I propose a new mantra:

“Always something”.

That what I think we do well at HEALTH MATTERS.

Helping clients be healthy in the context of their real lives.

Not while pretending to be someone they are not.  Not by signing up for a 12-week bootcamp with daily workouts and restrictive diets.

But by living their own lives and practicing “always something”

Unfortunately, there is no perfect time.

Life happens, and if you keep hitting pause you will end up stuck on the never-ending pause.

If we can just keep moving forward, no matter what happens, no pause buttons, no do-overs, we wind the game.

HEALTH MATTERS is a 12 month nutrition and mindset coaching program that works with your daily habits and helps you to make constant incremental changes so that at the end of the year you have the health and fitness that you have been dreaming off. It is not about the quick fix – it is about permanent lifelong healthy habits that will stop the yo- yo dieting and the you can stop setting the same New Years resolutions each year

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