Why the “pause-button mentality” is ruining your health and fitness. ‘Getting a fresh start’ isn’t the magic bullet you thought it’d be.
“Why don’t your programs offer a ‘pause’ feature?”
After all, what’s the harm in letting clients/patients take a break from a nutrition and fitness plan when they’re:
- leaving for vacation,
- completely swamped at work,
- pregnant, or just after delivery,
- injured, or
- caring for an ailing family member?
For 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 your plans for improved nutrition, health, and fitness.
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.
Every January, we welcome a new group of clients. Every July, we take in the second, and final, group of the year.
In July, six months in, just knowing that there are new clients starting the program fresh in January makes some July clients “itch” for a new beginning, even though they’re already making progress, changing their bodies.
If only you’d let me start over, I’d really nail it this time!
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 a really 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 vacation / 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