Now, even though they were on clearance for $5.24, I certainly didn’t “need” them – but I convinced myself I did.
This issue is not limited to me and my shoe-purchasing behaviors. Among many people trying to change their health behaviors but not succeeding, I often see a big stumbling block: they often make rationalizations or excuses for behaviors that are moving them away from their goal! They cheat themselves when it comes to their nutrition or fitness choices.
Do you ever cheat yourself? You might decide to make a not-so-healthy choice rather than what you know deep down will help you achieve your goals – and then try to justify it to yourself! Or you convince yourself that some form of immediate gratification is better than the long-term success of reaching your wellness goal.
Behavior: Grabbing fast food for dinner rather than making a homemade meal
Rationalization/Excuse: “It takes too much time to cook a healthy meal, and I don’t get fast food that often anyway…”
Solution: Don't cheat yourself and your body. There are plenty of healthy meals that you can put together in under 15-30 minutes at home. Here are a few ideas:
- Stir fry – Cook chicken, lean beef, or tofu in a skillet or wok with a small amount of olive oil. Remove from pan and add lots of vegetables (mushrooms, snap peas, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini/summer squash, onion, broccoli, eggplant…). When vegetables are tender, add protein (chicken/beef/tofu) back in. Add some low sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. You can serve as-is or over instant brown rice.
- Eat breakfast for dinner! – Try scrambled eggs in a whole wheat wrap topped with some salsa.
- Rice & beans – Cook instant brown rice. While rice is cooking, combine a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Add cooked brown rice and mix together. Portion into bowls and topped with some sliced avocado. Start to finish time? 15 minutes.
- Salad – If you keep fresh salad greens in the fridge, you’ll always have a base for a meal. Combine the greens with other veggies of your choice. Add a source of protein – you could grill a chicken breast if you have the time (or pre-cook some on the weekends), or top with some canned beans, tuna, or frozen cooked shrimp that you’ve defrosted in running cool water. You can also add fresh or dried fruit and/or a healthy fat (like nuts or chia seeds) and you’ve got your dinner!
Behavior: Coasting through your cardio session.
Rationalization/Excuse: “I can’t push myself harder than this…I won’t be able to do it…”
Solution: This is an especially big struggle for new exercises, but can often affect regular gym-goers as well. Don’t let your mind tell you that your body can’t do something (unless of course you have an injury or true physical limitation that affects your body’s abilities). Your body is actually pretty incredible. Do you ever notice how most people can push themselves harder when working one-on-one with a personal trainer? It’s because we know what your body is capable of, even when you don’t.
This is a big hurdle to get over, but start by challenging yourself to some intervals or a faster speed in your next session. Do you always walk on the treadmill at 3.3 mph, every other day? In your next session, try to keep a 3.5 mph pace. Do you try jogging but give up after a minute? Challenge yourself to 1 minute jogging, 4 minutes walking – and see if you can maintain those intervals for your session.
You need to challenge your body in order for it to adapt and get better. Give it a try!
Behavior: Reaching in the candy jar, going to get a “treat”, or ordering that dessert (even when you’re already full)…
Rationalization/Excuse: “It’s only a few extra bites – and I deserve it!”
Solution: A few extra bites add up quickly over the course of a day, week, month...etc. Just 100 extra calories a day (about 2 regular oreos or a few bites of pizza) translates to over 10 pounds of weight gain in a year!
Not to mention, we often rationalize unhealthy choices by coming up with some way that we deserve it. Now, occasionally perhaps this is truly applicable – maybe you just ran a half marathon or it’s your birthday, and you want to have a piece of cake to celebrate. By all means, dig in and enjoy one slice.
But most of the time, this rationalization comes from other areas of our life.
- “I studied hard, so I deserve it.”
- “I’m dealing with a lot…I deserve a treat for myself.”
- “I had a stressful day, so I deserve it.”
Food is fuel for our bodies – and while unhealthy treats are certainly fun to eat and taste delicious, they don’t fuel our bodies and maintain our health in the best way. We shouldn’t associate hard work, stress, sadness or other emotions with deserving some type of food.
If you find yourself rationalizing these extra bites, take a step back. Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry and if this is a healthy choice to fuel your body. If it is, then go ahead and eat. If it’s not a good choice but you are hungry, perhaps you need to be sure that you have healthy snack options on hand at all times to avoid the temptations of other treats.
And if you’re not hungry, ask yourself why you’re getting ready to eat something. If there’s some type of emotional connection there and you’re using the “I deserve it” rationalization, try to figure out other non-food ways that you can use for this purpose. Ladies, maybe you want a mani/pedi once a month. Guys, maybe you want to enjoy a Sunday playing golf or football with friends. Or it could be something as simple as an hour to relax with a book or a magazine! Think about strategies that would work for you, and use them.
Share with us: Do you struggle with any of these common rationalizations?