Making Health a Priority: What's your Plan B?

By Kiley Owen, PA-C

girl in plaid park making snow angelsWhen I talk to patients about diet and exercise, I often hear things like, "Well, I was doing well. I was preparing healthy meals and exercising every day. I lost some weight. My clothes fit better, and I felt great."

When I ask, "What happened? Why did you stop?", these are some of the reasons I often hear:

  • "I got injured and couldn't keep doing the exercise routine."
  • "I went on vacation, got out of the habit, and had difficulty getting back into it."
  • "Life circumstances got more hectic, and it's been hard to find the time."

Been there. The truth is that I've found myself in all of the above situations at one point or another. 

Life happens.

Just when you've found a good routine, you're likely to run into obstacles that can set you back. For this reason, it's important to have a Plan B, an alternative course of action to keep you moving in the direction of your goals.  

If you were traveling on an interstate, efficiently moving toward your destination, and saw a "road closed ahead" sign, would you turn the car around and go home? No, you'd probably stop for a bit, reanalyze, pull up the GPS on your phone, and look for alternative routes.

You might need to spend some time on a state highway or even a county road, but you would continue moving toward your destination. Although not what you had originally planned, you might find that the side roads can provide some unexpected benefits, such as great scenery.

The same is true with our physical health. When we run into road blocks, there's no need to give up and go back to our old ways. We just need to reevaluate, get resourceful, and keep an open mind about new paths.

  • What if the weather is bad? Personally, I like to get outside to exercise as much as possible. But the weather doesn't always cooperate. For this reason, it's good to have "inside" options. What are some things you can do inside? Do you have a favorite home workout? Is there a gym you can go to?
  • What if your knee/ankle/etc. hurts? What can you do to give that area a break, yet stay active? Low-impact exercises such as biking and swimming are often good options. I have an inexpensive stationary bike that I consider my "no excuses" machine for low-impact cardio. Switching your focus for a while to strength training or core/balance exercises (such as yoga or Pilates) are also great options.
  • What if you're out of town? Does the hotel you're staying at have a gym? Where could you go for a walk, jog, or hike? What exercises could you do in your room? What are some healthy meal options?
  • What if work/life gets hectic? Remember, regular exercise and a healthy diet don't take your energy; they give you extra energy. They also relieve stress and improve your focus, making you more efficient and nicer to be around. :)

Obstacles are a given. How you respond to those obstacles is what will determine your success in the long run. We can either let setbacks destroy our progress, or we can have a Plan B to keep us on track.

Kiley Owen is a physician assistant, blogger and preventive health enthusiast. This post originally appeared on her blog, makinghealthapriority.com.