Ahh, the promise of September—crisp apples, fresh Jersey tomatoes, fall foliage and long walks with a cool breeze, a snuggly sweater, and a great cup of coffee in hand. I hate to interrupt the love fest, but am I the only one who dreads the transition from summer to fall and getting back to structured healthy eating and exercise routines? Am I the only one who finds it hard to hold on to healthy habits during the transition back to the “normal” routine of work and school?
Lost My Way During Summer Vacation
I usually loosen the reigns on my whole-foods eating plan in the last weeks of summer as I take off for a family vacation. This year’s trip to Hawaii offered plenty of chances to exercise—I hiked, snorkeled, and swam daily, but eating healthy foods was more challenging. Yes, I stuffed my face with healthy pineapple (my favorite fruit), but I also had my fair share of gelato, cocktails, mocha pancakes and fried rice. Holding on to healthy habits when I’ve temporarily lost my mind in paradise is always my supreme challenge, and it makes September a slippery month for me. I’m most vulnerable to gaining weight and losing fitness as I work to hold on to healthy habits.
And this slippery slope of September can continue through fall and into winter if I don’t make it my business to get my healthy habits back on repeat. As I have written before, I yo-yo dieted for most of my life, and I never want to be in that headspace again. My healthy habits are a commitment that I make (and remake) to myself each day, each month and every year. But there are dips and slips in my healthy routine, and I’m most vulnerable to them in September. I get back from summer vacation (relaxed and chill, tan and uplifted) only to face the prospect of a new school year and a return to full-time work (in the office)! The rigor of structure returns to my 24/7 existence at a time when I’d rather hold on to the dreamy freedom of August. Holding on to healthy habits over the long haul has (and probably always will be) a daunting task for me.
September: the Ultimate Transition Month
This year, I got my daughter off to her first year of college. As a new empty-nester, the transition is even more monumental. Also, I return to the office this month, so September is feeling like the ultimate transition month. With the surge in emotions (and I’ve felt every emotion possible without my only child at home) I’ve had to have a serious talk with myself about getting back to my healthy routines.
After losing more than 60 pounds on my whole-foods diet and steady exercise plan, I don’t ever want to go back to being 240 pounds again. Now in my 50s, I’ve figured out that I feel best when I fuel my body with whole foods and get plenty of rowing and strength training workouts. BUT, even with that knowledge; even while enjoying more confidence; even with greater ease of movement and better health, I still find it hard to get back to my healthy habits routine after my vacation. September can be a slippery slide to weight gain and lethargy if I’m not super vigilant about getting back on track.
Back on Track—One Step at a Time
If you find the September transition hard, join me. Here’s my advice to turn things around and reduce the chances of weight gain and fitness losses:
Take thyself to the gym (kicking and screaming if needed) but get there. I don’t care how long you exercise, what machine or type of movement you do. Right now, the focus should be on reintroducing yourself to a regular movement routine. If you don’t have a gym, take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and get walking. Plan your workouts and then do them. Add some weight training at home with dumbbells or kettlebells. Now is not the time to fuss and fret—just start moving consistently again. During your post-workout glow, remind yourself that these feel-good moments were brought to you by EXERCISE. Then repeat the workout in a day or two.
Make meal planning a priority. If you can’t quite swing planning three meals a day, then start planning breakfast. Once you have that meal structured and back in line, work on lunch and then dinner. I plan my breakfast and lunch using a planner (you can get one of mine here), and then I have a looser plan for dinner.
Check-in on your health numbers (scale and/or body measurements). If your goal is weight loss, I think it’s important to check in on the scale or note your body measurements. You never want to live and die by the numbers on the scale, but you don’t want to avoid them either. After you have weighed yourself, you can move on to goal setting. I don’t set a weight-loss goal during this month. I focus on reestablishing healthy routines. Once I’ve done that, I can get back to tracking weight loss.
Live Well in Between Work and Family Commitments. Don’t let the return to school or work signal that you and your needs are no longer a priority. You are the most important priority in your life, and taking care of yourself is the foundation for all that you do. Any time you spend on meal planning or exercise is time well spent. Find a way to fit your needs back into your schedule. You are not a hamster on a wheel. No, you are a valuable and loved person with your own aspirations. Make time for yourself and plan joyful moments that are meaningful to you.
Accept that feeling well stems from healthy habits. When you put in the work of meal planning, healthy meal prep, exercise and self-care, you get the incredible reward of feeling good in your own body. My best chance for a happy life is rooted in my healthy eating and exercise habits. Losing weight helped me find a comfortable body state. I move with ease at my current weight, yet I can push my body too because of new fitness gains and strength.
My weight-loss journey IS a journey. It doesn’t have an end, but it does have cycles. There are summer months when it feels easy to stick to my whole-foods diet and exercise routine and months like September when I’m vulnerable to dietary slips. Every month on this journey, I have the opportunity (and accept the challenge) to get healthy eating and exercise on repeat in my life. September may be a little more slippery, but I’m not going down without a fight!
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