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How should I deal with setbacks in pursuing a fitness goal?

Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
These six tips can help in preparing for drawbacks in pursuing a fitness goal:

1. Always launch change with a plan. Map out the journey you're embarking upon. It's tempting to skip straight to the action, especially when you're feeling inspired to make a change. By winging it, though, you may ignore important issues, such as why you do—and don't—want to make this change. Make a commitment based on that knowledge, then plan a path of small steps that lead to your ultimate goal.

2. Set off at a reasonable pace. Rushing change rarely works. Few of us are designed to go from zero to 60. In the exercise world, you set yourself up for injuries; in the diet world, you get sick of nibbling only celery sticks and raw cabbage, and head for the chocolate cake. Let small, steady changes help you achieve what you hope to do.

3. Envision a happy outcome. Choose the carrot, not the stick. Rather than sternly telling yourself "I should be meditating every day" or blaming yourself for failing, try saying aloud "I feel calmer and happier when I meditate regularly." Reminding yourself why a change is worthwhile can help you over rough spots.

4. Expect lapses. Lapses are so expected, experts actually write this into the stages of change. So embrace lapses as part of the process, then brainstorm solutions to challenges that derailed you. If necessary, whip out your plan to maneuver around lapses. And try, try again.

5. Live in the gray zone. Give up on all-or-nothing thinking. It's not helpful to live in a black-and-white world that dictates "I am good and am following my diet" or "I ate a fat-laden meal at lunch, so I'm doing a bad job on my diet and might as well eat anything I want." Even if you treated yourself to a double scoop of ice cream, then later enjoyed an unplanned bedtime snack, then forgot to pack a healthy lunch the next day, try not to let slipups snowball to the point where you throw up your hands and declare all of your effort a complete loss. Realize that perfection isn't possible. Just take a deep breath, smile, and get back on track at the next opportunity.

6. Accept full responsibility for making the change. Personal responsibility is essential for lasting change. Don't expect someone else to act as food police, or push you out the door on days when you just don't feel like taking a walk. Again, remember why this change matters in your life.
Mr. Donovan Green
Athletic Training
If you have a setback when pursuing a fitness goal, that's no excuse to give up -- you have to deal with it and keep moving forward. Watch fitness specialist Donovan Green explain the importance of forgiving yourself and moving on after a slip-up.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.