Below is the latest installment (for the week of 1/13/2013) of my weekly syndicated column THE PARENT ATHLETE. You can read it in print and online in various locations. If you are interested in carrying my column in your own paper or website, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s column was supposed to be about the difference between “reasons” and “excuses.” When we’re trying to accomplish any goal, but especially it seems when we‘re trying to exercise more and eat better, there are always a myriad of reasons why it seems impossible at the time. I had many “reasons” myself before I started losing weight, and I wasn’t able to make the lifestyle changes I needed to until I was faced with the reality that many of my reasons were really excuses. For example, as a busy dad with a demanding job and a growing family, I felt like I never had the time to work out. Funny thing was that I always seemed to find time for my favorite television shows each night. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time; it was that I was making poor choices in how I used the time I had. As I started trading evening television for evening runs, I found out that I did actually have the time. I’d just been making excuses.
But that’s not true for everyone. My own wellness story is only one small (and, admittedly, rather privileged) perspective in a sea of many others‘ experiences. A fact that I was reminded of when I reached out through social media to others this past week asking for feedback on “what reasons / excuses make it hard to live healthy?”
I was sobered by the responses I received. Responses of very real reasons. Situations that couldn’t possibly be interpreted as excuses. Things like, “All of my time has been spent caring for a loved one with a terminal illness while still trying to keep my day job.” Or, “My spouse left us and I’ve been working multiple jobs to feed the kids.” Things like, “I have a newborn and I’m working on my Degree at night.” Or, “I was just diagnosed with a life-altering illness.” Those are very real, very legitimate reasons. Reasons that I don’t have any pretty little solutions for. Life situations that no one has designed a fitness plan for or built an eating schedule around. How could they?
I was one of the lucky few fortunate enough to have had the right people, opportunities, and resources in my life at the right place at the right time to have gotten healthier. Many aren’t that lucky. To think that my personal “lessons learned” about health and wellness should be true for everyone else would be awfully narrow-minded.
And that’s why we can’t go it alone in this thing we call wellness (or, for that matter, life). We need each other. For support, encouragement, and inspiration. And we also need to learn from each other. Why? Because parenting is hard work. Getting healthy isn‘t easy. Life is tough. All kinds of crazy, unexpected things happen despite our best laid plans or greatest intentions. And, as much as we may want to go it alone sometimes just to prove how strong we might think we are, we can’t always do that.
Make sure you have people in your life you can draw upon when the going gets tough. And be grateful for them. I realize that “tough” is a relative term. It might mean that you just really need a break from the new baby. Or it might mean that a dearly loved parent is losing a battle with a terminal illness. Whatever “tough” means in your life, don’t go it alone. Know who’s got your back and don’t be afraid to reach out to them. And make sure you’re available to be called upon by those close to you when their going gets tough.
Ben Murphy is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.