Excuses Don’t Burn Calories

Excuses. We all make them from time to time. Some of us make them all the time. As we enter mid-life, we owe it to ourselves to examine the myriad of excuses we use that hold us back from reaching our full potential and achieving our life goals. Otherwise, we might come to the end of our days and realize that we’ve excused away our lives.

Don’t be that person.

According to Dictionary.com, an excuse is an “attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify”. Some people might think of excuses simply as the reasons or explanations for why they can or cannot do something. I have come to believe that they come down to personal choices.

Case in point: I’d wanted to lose 10 pounds for a while. I’d gained the extra weight while pursuing my master’s degree on top of working full-time and caring for a home and family. The little spare time I’d once enjoyed had been replaced with reading texts, writing papers, and working on projects. To deal with the stress and busyness of my life, I turned to stuffing my face with cheese and crackers while studying at night and drinking too much wine on the weekends.

I’m sure many of you can relate.

My attempt to awaken at 5:00am to exercise lasted only a few months. When my students started telling me with increased frequency that I looked exhausted and was repeating myself, and my husband point-blank said, “You’ve been acting really bitchy since you started waking up earlier” (ouch), I knew I needed that extra hour or so of sleep more than the exercise.

When I graduated in December, my plan was to start working out immediately, but it didn’t happen. I had so many good excuses why not: I’m too busy preparing for the holiday season; it’s too cold and dark out when I get home from work; I’m too drained and exhausted from work; I just need to chill out and recover from the insanity of the past two years.

Then one day I saw them, emblazoned on a billboard advertisement for a fitness center, four words: Excuses Don’t Burn Calories. They resonated so deeply with me that I practically stopped the car in the middle of the street.

My initial reaction was resentment. I mean, the model on the billboard couldn’t be a day older than 18 and was skinny as a rail. What could she possibly know about the stress of juggling a demanding full-time job while trying to keep a family, household, and marriage going? She was so young that her metabolism probably worked in overdrive; I’ll bet she burned hundreds of calories just by breathing.

Then I felt ashamed. The model was probably a lovely young woman, and what did I know about her life anyway? I certainly didn’t want to become one of those pathetic, bitter older women who despised any woman who was young and attractive. Where was the grace in that?

I drove by the billboard a few more times after that. Each time the words sunk into my psyche a little more, until finally I realized that I had a choice: I could keep making excuses for not working out and changing my diet or I could make a choice to lose the weight.

It’s been a little over a month since I made the choice to lose the weight. During that time I’ve been going to the gym three times per week without fail, power yoga once per week, and educating myself about calories and healthier food options. It’s not always easy. Some days I’m so exhausted when I come home from work that, after cooking dinner, I literally have to drag myself to the gym by putting one foot in front of the other. But I always feel so much better afterward. So far, I’ve lost close to five pounds.

I’ve come to realize that excuses blame factors outside of us. They keep us numb and stagnant. Choices come from within; therefore, they have the ability to empower us. When we feel empowered, we are more apt to make decisions for our life that support our well-being rather than harm it.

Excuses don’t burn calories. They don’t help us get that new job or promotion. They don’t improve our relationships with others. Excuses don’t start and complete projects, decrease debt and increase savings, or do a damn thing to help us realize our dreams.

What excuses are holding you back from leading your healthiest, happiest, most fulfilling life? You owe it to yourself to ask.

Note: I must give credit to Planet Fitness; it was their billboard advertisement that inspired me. Visit them at: http://www.planetfitness.com/.


Entering Midlife

On May 3 I turned 46 years old. Unless I live to be 92, my life is more than half over. Such a sobering thought prompts one to examine one’s life. For me, this turns into an inventory of my major accomplishments thus far:

  • Four beautiful sons
  • A 20 year, mostly happy, marriage
  • Multiple college degrees
  • A solid position in my current profession
  • Dear and amazing friends
  • Homeowner
  • Certified yoga instructor
  • Certified Reiki Master
  • Trips to the Bahamas, Ireland, London, Rome
  • Pretty perennial gardens

As I review the list, I can’t help but ask: Is that all I’ve got so far?

I thought I would have accomplished more by now. Still on my bucket list is a summer in Europe, a beach house, writing and publishing a novel that people actually want to read. There’s the hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley, the business I’d start if I could just figure out what. And always the fantasy of being debt free, financially free, just plain, damn FREE. Permeating it all is a nagging feeling that I’m not quite living the life I’m supposed to, that there is something still missing.

My lamenting is quickly met by a harsh Inner Judge who admonishes: Quiturbitchin and be grateful for what you have.

I hate that judge sometimes. She just doesn’t get it. I am grateful for what I have, but according to Maslow I’m supposed to want to self-actualize. It’s the only way a human being can reach his or her full potential.

This must be how midlife crises begin, with an examination of The Road Not Taken, followed by an Inner Judge assault for daring to be so shallow as to want, dare I say it, MORE.

Inner Judge: There are people starving, desperate, oppressed, and imprisoned in this world and you’re whining about a beach house and self-actualizing and wanting MORE? Quiturbitchin!

Looking back, there were failures, of course. Poor choices made. Regrets. Most midlifers have them.

We are born, we live, we die. As many of us get closer to The End we realize that we’ve been living on auto-pilot, going through motions, doing what was expected of us by others rather than following our inner callings. Suddenly it seems so obvious that we should have done more of the things we wanted and less of what we didn’t. That we shouldn’t have been so afraid.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be grateful for what we have or demean our accomplishments, however small and insignificant they may seem at times. Duties and obligations to family, friends, work, and the human beings some of us bring into this world are real and they matter. There is much to be said for finding joy in the simple things, with taking pleasure in the moment. A beautiful sunset, a family gathering, a baby’s smile, a grandmother’s reminiscing — all have deep meaning.

At the same time, there is nothing wrong, selfish or ungrateful in asking ourselves: Am I selling myself short? If so, why? And what am I going to do about it?