This is the first of a two-part series on unhealthy ruts. Stay tuned for the second part, which will cover what to do to get out of a rut.
Your cousin’s husband just posted a photo from the finish line of his second triathlon—in a wheelchair. Instead of feeling excited for him, you cringe because you remember, at the last family reunion, you happened to have your first triathlon medal in your purse. You just had to show off your new hobby, which you’ve now neglected for three years. Sort of like your waistline, which you’ve now neglected for three sizes.
Then you remember the first thought that came to mind when you opened your evite to the upcoming family reunion: “potato salad.” My, how times have changed.
Sure, you feel like a hot mess when you compare yourself to your family, friends and neighbors. You even noticed the mail lady’s toned forearms when she opened your mailbox the other day. It seems like everybody else is moving forward, and you’re standing still.
It’s called being in a rut.
Being in a rut happens to the best of us at the worst of times. But don’t fret: you can turn it around! The first step is recognizing when you’ve fallen into one. Here are five signs that can tip you off earlier on, so you can get out before your rut turns into a slippery slope:
1. You are “in a relationship” with food.
When Valentine’s Day is looming around the corner, your single friends are fretting about which online dating site to use to match up with the best date this year. You, on the other hand, have no worries because you decided to spend your Valentine’s evening with a sizzling rack of lamb, lobster mac-n-cheese, and a side of hot buttery buns that you ordered for takeout from your favorite five-star restaurant. I’m worth it, you think as you lick your fingers clean and stare at the flame in your candlelit dining room alone. You quickly cancel the thought that maybe someone else should be licking your fingers on the most romantic evening of the year. The morning after, you wake up alone, stare at your bloated belly and feel, so, so used.
You are definitely in a rut when your food becomes a substitute for real-life relationships. The Domino’s delivery guy is not your friend; he just wants a two-dollar tip for the five minutes it took him to drop off a steaming pizza. And no matter how perfectly he scattered the pineapple chunks among the Canadian bacon, your Hawaiian pizza is not your bestie. Sure, she seems like a sweet, sassy gal, but she won’t stick around. No, she’ll be gone in a day or two, and you’ll have to keep paying up if you want her back the next week. And I don’t mean just the delivery fees: She will demand that you burn thousands of calories before you meet again—or else. Three weeks in to this relationship, you realize she’s betrayed you. You will never meet her demands. She’s like a bad ex who keeps reminding you that you’re never good enough.
The only way to handle it is to recognize how harmful the relationship has become and break up for good.
2. Food is the center of your social life.
Instead of going salsa dancing with your friends, you’d rather go salsa eating (chip calories don’t count, right?) at your fourth Mexican restaurant visit this week. This is not the same as having a social life that includes food. Your sister-in-law eats popcorn at the movie theater, but let’s be real: She actually enjoyed “By the Sea” with Brangelina. You, on the other hand, only agreed to go because you knew you could get away with 132 minutes of alone time with a bucket of butter.
When you’re in a rut, your social life revolves around food.You go to weddings for the cake; funerals for the casserole; and family reunions for the potato salad. Not to mention, you’re the one volunteering to take leftovers home. When you’re in an unhealthy rut, everything revolves around food. Take note of this dynamic early on, so you can start to take charge.
3. Your wardrobe changes.
When you’re in a rut, you start to wear neutral or dark colors and loose-fitting clothes that make you blend in because you don’t want to be noticed. You camouflage yourself as best you can and sit on the side of the room at social events with your personal stash of hors d’oeuvres.
Notice the clothing items you tend to wear over and over. When your laundry is looking the same, you might be falling into a rut.
4. You take the path of least resistance.
People in a rut are really good at justifying non-exercise: for instance, you take the elevator to the second floor instead of the stairs and wait for a spot to open up at the front of the parking lot so you don’t have to walk 50 yards. If you make it to the gym, you go out of your way to calculate the calories burned in the sauna instead of finishing the cardio plan in your workout app.
When you’re falling into a rut, you feel like you have an allergic reaction to exercise. This is a red warning flag that should scare you before things get really out of control.
5. You avoid the elephant in the room.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt. When you’re in a rut, you tend to deflect conversations about your weight when conversations turn to food or health. You avoid mirrors to the point that you wonder how long that chin hair has been hanging out when you finally notice it. You wear spandex instead of jeans. You justify your wardrobe, blaming the dryer for shrinking your jeans, instead of facing the facts. By remaining in a state of denial, you only prolong the rut and add more complications down the road.
It’s normal to fall into a rut at various points in life. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but at the same time, don’t let it linger. Pay attention to these signs as a first step. Once you acknowledge the slippery slope you’re sliding down, you can make the necessary changes before it gets worse.
Stay tuned for the next article by Melissa Kahn: 5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Routine When You’re in a Rut. Coming soon!