In my last article, I outlined how to identify 5 signs you might be in an unhealthy rut. Being in a rut is normal: everyone goes through these phases at some (err, frequent!) points in their life. But there’s no reason to wallow in self-pity. Recognizing the key warning signs (more like huge fog horns!) can help stop you in your Moose-Tracks (pardon the Ben & Jerry’s reference…) so you can start to make changes.
But even when you put on your rut-finding glasses and see what’s right in front of you, it’s not easy to climb out. Ruts are like ditches: If you’re driving into one, you’ve got to maneuver quickly to get back on track. Sometimes, you can turn the wheel slightly and regain your focus. Other times, you need to call in Big Freddy’s towing service for professional support.
However deep you are, the important thing is to know there’s always a way out. You have to remain confident and focused, and unafraid to ask for help when necessary.
Here are some tips for navigating whatever rut you find yourself in now or in the future:
1. Break up with food
Let’s look at the first warning sign we talked about last week: Food is your bae. Red Alert! Red Alert! This is a major problem. Food isn’t your friend, and if find yourself home alone at night chatting up Mr. Ritz and his buddy, Mr. Spray Cheese-In-A-Can, we’ve got a situation. How can you stop relying on food as your friend? This might be a situation where you need to call in the big guns! I’m talkin’ support here, people. Instead of thawing out your next buddy, Mr. Tombstone Extra Pepperoni, who always reminds you to hit up your compadre, Mr. Hidden Valley Ranch, call up your bestie and invite her to join you for a jog or even a brisk walk. Focus on cultivating relationships with friends you don’t stick in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. You’ll find the friends who feel your plight when you’re honest and upfront, and you’ll feel so much better about doing something GOOD for your body instead of feeding your emotions. Start thinking of food as fuel, not a friend, and food will slowly take a backseat to living life.
2. Find other reasons to go outside
The second warning sign we discussed: Food is your reason for going out. Like we mentioned last week, if you’re only going to see “Sully” so you can sulk in an oversized bag of Skittles, you might be in a rut.
Try to pick some new activities that DON’T center around country fried steak or pumpkin spice donuts. Instead of agreeing to go bowling because… nachos… why not suggest ice skating instead? Don’t let the winter snow blow you into a winter stupor: When life gives you freezing temperatures, take your freezing backside to the rink or sledding with the kids, and you’ll warm up in no time. Live in a warm climate? Be like Beyoncé and grab a surfboard (cue “surfboard!”) so you can ride some waves before work if you live near the beach. Or join an after-work kickball league and treat yourself to a post-workout Caesar salad with your teammates before you crash for the night. This strategy trumps coming straight home from work when you know there’s a Costco-sized box of Cheez-its in the pantry calling your name. Let’s be honest: Even Warren G ain’t gonna regulate when it comes to tracking the number of servings of Cheez-its you can eat in one sitting. The point is: Train your mind to focus on the activity, not the related food.
3. Love yourself— more.
The third warning sign I discussed – and this is probably my own personal biggest rut warning – is when you start wearing baggy, dark colored clothing. Suddenly you find your wardrobe is all tan, gray, and black. You might be in a rut if you look like you’re dressed for a funeral at any given moment. How to climb out of the wardrobe blahs?
Take a good, hard look in the mirror. Sometimes we are our own worst critics, so start by practicing some self-love. Channel your inner Iskra Lawrence and blow yourself some kisses in the mirror. Or take your hair out of the messy bun you’ve been sporting for a week, and make a point to get prettied up at least once or twice a week. It’s a great way to remind yourself that you’ve still got it. As for your wardrobe, make like a flight attendant and stow some of your sullen belongings in the back of the closet. Just like when you’re flying, strategic placement of your personal belongings is important for liftoff! With 50 shades of gray sweatpants properly stowed, you can make a greater effort to wear the brighter colors in your closet. Nothing boosts your mood and screams “fabulous at any size” than some bright chunky jewelry, or some red patent heels. When you channel your inner Richard Simmons and go bold with your wardrobe, people will notice and respond to your newly refreshed energy, which — bonus! — makes you feel even better about yourself! You get back what you put out there, so put on some sparkle and stand by for some serious shine to come your way!
4. Get off your butt!
Another common sign that you’re in a rut: you start relying on the path of least resistance. Staying in bed late instead of getting up early and walking the dog? Netflix and chilling on the couch all night, only getting up to refill your wine? Bad! Bad! This is a huge warning sign. I know it can feel like taking the stairs to the second floor is the dreaded path, but trust me: Nothing spells dread more than a lifestyle of shortcuts and immobility.
Get up and get active! Even a small amount of movement can boost your mood. Before you binge watch the next season of OITNB, get up and force yourself to jog around the block, to get the blood pumping. Or promise yourself you’ll take the dog for a walk before you check Facebook at home. You’ll find even the littlest bit of physical activity can really boost not just your blood flow but your mind! You’ll have a little skip in your step. Not to mention a few more selfies with Fido for your growing portfolio.
5. Enlist some help from a friend
And finally, one more major sign you are in a rut: You avoid any eye contact or discussion when the topic of weight, health, or fitness comes up with anyone you know, including your mailman, who is clearly into some sort of CrossFit regimen, judging by the veins in his forearms when he asked you to sign for the Comfort Food Cookbook you ordered, express shipping, wrapped in clear plastic (whoops!). You can’t hide from the truth. (Especially from your mailman.) Likewise, it’s odd that you need to find the ladies room every time the conversation turns to cardio. Trust me: it’s suspicious. But there’s hope.
Start by acknowledging your shortcomings with the people you know and trust. Confide in a friend if you’re struggling to get back in a routine, and don’t be afraid to ask your neighbor if she wants to join you for a daily walk to get you jumpstarted. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to arrange a time to a walk the ‘hood when the mailman is out and about if that’s possible. Once you start showing commitment to your activity, you can get over your fear of engaging in conversation. Heck, you might even learn a thing or two about paleo and planking when you open yourself up to the dialogue.
Getting out of a rut is a mindset. It might be something you have to force yourself to do at first: fake it until you make it. I’m sure even Ginger Rogers had her off days. But the important thing is that you get out the dancin’ shoes and get back to stepping! Keep calm and climb out of the rut! Find your fitness friends and join along in their weekly runs, or even meet them for the last half and then work your way up to the whole run. Remember that ruts are normal, and everybody — yes, even the mailman — has them: What makes you extra special, as your grandma always said, is that you can recognize when you’re down and know when to reach up for help. Let those around you help lift you up. You’ve been there for your friends; now it’s time to let them be there for you! Once you’re recovered from your temporary tailspin, make it your goal to pay it forward (and no, I don’t mean “gifting” your Cheez-its to your sister).
Getting out of your rut yourself goes a long way to helping others once you have a renewed sense of self, strength, and sassiness. And that’s what makes the world go round.