An election year is a busy time for a newspaperwoman. It brings tons of extra work, extended deadlines, and unsurprisingly, the destruction of my health and fitness plans.

There is always something. In addition to the election, we have what I call an “obligatory candy” holiday, Halloween. As soon as the election is over, our attention will turn to Thanksgiving, our holiday of eating to excess, followed by Christmas, Hanukah, New Year’s—all characterized by rich foods and eating too much.

This week I’m sharing my best strategies for getting back on track when my schedule gets out of hand:

Make a plan. This has been a lifesaver for me repeatedly, including this week. I have a meal plan, and I’ve mostly stuck to it. In the old days, all my focus would have been on the “mostly,” or more accurately, on my perceived lack of perfection in meeting my goals. These days, I remember instead that I have a plan, that I am human, that life is to be lived and not deferred until I am “fit,” and that tomorrow is another day.

Be gentle with yourself. Beating myself up about what I didn’t do never makes me feel like doing it. But treating myself gently and with compassion does make me want to keep working toward my goals. And it feels better.

losing-it-20161025_131330Let it go. Some days will mean eating fast food at your desk and not working out. Today I have my meals planned out—but I left out a meal, so I went looking for the best pre-fabbed meal I could find that was quick and cheap. It’s not great, but it’s better than a mcburger and mcfries, not to mention mcsoda.

That’s what I can do today. Does it meet my highest goals to eat a microwave dinner? No. But I chose one that’s very high in vegetables to stay as close as possible to my meal plan this week. Now I’m going to let it go.

Move. There are so many ways to mix movement into even the busiest days. Park far away from the grocery store, not as close to the door as possible. I have a treadmill at my office I get on 5 minutes at a time, and that adds up. Take a quick walk instead of a smoke break. Do squats every time you take a potty break. Dance with your children or grandchildren. Play with, and chase after, your children and grandchildren. They love it and it’s quick exercise. Any exercise at all is better than sitting on the couch beating yourself up for not exercising.

Get inspired. Get a workout or fitness buddy, and call each other out when you’re not meeting your goals. I’m in several Facebook groups, and seeing people posting their workouts really inspires me. A couple times a week I’ll try out somebody’s workout just to see how it is. Getting into communities of people who are working toward the same goals of health and fitness has been great! First off, I didn’t know there were so many people in the area who make that effort. And I didn’t know how much they would inspire me, either. Find inspiration anywhere you can.

Rinse and repeat. No matter how many times I fall off the plan, I return to it. I’m not in a short-term program; I’m making lifestyle changes that I want to last the rest of my life. Believe me, I fall down far more often than not. What I have going for me in this journey is my stubborn nature. I won’t give up. Didn’t work out this week? Start making the plan for next week. Had a slice of gooey sweet something-or-other that’s not part of the diet? Think ahead to the next meal, or the next day’s plan.

Celebrate the baby steps. When I started out, I had an idea that at some point along the way, I would cross over into the land of physical fitness, and after that, everything would be effortless. Just easy. Easy to eat right, easy to run 10 miles. Don’t ask me where I got such an idea, but it has not proved to be true. What is true, however, is that it is all much easier than it used to be. When I first started exercising, it took almost no exertion to leave me drenched in sweat and breathless. It takes a lot more to get to that point now, and that is a real victory! It’s also gotten easier to manage my calorie intake as I’ve gone along. I am building habits. It feels like nothing is happening, but baby steps is where the action is.

Celebrate life. In the end, if we’re lucky, we live about a century at most. Celebrate! So you want to be a size 10 but you’re a size 20? Celebrate anyway. You want to run every day but you only manage once a month? Celebrate! You hate dietary restrictions but you’re committed to your health? You guessed it—celebrate. Why not? Quality of life is what this journey is about.

What are your strategies when life steps in to scatter your plans? You can reach me at 505-286-1212 or, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.