How do you keep on marching toward your health and fitness goals when the whole plan goes to hell? That seems to be the recurring theme of this column, and perhaps of life.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to become discouraged and give up. Like sliding downhill, that’s a piece of cake compared to the long, slow slog up the hill that is the reality of any long-term goal.

This week I find myself again feeling like I’m not meeting any of my goals—except that I know it’s not true, so I’m spending a lot of time talking myself down off that ledge. There are places where the changes I’ve made have stuck.

For example, I’ve continued to “eat clean,” as they say, which just means eat real food. I’ve always eaten real food. What’s changed is paying more attention to how much I eat, and also when I eat it. I’ve made some good and lasting changes there, and I continue to press forward. And he longer I do it, the more of an ingrained habit it becomes. Right now at work, I have an apple and a water bottle on my desk. Long ago, I heard a great piece of advice. When you are thinking about snacking, ask yourself, “Am I hungry enough to eat an apple?” If I’m really hungry, that apple is going to taste fantastic. But if I’m looking for comfort from food, and going, “Meh, that’s not what I want—where are the donuts,” I know I’m not really hungry, but maybe bored or whatever. It’s a great rule and I try to apply it as much as possible.

In terms of exercise, I’m all the way back to Square One. Okay maybe Square Two or Square Three.

I haven’t been to the gym all year and we’re now three months in. I have continued to do some home workouts, but not enough of them. The track and field events for the Torrance County 50+ Games are coming up in May and I’m not training for it yet.

This morning, for example, as snow fell outside my window, I lost my inner argument about whether I was going to jump into the cold and stream a workout video in my bedroom. But another change I’ve made in my life came into play at that point: No beating myself up. Move on to the next thing. Try again. And again. And again. And again.

It’s a good thing I’m stubborn.

The way I think about this also has changed. Years ago, I was like everybody else: After giving birth to four children I was 100 pounds over the weight I wanted to be. I was focused on my appearance, especially the size of my thighs. My self-esteem was low. I tried to hide myself under bulky clothing, and beating myself up over not working out was my default. For years.

These days, I focus on how I feel, not how I look, and weirdly, I don’t really see any difference in how I look even though I am measurably smaller. It’s bizarre, but whatever. The point is feeling healthy, and being able to do the things I want to do—hike, walk, run, swim, climb, lift, dance. I have made great strides in my ability to do all of those things. A few years ago I would not have even considered running as an option, much less sign myself up for races, or in any way think of it as fun. Things do change, but slowly.

In our fast-food-fast-results-gimme-now culture, slow and steady is not much valued, but it’s the best way to make lifestyle changes that will last. All of these things I know.

Still. It’s easy to get discouraged.

So what? Feel discouraged, but don’t pack up and move in there. Get up, pick up, and come at it one more time. Who said this would be easy? I’m pretty sure I got started knowing full well it was going to be hard as hell.

How do you cope with discouragement in meeting your health and fitness goals? 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.