Back in January, I launched a corporate wellness program, for a well-established engineering company in Dublin. The participants were very diverse, and had a wide range of personal goals. The program set about improving overall health and wellness by addressing nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, mobility and stress. It also sought to foster a sense of community and establish an accountability network for the group, in which, to support each other.
This is the sixth and final week of the challenge, and the men and women who have stuck it out have seen some phenomenal results. Some have lost weight, others have seen improvements in health markers, while still others are seeing the benefits of mindfulness in their everyday lives. I check in with the group everyday and visit them on site every two weeks. When I met them last week, the difference in everyone was immediately noticeable. They all stand taller, exude more energy and just seem genuinely happier. I could not be any more proud of them.
But what now? These people have had strict guidelines in place for the last six weeks. They have had daily contact with their coach and they have had the support of each other. What will happen when the program ends? This is a problem with all programs of a fixed duration, and let’s face it, nothing can go on forever. Every plan, be it a 28 day cut, 21DSD, Whole 30, or a program like mine has an end date. One day you are on the plan and the next day you are off it. So, what do you do? How can you avoid walking, lemming like, off a cliff and back into all your old habits?
It can be a tricky enough transition. On the one hand, it is not realistic to live in such a regimented and restricted way forever. On the other hand we don’t want to end up back where we started. Making a plan for how you are going to manage this phase is absolutely essential. Without clear intention about what you are going to do after the end date, relapse is almost guaranteed. Believe me, I speak from bitter experience. As much as we may not want it to happen, if we don’t guard against it, the old familiar ways quickly return.
If you think about it, this really isn’t surprising. You were practicing your old behaviours for years, or even decades. Our new habits, only really budding after a few short weeks, haven’t a hope of competing. They need to be continually nurtured, so they can take root and become part of the landscape. But of course, there has to be balance.
My guys have been really working hard for the last few weeks. Eating whole, unprocessed food and exercising daily. I have been giving them bonus challenges and truly putting them through their paces. I absolutely expect that come Sunday they will celebrate. I fully expect that there will be take aways ordered and beers opened. In fact, I encourage it. It is really important to let your hair down, once in a while, especially after a period of restriction.
I have asked them to take some time this week to reflect on the experience. Try to identify aspects that they found helpful, and come up with a plan for incorporating those elements into their lives going forward. If any of you are currently working a program, or planning on starting one soon, I encourage you to do the same. Say, for example, you are currently doing a program that requires 20 minutes of daily exercise. You might enjoy that, and decide to continue with it. If you don’t make a plan for how that is going to happen, it simply won’t. Similarly, you might decide to continue eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, but if these items don’t make their way onto your shopping list, they definitely won’t make their way into your diet.
To my mind, programs of a short duration are essentially reset points. They act as a Ctrl+Alt+Delete for the body. Purging you of junk and rubbish and helping you to lay the foundations for a healthy future. They act like stabilizers on a bicycle. When your program ends, that isn’t the end of your biking career, you just continue on with two wheels. Yes, you may have the occasional wobble, but with planning and perseverance you will gain the confidence to go it alone.
We live in a world where everyone wants the next quick fix, the magic tea or the simple solution. The reality is that if you want a healthy life, it will take effort and intention to get it. Once you have achieved it, it will take just as much effort and intention to keep it. We make dozens of choices every day, which can either bring us closer to our goals, or steer us further away from them. So, if like my guys, you have a Sunday coming, make sure you don’t wake up on Monday morning wondering “what now?” Make a clear plan, write it down, and commit to it. Remember, the end of the program is really only the beginning. Be well xxx