You're not too busy. Really.
My life as changed significantly in the past few months, from religiously training 5/6 times a week, tracking my food intake so I could get 'that body' I wanted. fast forward to now when I squeeze in the gym when I can, am often just too tired from working long hours (or would rather spend my down-time with family or having a drink with friends), and do not have time to prepare a perfectly healthy tupperware every day. It was an uncomfortable shift to begin with and, honestly, I beat myself up about it quite a lot while I watched everybody else on instagram go about their perfect routines, training twice a day a eating perfectly poached eggs every morning..surely this would undo all the hard work I'd done before?
It hasn't actually. In fact, I look almost exactly like I did a few months ago, and I'm still pretty fit.
When you’re on a health and fitness journey, we always have a plan A: Eating right, exercising, sleeping well etc, etc. But at those times when life just doesn’t allow us to keep it up – maybe work’s got really busy, you’re away on holiday or whatever – what most people do is let the whole of plan A go to pot. It’s the “sod it, I can’t keep progressing so I’ll let the whole thing go” attitude.
It’s like there’s only an on/off switch, or red and green lights. What you need to find is the amber light, or plan B.
We always want to feel like we’re working towards a goal, so when life gets in the way and we can’t be in a state of progression (because we're too busy to get to the gym, or prepare food), we think there’s on longer any point in even trying. The problem is, that thinking will result not only in no progression, but regression. You stop exercising altogether and accept that it’s ok to just eat whatever convenience food you can get your hands on because you’ve consciously made the decision to let go.
Instead, we should learn to shift not into a state of regression, but to maintenance. As with all things, there are two parts to this: your mindset and the physical ‘doing’.
Most of the time when one element of our plan A isn't achievable, we let everything fall down with it. We don’t have time for the gym 4 times a week so there’s no point trying to eat well either because we're not going to be making progress anyway. We live in the real world, where things come up and get in the way, but that doesn’t mean we have to swing wildly from a state of going 100mph to reverse! Having a plan B is about being realistic, and accepting that although you won’t be able to make much progression over the next week/month, it’s ok to just stay where you are, so when you can go back to plan A when you can, and pick up right where you left off.
Think of all the elements to your plan A, and then figure out ways to scale them down into maintenance. For example, you might not have time to go to the gym 4 times a week, but have you got time for a quick jog two days? Maybe even a walk a couple of times a week?
So I can't get to the gym religiously 5 times a week for an hour, but I can usually squeeze in the odd 30 minutes or quick HIIT session. I rarely have time to prepare food, and can't think of anything I'd rather waste time on less than counting macros or calories, but I can make healthy choices when I can by grabbing lunch from healthier food-on-the-go places. No, I'm not building muscle like I was when I had more time, but it's more than enough to keep me active, healthy and lean in the meantime.
If you’re on a fat loss plan, you might not be able to control your calorie intake to the extent that you continue to lose weight, but you can you eat to just maintain weight for now? If you’re in a situation where you can’t prepare meals, can you make healthy choices when you’re out and treat yourself just occasionally?
It will depend entirely on what situation you're in and why you need your plan B, so think carefully about what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. Also don't forget to be kind to yourself; just because you aren’t progressing doesn’t mean you’re failing, it’s perfectly ok to stand still for a while and avoid the “1 step forward, 2 steps back” that usually happens when life gets in the way of health and fitness goals. Sometimes, just doing your best is more than enough until situations change and you have time to focus on health and fitness progress instead of your career/family/whatever is going on at the moment, if you want.