How to Disarm Your Downfall

“Chocolate is my Downfall.”

“Netflix is my Downfall.”

How many of us have used statements like these? We talk about our “Downfalls” as if they’re something we all have, and HAVE to have. As if every human has a kryptonite.

Colloquially, the term “downfall” is used in the context of diet and exercise, and is meant as THAT THING that a person must avoid at all costs, because it leads to their undoing. Interestingly, the term “downfall” is an extremely widespread way to describe this situation. When someone says a certain food (tacos, potato chips, cookies, etc.) or behavior (choosing a nap over the gym, or Netflix over a walk) is their Downfall, they mean that this is the one thing keeping them from their ideal health. They view that food or behavior as a trap that completely derails them from a path they want to follow. The solution? Eliminate the Downfall.

That being said, let’s talk a little about this idea of reaching our ideal health. When we talk about health, do we actually mean health? Or do we really mean weight, or body size, or some other physical aspect of our being over which we have little to no control? Real, genuine health can be fostered through nourishing our body with mindful, intuitive eating, and though movement of our bodies that feels good. Attempts to control weight and body size are where we often find these restrictive food behaviors and rules around exercise that require us to perform certain workouts to try to force our bodies to take on socially favored characteristics. Downfalls don’t have a place in the true version of health, because this version of health focuses on the total being, nurturing the whole person rather than just controlling the calories-in, calories-out aspect of the body.

There is an emphasis in our society on discipline and willpower to follow strict guidelines when it comes to diet and exercise. We are expected to block out everything else, knowing that “this is best” for our bodies and will “make us look good.” Downfalls happen when other parts of our beings need nourishment and care. Sometimes, the part of you that yearns to be social and participate in events wants cake at a family member’s birthday party. Sometimes, your mind needs rest and will beg you to choose an evening of Netflix over going to the gym. Sometimes, bacon tastes good. That’s a lie. Bacon ALWAYS tastes good. And sometimes, commiserating over heartbreak with a friend and a tub of ice cream is what your emotions will need.

What if you were set free from having a downfall? What if nothing held that kryptonite power over you to render you helpless?

Engaging with your Downfall does not mean that you lack willpower and discipline. It means that you are in tune with other parts of your whole being and take care of those parts. It means that you are taking back supremacy over your Downfall rather than letting it control you. You decided when and how much of it you will include in your life, in a way that serves you so that it really isn’t a downfall anymore, at all. Considering all aspects of your health beyond controlling how your body looks is the gateway to including all things that make you feel good, in moderation.

A Downfall can ONLY exist where there is restriction. If all things are included in moderation, especially these foods and activities we find so alluring, that thing loses the power to completely undo you. No one food or exercise is going to make or break your health. Where there is moderation, restriction dies, and with it, your Downfall loses its authority. 

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Then & Now: What It Means to be an Athlete

Then & NowAs I basked in the afterglow of a recent workout, I found myself reflecting on why exercise matters to me and what it really means to me.

I love to feel like an athlete. Several words help illustrate what my perception of an athlete:

Strong

Capable

Determined

Hardworking

Sweaty!

The more I thought about it, the realization dawned on me that I have always sought these feelings through exercise. As a tri-sport athlete in a small-town high school (I participated in volleyball, basketball, and track & field annually), I got my fill of feeling like an athlete through sports. As an adult, I have much less directed or structured athletic endeavors.

From the time I was in high school sports to adulthood, my drivers to reach that feeling of athleticism have changed substantially.

 

Competition with Others vs. Competition with Myself

In high school sports, being an athlete was very much geared toward being a better athlete than my competitors from other schools. I needed to be more than another person – more strong, more capable, just more. Now, I don’t much care where anyone else’s fitness skills are in relation to mine; if I can compete with myself and improve myself and my own fitness compared to where I was yesterday or last week or last year, I’m winning!

 

Stats vs. Health

In order to determine which of two people the better athlete is, sports statistics are used: race times, distances thrown, shots scored, wins/losses, etc. These days, I’m only comparing my statistics to my prior statistics. For me, fitness indicators include running pace, frequency of exercising, and pounds on the bench press bar. A few other numbers have been thrown into the mix, too – mainly, blood labs such as cholesterol and blood sugar that let us know if our bodies are healthy on the inside.

 

What I Can’t Do vs. What I Can Do

In competing with other athletes, it is important to find deficits and correct them to become a better contender. This results in more of a focus on can’t rather than can. For example, “I can’t consistently shoot free throws,” or “I can’t swim as fast as my competitor,” or “I can’t hit through that blocker.” When I compete only with myself, I get to focus on what I can do. Lately, my list includes, “I can run faster than before” and “I can lift more weight than last month” and “I can hold downward dog without wondering when the yoga instructor will let us change positions.” (That last one is a pretty fantastic accomplishment for me!)

 

Don’t get me wrong – sports are great! This simply reflects how my perspective on athleticism has changed over time

Whatever your reasons may be for seeking your version of athleticism, know that those are great and keep fueling that spark!

Habit is habit and not to be flug out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs one step at a time.