03/30/2017 02:27 EDT | Updated 03/30/2017 02:29 EDT

The Key To Long-Term Fitness Success Is Leaning Into The 'Fall'

One of my most-used Kathleenisms is, "If you fall off of your fitness horse, get back on a more informed rider." I started using it when I realized that when we make a less-than-ideal health choice, most of us react in one of two ways.

Generally we either say, "Oh well, I will do better tomorrow," or we spiral down the body shame rabbit hole, saying something like. "I suck. I will never succeed. I might as well have more [fill in treat of choice]." Although the first option is obviously less problematic, in both cases, we ignore the reason why the choice felt justified in the first place -- and thus never learn how to avoid triggers and problem situations in the future. Hence my well-worn Kathleenism.

food brain

Recently I decided that the original Kathleenism -- although useful -- needs tweaking. It is premised on the assumption that an occasional fall is normal -- which is true; we are all human -- but it doesn't express that falling is not only inevitable, but that it can be positive.

Why positive?

Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you fall on purpose.

First, just being aware that you fell -- that you deviated from your plan -- demonstrates that you are mindful of your behaviour and that you have at least a semblance of a plan; noting a health choice proves that you are at least "in the game."

Second, all experiences are opportunities for growth and learning.

To paraphrase Brené Brown, a woman I respect immensely, the only people who don't fall are the ones not stepping into the arena of life.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you fall on purpose. What I am saying is, when you make a choice that your future self will not be proud of, lean into the fall and learn from every choice -- both positive and negative. Work to understand your personal triggers and coping mechanisms so that you evolve into the healthier and fitter future self you want to be.

A few tips on "leaning into the fall"

We either grow and adapt, or we stagnate. So, ask yourself, "Am I content with my health? Am I happy with how I navigate life's ups and downs?" If your answer is no, then your only productive option is to grow.

Embrace that growth takes work; choose a goal that equates to the amount of struggle and work you are willing to put in. You can't just be OK with the result (eg, weight loss); you have to be OK with the process (eg, the work needed to lose the weight). Who your future self will be is connected to what you are willing to struggle for.

Consider imitating the behaviour of a healthy and happy person that has traits and habits you would like to adopt.

ACT to solve. Take small steps if needed, but take steps. Don't just "wish" for better health. Make a plan. Health is an active process!

Live life as if you love yourself; work out and eat well because you love your body not because you hate it.

Embody the knowledge that you are human. You have emotions -- you are not a robot -- and thus will fall off the horse from time to time. Instead of letting this reality frustrate you, frame your fall as feedback. Use the feedback to propel you forward; get up stronger and wiser. Negative emotions are not "bad"; they are a call to action -- a way for you to understand your limitations and thus to grow.

Flip your mindset. Buy into the fact that health is made, not found. To be successful in your health process you need to revel in perseverance. Stop aiming to eliminate all problems and instead aim to learn how to manage problems and figure out situations.

Learn -- through falling -- how to make choices that your future self will be proud of. Live life as if you love yourself; work out and eat well because you love your body not because you hate it. Love yourself enough to demand more of yourself. Don't let yourself off of the hook; when you fall get up, learn, and grow. Work to find solutions, not excuses. Or as Brené Brown would say make your goal to "show up and be seen."

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