I like to fill the hole in my face with food and drink. What kinds of food and drink, you ask? Yes.
My daily struggle to stay focused on my health is embarrassing, maddening, and pretty stinkin’ ordinary. I have people supporting my health goals, including my wife, a few fitness bloggers, and a picture of a 29 year old Peter (me). I’m sick of sitting down on a TV set with my belly exposed to the viewing audience, hoping they won’t laugh at the irony of my pleas for financial discipline.
I’m self-aware, but self-awareness isn’t making my pants fit any easier. Hell, one of my best friends is self-aware of his financial behavior challenges, but they persist in spite of his self-awareness too.
For a while I religiously tracked my steps via my FitBit, it was working pretty damn well, but then I lost interest. Probably like when people budget, it’s working well, and then they lose interest. I’ve set goals, hit the goals, and then lost interest in the goals.
What’s especially frustrating is that I have really good financial habits, primarily because I’ve tricked myself into healthy financial behaviors, but I’m struggling to sustain my fitness efforts. How can a person who can conquer one of those world’s not have the behaviors to conquer the other one?
I think I’ve read every fitness and nutrition article on the internet, even the ones via Bing, but I’m usually more interested with fitness whole cheeseburger in my mouth in one bite. This is the life of a stress-eater. But if we’re being honest, stress-spending is the same thing.
In 2007, after a weird period in my 20s which involved linking my career success to frequent trips to opulent steakhouses, I decided enough was enough, and I became hyper-vigilant about my health. In a six month period, I lost about 50 lbs, dropped, six inches off my waist, and ran a half-marathon in 1:42. To this day, that six month period of my life was the most personally fulfilling 180 days of my life.
It can’t be too different then that time in your life in which your financial life was going pretty well. But then life happened, and slowly over time your finances got hard again. The most frustrating thing, as it is for me and my fitness, is that you are the person who was once doing it right, therefore you know the solution is within you.
A day doesn’t go by that I’m not equally enthused and frustrated that I’m the solution to my fitness challenges. My “make time to workout” is the same as your “take your lunch to work.” Yet, here we are.
I try and string together healthy choices, but the slightest roadblock leaves me stranded with a bag of chips. It’s so crazy that I panic sometimes because I can’t figure-out what a healthy food choice is at an airport, so I get a bag of nuts, and then I’m just a guy with a perplexed look on his face at gate 33 eating a sack of nuts. I usually acknowledge that it’s better than a beer, burger, and fries, and that gives me a ping of encouragement.
As depressing as this is to say, my fitness is an hour by hour venture. I can only focus on the next choice in front of me. Here’s the next hour of my life – post this blog and drink a protein shake that tastes like a chocolate shake’s bastard cousin. I hope by the time I get home tonight that I’ll be able to go for a run, and by run, I mean a ralk. And then, I hope I don’t replenish the 200 calories burned with 400 calories worth of all the things I want to put in my face.
If I’ve just described your financial struggles, just make the next decision a good decision. Or as pro athletes like to say “focus on one game at a time.” I want so badly to experience that feeling I felt from May 2007 to November of 2007. I was so in control, so happy, so disciplined. But for now, I’m focused on the next 60 minutes. Bottoms up, protein shake.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.