Why We Fail at Consistent Self-Care

At the age of 35, I became a cancer survivor and I used exercise to heal.

A year after finishing chemo, I trained and ran in my first marathon. At first I thought that running was about just trying to stay healthy. But my journey has taught me otherwise. My relationship with exercise has been about healing.

Every step, every mile I logged while training was one step closer to reclaiming my health. One step closer to healing. That healing journey became so important to me that I decided to run another 26.2 miles. And another. And then another. In all, I have finished seven full marathons.

Along the way, I became so fit that I decided to become a personal trainer. At the time, I reasoned that I wanted to help other women reclaim their health. I wanted other women to find the same joy in exercise that I had. I wanted women to feel empowered.

And so I did it. I chucked a masters degree from Columbia University in Public Policy and charted a new course. I devoted myself to helping women get healthy.

For the past five years I have run outdoor boot camps for women in the rain, sleet and snow.  This job provided me with tremendous insight into women and their relationships with themselves and their bodies.

As a trainer I have witnessed numerous women on a quest to lose weight.  And I have witnessed their struggle.  It has been an eye-opener.

Watching some succeed and others fail compelled me to dig deeper and delve into further training as a Life and Weight Coach to find answers to the question: What is the secret to consistent self-care?

I am still seeking answers but here are a few highlights of what I have learned so far:

1. Exercising to lose weight is not a compelling enough reason to exercise!

People who exercise simply to lose weight quit. I’ve seen this happen time and time again.

Just watch the gym memberships soar and classes overflow after New Year’s only to see all those same folks drop out after a few months (while continuing to pay the fees…. believing at some point they will go back).

When exercise is connected to weight loss women quit sooner rather than later when they do not see immediate results. It’s also the first thing to go when life gets too busy because women reason that you can eat fewer calories and still lose weight.

Here is a challenge to you. For the next month challenge yourself to disassociate exercise with weight loss.

Instead move your body for the sake of just moving it!

Move because it feels good. Move because you can.

It doesn’t matter what type of movement you do – just make it fun and convenient.

Ride a bike with your kids, garden for several hours, check out a new exercise class like Zumba or Spinning or call your friends and head to a club for dancing (but go easy on the margaritas…).  Move every day whether that movement is intense (like Crossfit) or gentle (like walking). Doesn’t matter what you do…just move.

2. A diet mentality is one of the main culprits of inconsistent eating habits and food compulsions. It also plays a major role in preventing weight loss.

Do you think that sounds crazy? I did too until I really started studying nutritional therapy and eating psychology.

When we live our lives according to a diet mentality we are so bound by food rules that we end up over-focused on food. And in the process our eating habits become erratic and we become driven to eat certain foods that we might not normally eat! I’ve witnessed this time and time again with clients!

We are so stuck in the mindset that a diet is just around the corner that we tell ourselves that we must eat certain foods today because we may not get them tomorrow.  (“I am going to have to go on a diet tomorrow so I am going to have this cupcake today.”) The diet mentality drives a primal urge to eat out of fear of deprivation and the prospect of starving.

This concept blows me away! We live in a culture driven by the diet mentality. The weight loss industry is making mega millions by leading us to believe that we cannot nor should we trust our own bodies but rather we should subscribe to their food rules. In the process we are driven to eat more. And therefore we continue to support the weight loss industry. It’s a vicious circle!

Here is a challenge to you. For the next week forget all the rules you know about food and simply try to listen to what your body wants and needs.  Connect your body with your mind.

Every time you eat make a conscious choice to put food in your mouth. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full.

Ditch all the information you hear about what food is good and bad and view food as neutral. The simple act of not judging diffuses the power of forbidden foods.

Go ahead, give it a try. Eat food that helps you feel good and gives you the fuel you need to feel energized through the day.

3. How you eat, whether you exercise or make time to rest is a window into your soul.

If there is one thing I have learned as a trainer turned Life and Weight Coach it’s this: finding the key to sustainable change and consistent self-care has nothing to do with willpower and routine and all to do with connecting to your soul.

If this sounds out there…I do not apologize.

I have watched enough women struggle to make changes to realize that part of their journey is to heal.

I did not immediately realize 10+ years ago that running marathons was part of my healing journey. Only recently did I recognize this. But my situation is a good example of the need to heal. I was broken by my cancer and I could not feel healthy and whole until I fully processed the pain that I went through in fighting it. Running gave me space to process the pain.

Clients come to me because they want to lose weight. And I tell them that I do not care whether they lose weight. What I care about it is that they do the work first to improve their relationships with themselves and their bodies. Part of this process usually requires healing parts of their past. And when that is done the weight will take care of it self.

This is a tough concept for some of my clients because it requires them taking responsibility for their feelings and processing parts of the past that they would rather bury.  But in so doing they begin the process of healing and suddenly deep-rooted behaviors begin to transform.

Any time you overdo anything – work, worry, eating, drinking – you have a wonderful gift. The gift is the knowing that all compulsions are messengers. They are there to tell us something. And it is our job to get curious and figure out what they mean.

So this week I challenge you to view all of your self-care habits as a window into your soul.

If you are overeating, overworrying, overdrinking, or overworking it’s time to recognize that something is not right – there are places in your life where you need to heal.

Get curious and become a detective. What is driving those behaviors? What feelings are under the surface? What thoughts are behind the actions?

It is only in connecting with those feelings and thoughts that we can begin to heal. And with healing we can talk about true transformation. True change. A new relationship with yourself, your body, weight, nutrition and exercise!


  1. Abbe, I love the idea of becoming a detective in your own life. It takes away the judgement and beating mentality. something we could all use. Cookie

  2. Yes, Cookie! No judgement…we need to stop beating ourselves down and welcome the opportunity to view our behaviors with curiosity. I totally agree!! Thanks for your comment. 🙂 -Abbe

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