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If you don't overschedule the fall, then you won't fall off your diet

Posted Aug 18 2010 7:42pm

As summer winds down and back-to-school signs clutter the malls, it is time to take a good look at your fall schedule. If you have school-age children, you may have already signed away every afternoon and early evening in order to facilitate their attendance at sports practice, music lessons, ballet classes or religious school. You know from past experience that this means you will be sitting in a car, in traffic or in front of a school playing field five afternoons a week for most of the rest of 2010 and half of 2011. No more relaxed dinners with the family or time to talk with them in the early evening. In fact, no more time for yourself after 3PM.
The beginning of fall also means longer times spent commuting because everyone is back at work. Early morning meetings are being scheduled so folks can do something extra before they even begin their regular work routine. Your e-mail and mailboxes are filled with notices about evening courses, fund-raising events and religious and community activities. Travel for work and/or celebratory events begin to fill in your calendar, and it becomes harder to schedule anything spontaneous because suddenly the next time you are free is sometime after Christmas.
Depressing, isn’t it? You may still be on the beach but the dreary overworked days of fall and winter are not long in coming.
We all know from our past experience that being overworked, overscheduled and overcommitted leads to overeating. No time to go to the supermarket or cook the food in the refrigerator? Eat pizza or take-out Chinese food. Feel frazzled because there are three things you have to do in the next 10 minutes and you are already late? Stuff something in your mouth so you won’t scream with frustration. Exhausted but still confronting bills that need to be paid, laundry that must be put away and a document that you need to prepare for work? Eat to keep your body moving and your eyes open until all your obligations are met.
Of course, even though you consumed 1100 extra calories because you were facing terminal exhaustion, you don’t have the time or energy to work off those calories through exercise. How can you fit in that 6AM workout when the non-profit organization to which you are contributing time schedules a 7AM meeting? How to you manage to get to the gym on your way home from work when the traffic has now extended your commuting time by 45 minutes? What happened to your favorite 5PM yoga class? Was it sacrificed to get your children to their soccer or cello practice? Has your personal trainer forgotten what you look like because you have been traveling the two days each week when you were scheduled to work out?
It is very easy to be trapped by our commitments and believe that we simply have to accept a less than healthy lifestyle because of them. But here are some suggestions that might work to give you back the time and healthy lifestyle you are enjoying during the last days of summer.
1. Schedule lunchtime on your work calendar. Give yourself 20 minutes to eat and 10 minutes to leave your desk and get some fresh air, even if it is raining or snowing out. Your lunch appointment with yourself is as important as if you had made it with a client. The little time you give yourself will go a long well to reduce your feeling of being overwhelmed or overworked.
2. Schedule exercise time on your calendar and don’t do it in pencil. Can you find a health club on the way to work where you can work out, shower and dress? Or do the same on the way home, changing into sweats for the rest of the commute so you are already feeling more relaxed when you arrive.
3. Before committing yourself to non-work obligations ask yourself whether the cost to yourself and your family is acceptable. Early morning or early evening meetings are convenient, as they don’t interfere with work hours. However, they can interfere with time for eating, exercising, being with the family or catching up with all the things to do at home. Be frugal in what you take on. Some things may have to wait until another phase of life when there is more time.
4. Plan your children’s activities to minimize disruption to your own schedule and emotional well-being. If you feel tired, frustrated and even angry at spending every afternoon driving your children from one activity to another and respond by overeating, then look at your options. Can you car pool? (I spent 12 years car-pooling children to different schools and I know the logistical difficulties. But relieving yourself from daily driving obligations is worth the hassle.) Do you have to schedule so many activities? Compare the cost of daily after-school activities with the serenity of having a real dinner hour and time for your children to do their homework and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
5. Be prepared for dinner. Use weekends and mornings to prepare meals so you and your family will have something healthy to eat when all the activities are over. Exercise while waiting for a child to be done with a lesson or practice. If it is cold, bundle up and do a walk-jog until you feel warm or see if you can arrange it so you can go to a nearby gym.
6. Schedule relaxation time for yourself every day. It might be only 15 minutes of sitting with your feet up and a magazine but every second will be worthwhile. Meditate if you can or let your mind wander. It will seem hard at first to sit still when you know there are many things to do but keep at it. Just don’t make it another obligation.
If you plan carefully, you will be able to avoid having too many obligations creep up on you. But start now. Labor Day is not so far away.
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