August 14, 2019

It is August. It is not July 4th. Not yet Labor Day. But MANY of us are struggling with gradations of the ephemeral summer spirit--whether we are working or not, in year-long warm climates, or just seasonal. It is an approach-avoidance complex, the social contagion I often blog about, the paralyzing freedom of “just-for-now.” We love summer. But we often hate ourselves for it, for everything it means. Summer is a very challenging time of year.

Let’s call August the Sunday of summer, the tail end of a looooooong weekend when Friday seems like seconds ago. We often dive in headfirst, Sunday Funday! We’ll start again tomorrow. It is based in parts: celebration, desperation, and a general yearning to prolong.

76% of Americans report experiencing the “Sunday Scaries” regularly.  NBC News even posted an article entitled, “‘The Sunday Scaries’ Are Real—This is Why.” One neuropsychologist and psychoanalyst goes on to explain that “this is an anticipatory anxiety —not the stress in the moment, but the anticipation of what will come puts people in this fight or flight mode…the adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and they release adrenaline and cortisol…they flood the system and you have a real stress reaction and it feels like real anxiety.”

So August, in essence, can feel like a 31-day Sunday, except that the next glimpse of freedom—hair in the wind and wind in the sails—is months, usually cold ones, away.

The NBC News article (link below) concludes with some helpful tips, so I encourage a read if you’re among this 76%. But since we’re speaking of “Sunday Scaries” metaphorically, I’ll supply a few of my own pointers that pertain to nutrition and exercise:

MOVE. Whether you are tracking or not, vacationing or in the office, make a commitment to moving. If you didn’t do it today, or all week, or all month—Do it tomorrow. Even if the whole summer has passed without a workout, recommit to starting again. It may feel like starting over, but begin with a walk, or a 30-min run instead of the usual hour. If this pertains to you, the idea of starting where you left off is likely daunting. Baby steps then. Just like weight loss, it won’t come back overnight. But each one will get slightly easier, until that endurance is back. And if you start with lacing on the sneakers, though errands and emails or the sun porch and novel may beckon—let them wait for this. Keep (or make if you haven’t yet) exercise as part of your routine. It is routine that we crave during summer, albeit dread on Sundays. Feed the craving and fight the fatigue.

REBOUND. So the weekend was a DISASTER. Perhaps your travels start on Wednesday, so what’s the point in trying Monday and Tuesday? Next week will be fine. Avoid throwing away whole weeks. Hit the gym or the road when you’re home. The momentum that comes from moving is not just physical; it’s neurological and psychological. We don’t like to sabotage hard work, and are less likely to reach for that piece of pizza or bowl of chips or plate of loaded nachos if we spent the morning sweating. And on the occasion that we do, we’ve at least expended a few calories in preparation. If you’re making Tuesday, September 6th your kick off—great! But avoid making it a free-for-all in the meantime. Enjoy that Sunday afternoon, but stay one step ahead of total regret.

IT’S OKAY TO SAY, “NO.” Your real friends will understand your commitment to health. This applies year-round, of course, but invitations seem to flow more freely in the summer. You don’t have to decline every offer for dinner or drinks. That would be boring. But you don’t have to accept every one either.  Book that class when you’re able, set the alarm early, and prioritize those workouts, even if you’re currently not tracking. Pick one night a weekday to go out if that’s your summer gig, but try to steer clear of 3. And if you are doing that, ask yourself the hard question—Why? Vacation time is happily inevitable and we’ve discussed Travel Tips and the perks of occasional indulgence, but bad habits loom large. We’ve all invested too much to succumb.

TRACK WHEN YOU CAN. Even if you’re making smart choices, opting for veggies and lean meats, if you’re not doing it mindfully, you can still overeat. These are still great tactics when you’re away from home and your food scale (a healthy thing to take a short break from when you’re traveling for pleasure), but tracking when you CAN will still give you an edge over that scale, and offset complete derailment. So if you have a stretch at home, in your own kitchen with access to your own workout regimen, open that MFP diary (despite’s been 27 days since you last logged in reminder), and program your day. Just like exercising, one good day lends to another, even in August. When that alarm goes off on Tuesday morning, September 6th, I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did.

76% is no joke! So no beating yourself up. But don’t throw in the towel. You are still in control. It’s never too late. But it’s not too early either.