The Common Obstacles
You May Encounter(and Solutions for Overcoming Them)
When prediabetes threatens your healthy future, it’s up to you to reset your lifestyle.
But unforeseen obstacles could derail your progress. Here, I explain the HURDLE method and offer solutions for four obstacles you might face along your journey to better health.
Jill Weisenberger, author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide
If you have prediabetes or have been told that you’re at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, you probably know that now is the best time to take action to improve your health. And hopefully you are already working on developing some habits and setting goals to get your health under control. But new habits are tenuous and can be easily broken. It’s normal to worry that an obstacle could derail your progress and send you back into your old unhealthy (and potentially dangerous) routine.
Obstacles are always lurking anytime you’re trying to adopt healthier habits. To be successful with your lifestyle reset, you will need to anticipate obstacles and have a plan to overcome them.
To do this, I advise brainstorming as many solutions as possible, including thinking of out-of-the-box solutions.
Eventually, looking for impediments to your success will become second nature. But when starting out, I recommend using the HURDLE method to overcome obstacles.
The HURDLE method is defined here:
H: How is your upcoming schedule different? Think about your day and look at your calendar for appointments and activities. Is there something unusual or at an unusual time?
U: Understand how these events, appointments, or obligations could derail you from your healthy lifestyle goals. Will something prevent you from eating a meal, getting to exercise class on time, or getting to bed at the usual hour? Will someone else be in charge of your meals or your schedule?
R: Record your options. Brainstorm and write down every possible solution, even the silly ones.
D: Decide on a solution. Pick one or more realistic options from your list of possible solutions.
L: List the steps. Record everything that you must do to make this solution work. Include if you need to buy things, wake up early, change your schedule, ask for help, etc.
E: Exercise your choice and Evaluate it. Carry out your selected option. Make notes about how it went, what you learned, and what you will do differently next time.
Often, the best solutions to problems are the ones you figure out on your own. At the same time, there are some common obstacles most of us run into, and it can be helpful to have some time-tested solutions for how to tackle these obstacles. Here are some common roadblocks and solutions for overcoming each.
OBSTACLE: You’re Too Busy for Breakfast
Eating a healthy breakfast can kick-start your good eating choices for the day and give you the energy for physical activity. But between getting the kids ready for school, taking the dog for a morning walk, trying to get out the door, running your morning errands, and getting to work, you may struggle to find time to eat a nutritious meal. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Find a few grab-and-go options. Some options include:
Whole-wheat tortilla with reduced-fat cheese heated in the microwave
Whole-wheat waffle with peanut butter
Greek yogurt and fruit smoothie
Overnight oats with strawberries and blueberries
Cook oatmeal or egg-and-vegetable muffins on the weekend. Grab a single serving each morning.
Take a week’s worth of breakfast food to the office on Monday. Prepare and eat your breakfast at work. A few good choices are cottage cheese with fruit and muesli, yogurt with fruit and dry cereal, and an English muffin with almond butter and banana.
Ask a family member to prepare your breakfast. Maybe someone in your household has a little extra time in the mornings or they’re already making themselves breakfast.
OBSTACLE: There’s Too Much Tempting Food at Work
You’re working to take control of what you eat but find yourself backsliding at the office. It’s a common problem. Many people stay stressed-out or frantically busy at work, and they cope by reaching for unhealthy treats. Maybe you’ve had a rough day and your manager just bought a whole box of doughnuts to share with the team. Or perhaps it’s your officemate’s birthday and everyone brought in delicious treats to share (with very few healthy options). How can you resist?
Create a rule with exceptions. An important purpose of establishing “food rules” is to free you from an internal argument of should I or shouldn’t I. But occasionally allowing for an exception to the rule helps you stay on track. These exceptions need to be created in advance and not on the fly. Making exceptions in the moment is the same as breaking your rules.
My own simple rule is that I do not eat office junk food unless it is so unusual that I’ll miss a unique experience. I had another rule for eight years in a different office that I dipped into the candy jar only on Wednesdays. I always had Wednesday to look forward to, and I never argued with myself on the other days.
Limit temptation to one area. Ask your officemates to keep tempting foods in only one spot. Try to avoid that one spot.
Ask coworkers if they also want to eliminate certain types of food from work. You might be pleasantly surprised. After all, you aren’t the only one who cares about what you eat.
Pack your coffee in a thermal container. By bringing your coffee with you, you can avoid the junk food in the office kitchen when you need a coffee refill.
OBSTACLE: You’re at a Party Full of Unhealthy Foods and Drinks
You don’t want to blow all of your progress at a party. Success starts with intention, so avoid the temptation to simply wing it. Do some planning and strategizing in advance. Also, resist the temptation to avoid parties altogether just because you fear that you will lapse from your health goals. Here are a few tips for staying on track.
Determine your trade-offs. Will you skip appetizers and starchy sides to enjoy a piece of birthday cake, or do you prefer a cocktail and an appetizer? It helps to make these decisions before heading out the door.
Be cautious with alcohol. Alcohol has a way of leading people to greater food temptations. Start with a low-calorie, non-alcoholic drink and have a second non-alcoholic beverage after you drink a cocktail or glass of wine.
Take the edge off your hunger before going to the party. There is usually no reason to pre-eat, which often results in eating too much overall. But if you feel uncomfortably hungry when you’re teased with an abundance of party food, you will likely find it hard to hold control.
It’s okay to enter a party with a normal appetite. But if you need a small snack first, choose something healthful and filling like an apple, an orange, or a glass of vegetable juice. At the party, take your first bites of lower-calorie foods like fresh fruits and veggies or steamed shrimp.
Be active. If dancing or playing games is part of the party, join in.
Bring a healthful dish to share. If you know you’ll be tempted by a table full of cakes, cookies, and glazed meatballs, opt to bring a healthier dish that you can share with the group, like a veggie tray with hummus or fruit skewers.
Distract yourself. Keep yourself occupied with conversation and other non-food activities.
Avoid the buffet. When you’ve had enough to eat, position yourself far from the food.
Remind yourself of your new habits. Remember that just because you’ve always indulged in party food, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change that.
OBSTACLE: Vacation Disrupts Your Healthy Routines
Vacation doesn’t mean that you should give yourself a free pass. Avoid the mentality that you deserve unhealthful eating because you’re on vacation. Really, no one deserves unhealthful eating. Everyone deserves to eat healthfully, and everyone deserves just a bit of not-so-nutritious food tossed into the mix for a little extra fun.
Pack food for the trip. If you are traveling by car, use a cooler and fill it with fruit, veggies, yogurt, low-fat cheese and cottage cheese, vegetable juice, hard-boiled eggs, and a turkey or tuna sandwich. Whether you have a cooler or not, you can still carry nuts, dried fruit, some fresh fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, whole-grain crackers, and granola bars or fiber-rich cereal bars.
Be prepared for plane travel. If you are traveling by plane, pack a small amount of perishable food in a plastic bag. Keep it cold with ice in a separate plastic bag. Airport security will probably want you to get rid of the ice before you go through screening. Once you’re through security, stop by a food vendor and kindly ask to refill your plastic bag with more ice.
Stock up on healthy choices. Once you’re at your destination, stock up on additional wholesome options. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, keep a small amount of perishable food fresh with ice and an ice bucket. Or pack a collapsible vinyl cooler in your luggage for use while away.
Snack only on fruit.
Apples and bananas are great choices to carry in your purse or backpack. Or you can find fresh fruit at any grocery store and even at many convenience stores, gas stations, or coffee shops while you’re on the road.
Search for healthy dining options.
Ask locals for restaurant ideas and search menus online before going out to eat.
Walk whenever possible. Opt for a walking tour instead of a bus tour.
Stay hydrated. Carry a refillable water bottle and be sure to sip from it frequently.
Find a local gym. You may be able to get in a gym workout even while on vacation. Call around to gyms in the area where you’ll be staying and ask if they have any weekly membership offers. Or stay in a hotel that has a gym.
Decide in advance what amount of treats is reasonable for you.
Is it a glass of wine a day? A couple of desserts over the week? Create your rules and exceptions, so you have a working blueprint to follow.
By using some of these tips when you find yourself facing one of these common obstacles, you can help guard yourself against a full-blown relapse and protect your health.
If you do have some setbacks along the way, shake them off. We all have them from time to time. Note them for what they are—little lapses that won’t have a big impact if they are few and far between. Recognize all the little changes you’ve made that add up to something bigger—better health and wellness. So pat yourself on the back and soldier on.