Thursday Thoughts: Excuses

It's Thursday, so you know what that means...

Thursday Thoughts

If you are new to my blog, or haven't been reading on Thursdays, this is a segment where I post my thoughts about various nutrition and health related topics, or maybe even something else if it is really an intriguing topic.  Most of my current views and opinions come from experience working as a dietitian and as college instructor in nutrition courses.  Most of that learning is science based or observational from the clinical setting.  In general, I hate over-generalizations, so for many of the things I post, I expect there is one or two exceptions because broad sweeping generalizations are always bound to miss out on something. 

Last week I talked a little about the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and I think this topic works well as a follow on to those.  I do want to keep my thoughts more general on excuses and not just stick to food or even the new guidelines.  If you are like me and work at a job where you interact with other people you will be as familiar with excuses as I am.  That is not to say there are not good excuses out there that are valid reasons for things, but we all from time to time have had an excuse for why we did or did not do something, and we have heard them from coworkers, and even bosses.  I think jumping to an excuse is a very natural thing to do and is often acceptable to use.

So here are my thoughts, mostly stemming from areas I have made excuses in the past:

1) Starting off with healthy eating: There is really no excuse not to at least make an effort.  You can never be too busy that you are not your number one priority.  When someone offers me an excuse like this as to why they are not able to pick a salad over a drive thru cheese burger my first thought is that they do not see the value in themselves or they are not making themselves a priority.  Yes, this is a judgement made based off initial appearances, and it could be a false assumption.  Most often the excuse of not enough time to eat healthy is really a cover for their lack of education about healthy eating or lack of education in to how to better balance their time.  But as a health educator, I always want to know from them why they do not make themselves a priority.  There should be no excuse for why you can't make a healthy choice at least some of the times you are faced with food decisions.  In reality, a lot comes down to education and knowing how to eat right, the foods to pick and how to prep in advance to minimize time eating healthy.  Now, when confronted with that as the actual problem, hopefully no one is making excuses to learn these things because I think that does show that someone puts their work or something external in front of those motivations and desires that come from the inside.  Avoid making excuses and start putting your health first, because without your health you can't do the job right anyway.

2) Exercise: I hear excuses all the time for why someone can't put physical activity into their day.  Heck, I used to make excuses too (I like to think that mine were valid) but it really comes down to priorities again and time management.  Exercising does not mean you have to spend money to join a gym, so cost should never be used as an excuse.  Fitting physical activity in can be as easy as taking a walk after lunch before returning to work or doing it after dinner.  It does not have to be for hours at a time.  I am firm believer in things not having to be all or nothing.  While it may not make a huge impact doing only 10 minutes of activity a day, that is a starting place.  I would rather see someone start off finding 10 minutes a day than sticking with the excuse they don't have an hour a day to give up.  Again, when I hear people making excuses about time or energy to fit in exercise I get a little sad because it appears on the surface that they do not consider themselves a priority.  There is no real excuse for someone who medically can exercise to not fit some kind of activity in most days of the week.  It comes down to time management.  I fit my exercise in during a 90 minute lunch break.  I eat my food when I return to my desk.  If I can't fit it in there I go after lunch, but I need a really good excuse to feel comfortable in not getting in physical activity for the day.  Not everyone can safely exercise and I do recognize there are very valid reasons (not excuses) for not working out most days of the week.

3) Cooking: Where do I even start with this one.  For me, this was a huge shift in time management.  The reason why I went from not cooking my own meals to setting a goal of 2 nights a week (almost fully) home cooked was because when we do have a family I refuse to be a parent that does not show their children the importance of preparing your own meals.  I will not raise kids on fast food and frozen meals.  I was not raised that way (my dad and grandma cooked but as I got older I did look for more convenience foods, oh the joys of having your own car!), and I do not think it would be wise for me to not prepare home cooked meals for my family and not show them how easy it can be to cook.  It can be easy to make excuses as to why we don't cook foods at home.  The biggest and easiest for single people would be that it is hard to cook for one person.  I am 100% in agreement with that.  Even for 2 people.  So I made an effort to cook more so we have leftovers which make great lunches.  I truly thought I had no time.  I work a lot, like so many of you, and I discovered that if I really wanted to cook meals twice a week, I really had the time for it.  Turns out, when you make something a priority, there is actually time to get it done.  

4) Work related tasks: I don't know why, but this is a pet peeve of mine.  When you have a job and a career it is your responsibility to get your work done.  I don't think, unless truly a valid reason (not excuse), anyone should make excuses at work for not getting things done.  For the most part your boss should not be giving you work they do not think you can't handle.  If they are and you truly know you can't handle this, you NEED to discuss that with your boss.  Otherwise you come off looking like someone who never gets their work done and only makes excuses for themselves.  Trust me, I know you are all better than this.  You are a responsible adult, so own up to your mistakes and commit to working harder the next time.  Honesty is always the best policy so don't get caught making excuses and passing the blame.  We are all responsible for your own actions, so make sure your actions display the best of you.  Excuses given at work will not resolve anything and may even make people think you care unreliable or defensive.  Use it as constructive criticism and make it a priority to only take on tasks you know you can handle.  I will say I am guilty on this.  Even though I do not have to be at work at a very specific time I am always 5 minutes later than I plan on and always ready with an excuse.  The problem is that it is the same excuse every day: the dog, the garbage, the neighbors company parked in front of my driveway blocking me in (yes, true and sad it happens more than once a month) or cows clocking the way.  I know all of these things get in my way and make me late, yet I never try to leave my house 5 minutes early to get there on time.  Guess I need to work on this one, or just stop offering up excuses.  What's done is done.  Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes and move on.

5) Friends and family: As we grow up we have lives of our own and things change.  It can be so easy to make excuses as to why we do not have time to meet with family and old friends.  You only get one family (ok, 2 when you get married I guess).  Never take for granted what you have, even if you find them annoying.  Avoid making excuses for why you can;t visit or talk on the phone.  There should always be time for friends and family.  I will say again that it all comes down to priorities, and I think that family most definitely should be a priority.  They are your foundation and helped shape you, for better or worse, but they are family.  Stop making excuses because you may regret it when they are no longer around.  The same goes for friends.  It definitely hurts our feelings to know that people we have invested time and energy into a relationship with would not find that we are worth their time any more.  As a military wife living overseas I find it hard to keep in touch by phone (time zones are a pain) but I try to email and sent other electronic communications as often as possible.  There is no excuse for going so long with out saying hello to an old friend.  I miss not being able to talk to everyone all the time, but I don't make excuses (phone bill too high, not a good time since they are at work) and I email instead.  If I can IM chat with someone while they are at work, I will do that.  Just don't skip out on opportunities to hang out with friends and family, especially for special occasions.  If you really can't, tell them the truth and don't really on an excuse to get you off the hook.

I really suggest evaluating what are your priorities and see if those are what you feel should be priorities.  Obviously I want to say your health should be, but each person can decide for themselves.  Once you know what you truly hold as a priority in your life you should evaluate if you are making excuses in those areas and see what can be done to refocus the energy from why you can't do it to why you should do it and how you can make that happen.  The next time you find yourself making an excuse, stop and think about why you are doing that.  Can you just tell the truth and take responsibility for something?  Was it a valid reason for not getting something done?  Sometimes it is a valid reason and therefore not so much an excuse.  Having a sick family member, a broken down car, a husband getting ready to deploy, or you are in the process of moving or losing a job...those are all valid reasons for being late, not doing something you promised to do, not being able to go out with friends.  Those are not excuses and people should recognize that these things coming up.  But, if you really forgot about something, don't make up an excuse.  Chances are you will get in the habit of this and will not present you with your best qualities.  I don't think any of us can ever really give up all excuses.  I am sure by now it is a cultural thing and as I said before, generally excepted in most cases.

Think about why you do things, why you don't do things and look for ways to break free of those daily excuses and make time for what truly matters to you.  

QUESTIONS:  What are your thoughts about excuses?  What have you made an excuse for recently?  What excuses annoy you (come on we all know we have something that bugs us with this)?

I do have some exciting news.  I am headed to the States next week.  Do not be surprised if I do not get to make a Thursday Thoughts post next week.  I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, but I only have a week there so I will be busy fitting it all in.  I plan on eating lots of good food so look for posts on those meals and the activities I find to entertain myself with while in Baltimore.  I still have some island things to post on before then.  With comps and the statistics class I have been so busy (excuses, excuses! but I maintain this was a valid excuse, I mean reason, LOL!) that I have fallen behind on blogging.  I am looking forward to getting back into everything.


EA-The Spicy RD said...

Great "thought provoking" post! I agree with you that it's better to be honest about why we don't get things done as opposed to making continued excuses, but I know I'm guilty of this at certain times. I'm pretty good about healthy eating, cooking at home, and making time for family and friends, but I know I need to find a way to exercise more and work on certain "domestic" chores (check out my post that should be up later today.). Thanks for a little "kick I'm the pants" and I hope you have a wonderful trip to the States!

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I think it really all comes down to priorities. At one point in my life, I didn't make myself enough of an priority, and I made poor choices. I used the excuse that I was too busy. And I was extremely busy. I had to learn to say no sometimes, in order to focus enough on myself. I also had to realize that only if I am happy with myself inside and out, can I truly be the best person for others...

Have a safe trip, and enjoy your time with your friends and family!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Ok, I'll be honest, the excuse that annoys me the most is when people are late!! Sorry.... But can't you just set your alarm clock 5 minutes early?! That's always been my pet peeve. Maybe this is because I'm one of those people (thanks to my anal dad...) who is always early. And I mean..ALWAYS! That doesnt make me better than everyone, I know, but I just always find it rude when people are late...I wish I could calm down about that one.

When it comes to excuses about not eating healthy or not exercises, to me that just means they don't care enough to try. It's like when Nick used to make excuses for not quiting his nicotene habit. he simply wasn't ready. Then, when he was, he quit!

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