How to Lose 100 Pounds on a Crazy Schedule*

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I do not live in a perfect world where everything falls into place inside the boxes and lines of my day planner. Few of us do. So many of us can relate to the day-to-day chaos that requires quick decisions made in the heat of battle. I don’t keep the same schedule for more than 7 days at a time. Just as soon as I adjust to day shift, I rotate to midnight shift, then afternoons, then back again. It seems like I am always scrambling to adjust, to regain my balance only to have to adapt again.

Many of us can tell a similar story. Maybe you are someone constantly devoting your time to the care and nurture of others. Maybe you are on the road a lot. Every person has a unique set of challenges that seems to get in the way of their goals.

So how did I do it? How did I manage to overcome all of that, lose 100 pounds and train for a marathon? These are my top must-dos to gain traction on a demanding schedule.
  1. The first thing I had to do was to realize that, although I was in a tough situation, I still had control over some things. The key for me was to separate the things that I could not control from the things that I could, writing it out on paper if necessary to see it more clearly. That way I was not wasting energy wallowing in anxiety, and was able to focus on the things I did have control over. I had to identify windows of opportunity and then exploit them. If that window was only 15 minutes wide, then I could make it a good 15 minutes and pat myself on the back for a job well done. You can feel a lot of resentment toward work and life in general if you feel like you are totally controlled by your schedule. Focusing on what you CAN do rather than what you CAN’T will really help you gain a more positive mindset.

  2. Success in the insanity that is loosely defined as life is a matter of commitment over perfection. All or nothing has no place in losing weight and getting fit on a demanding schedule. Maintaining momentum is the most important thing. Momentum undergirds motivation. Without momentum, all the fitness equipment, gym memberships and other tools are null and void. Momentum is created by simple commitment. Don’t wait for a feeling before acting: it will never come.

  3. Goal cards – I used 4X6 index cards folded in half like a book. On the front I put my daily goals and on the inside my exercise and food log. Keeping a continual food diary is awesome, especially for troubleshooting problems, but keeping it on an individual card that I keep in my pocket and refer to often keeps my goals in the here and now. I ask myself: “What do I want this card to look like at the end of the day? What if someone were going to review it?” I look at it at the end of the day, pat myself on the back for a job well done or forgive the goof ups, then toss it. The day is over along with its successes or failures. I don’t dwell on yesterday’s failings: I focus on TODAY.

    Your long-term success depends on how you wind up at the end of the day, not 2 weeks from now and certainly not “someday”. Frustration results when what you are doing does not line up with the direction you feel you should be taking in your heart. Even if life gets in the way, making small steps toward what you feel is important is a big morale booster. Every day is another chance to get it right. By putting out small goals everyday, or as much as possible, and working toward them, you will feel more in control. The main thing is to keep the momentum going in the chaotic, rough patches that are sure to come.

  4. When I first started my weight loss journey, I had to make exercise feel like an easy option. If you don’t make it easy for yourself, you probably won’t do it. For example, when I was on my 7-midnight shifts, where I was in zombie mode, I got my workout clothes laid out and my bike or treadmill set up. All I had to do was just wander down the hall, slide into my clothes, and hop on. Doesn’t sound like much, but when your mind is a fuzzy mess, it makes all the difference in the world until your blood starts pumping and you can think again.

  5. I had to learn to expect the unexpected. It is a must to make a mental list of emergency go-to strategies that you can turn to when life gets in the way and you have to think on your feet. For the shift worker, that is almost all the time. It takes time to get in the routine of making consistently healthy choices in the face of life’s hurdles. Be patient with yourself and keep researching and experimenting. Only you can craft a plan that will fit you. Always research your options.

  6. Changing your dietary routine is a lot like jumping from one speeding train to another going in the opposite direction. From day 1, your decisions are typically made on the go. This is where consistency rules over perfection. There is no reasonable way you or I are going to undo years of bad choices or deprogram ourselves from an ingrained, unhealthy routine in just a few weeks or months any more than we can dump out a puzzle and have it fall together into the picture on the cover.

    What worked for me was to start with foods I was already familiar with and found ways to make them more healthy. I didn’t do anything too extreme or exotic. My plan wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start. For me, starting where I was and making healthier substitutions as I got more educated was the way to go. Nothing is more stressful than taking the core of your daily routine and turning it on its ear, especially when your schedule is not forgiving. Slow changes are far more lasting. It takes a lot of committed effort to hone your routine to a sharp, effective edge.

  7. I treat my exercise routine like a second job, not something that is done “in between the commercials” of life. At work, I punch in if I don’t feel like it, if I’m having a bad day, or am just sagging or dragging. My duty to my job isn’t up for negotiation, and neither is my exercise routine. It has to be that way for me to succeed. Exercise is survival, not a hobby. Treat it as such.

  8. When training for an athletic event on a demanding schedule, consider this. Divide your training into blocks. Identify blocks of time that you can devote to training and make it happen. Don’t condemn yourself for lapses in time that are beyond your control. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible for a shift worker to follow every square on a training schedule. Like the picture on a frozen dinner that says “serving suggestion”, I had to take my training schedule and treat it as a basic outline and do the best I could. It doesn’t pay to put yourself through the anxious thoughts of, “Oh my goodness, I missed week 3, day 2 of training. What will I do?”

    If you are on a 12-week running program, give yourself more than 12 weeks before your event just in case you experience a life-induced lapse. Don’t ever double up on training or do extra miles, etc. There is no making up for lost time. That is the fast track to injury. On days you miss a scheduled training session, focus on diet. Every time you sit down to eat, you are training. You always have control over what you put in your mouth. To get good nutrition is just as important as getting in that long run. Healthy eating IS training and you can do that on any shift. That helped me eliminate a lot of the frustration over an irregular training schedule.
Hopefully, the strategies that worked for me can help you on your road to weight loss and fitness. If I could do it on my insane schedule, I know you can, too. This is your life, and it might be crazy, but you do have some control. With a little bit of planning and a lot of motivation to get you through the speed bumps, those goals are in your reach: just jump up and grab them!

*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program. 

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ALICE_TENNIS 5/29/2020
thank you for sharing so many encouraging ideas Report
ERIN_POSCH 12/14/2019
thanks for sharing Report
Great Blog ! My husband worked a swing shift for 40 years and not only did his hours play havoc with his health but the rest of the family as well even the dogs. Meal planning and prep are still the key to good health for me and my husband as we purchased treadmill , row machine and stair stepper and free weights for scheduled workouts. Report
MNABOY 9/15/2019
Great ideas. Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 8/29/2019
Great tips! Thanks for sharing! Report
DAWNGW 6/4/2019
This is really well written with true words of wisdom. Thank you for posting this!! Just this morning I was feeling frustrated with my progress and you blessed me with your logical outlook to a situation that many of us have to deal with: working long, inconsistent hours. Thank you. Report
Thanks so much for this article to keep me going! I work 12 hr shifts in a gatehouse, so I can relate. My hubby should read this at his almost 300 lb., but I know he won't. I am alone in my support system except SP. Stay blessed my friend! And congratulations on the weight loss and gaining your health back! Report
Great ideas! I love the notecard idea in fact I'm going to start that one today. I also like the idea of setting my workout clothes out and treating exercise like a job. No matter how I feel I always show up 5 days a week. I can do these!! Report
Terrific blog. Thank you. Report
This is great advice whether you need to lose 100 lbs, 50, 10 or just want to maintain your weight loss. Thanks! Report
Awesome blog Report
Awesome blog Report
Great! Thank you for these ideas. Report
Your article really busted through the wall health issues a person faces while doing shift work. I found your article informative even for myself. I do not do shift work, but face an ever-changing daily schedule. Thanks. Report
Thanks for sharing some good ideas. Report
Absolutely great Report
love this Report
Very good article and many great tips Report
This was fantastic! It was insightful and informative. I got a lot of tips that I plan to use! Thank you! Report
great article Report
Excellent article on time management. Good information! Report
Fantastic blog- well written with a lot of advice I am going to take to heart and get moving. I liked thinking of exercise as a second job and the note card I am going to start right away.
Thank you so very much!! Report
Great blog, one of the few on SP I have ever bookmarked. Report
7 and 8 are my struggles. Thank you for the great advice. Report
7 and 8 are my struggles. Thank you for the great advice. Report
Loving your blog. 1. the note card idea is great. I tried a notebook and it was too much. 2. treating exercise as a second job is great too. I needed a kick in the posterior end! Thanks for sharing your ideas. Report
your article is great! I am going to try the index card rule, and thanks for the 3rd shift worker item, I printed that out. Report
love the index idea! totally stealing it. thanks! :D Report
Thanks for the motivation. I've needed a kick in the but to make sure I do my exercises. I do walk my dog every day-that my feet allow me to after work(I have flared up heel spurs), but I just can't seem to get into the strength training. It might help me if I ever try it. I think I'll try one today while I have a day off from work. Report
Seems to me like some of these points could work in life for all sorts of situations, not just diet and exercise. Report
What a motivational blog! This is the first time I've ever felt compelled to leave a comment on a blog, thank you so much for sharing. Your approach to obstacles and how you faced them and conquered them is inspiring. Report
thank you for this post! I definetly needed a little extra motivation to get back into things. I got sick and family has been sick so getting back into the swing has been difficult, but you are sooooo right, no one else can make my decision to keep going! Report
I so needed this today. Thank you for your post. Very inspiring, truthful honest and motivational. Awesome!! Report
Thanks for the insight this is a wonderful example for all of us. Report
Loved the index card idea. Thanks for it. Report
You are a great writer! Really! I love all the tips you shared here and can really use all of them to help me manage my days. Thank you so much for the inspiration. Report
thanks for sharing Report
What a great feeling to know that there is someone out there who struggles in the same way that I do and has been successful on their journey! KUDOS!!

Thank you for the inspiration!! Report
A real good article. I share many of the problems listed in it and I'm happy and thankful for suggestions to help me overcome them and come out with flying colours with my motivation to keep on the journey. THANK YOU. Report
I have to say it takes a lot to loose 100 pd good on you. I like # 7. I'll try it and see. Thanks again Report
I love #7 and copied it to paste in my facebook! People need to see that!
Thanks - and congratulations, job well done! Report
you have helped me plan & use 15min time frame better Report
It's easy to see that with that kind of commitment, you succeeded under difficult circumstances. I picked up some really useful tips in this blog. Thanks! Report
Thanks so much for this great essay. I especially liked your ideas about focusing on what we can control, making momentum rather than perfection the goal (even a half step forward is still forward), and not trying to adopt extreme lifestyle changes in the midst of a chaotic schedule. Thanks again! Report
Thank you Robert! Shift working was what got me into this in the first place. You have proven to me that getting out of it is actually possible! Report
"Exercise is survival, not a hobby. Treat it as such." That's gonna be my quote of the day, love it! Report
perfect common sense! Thanks buddy for spelling it out in plain ole English! Love it Report