Why We Make Excuses & How to Overcome Them
As humans, we make excuses when we don’t want to do something, using phrases like “it may be too hard”, or “it takes up too much time”. For example, it is easier to make an excuse for not working out, than it is to work out. On average, 33% of people make excuses weekly to avoid exercise and healthy eating (1). If we were to make 5 excuses a day, 365 days a year, that adds up to 1,800+ excuses! That is 1,800+ times we get in our own way or think our wants are more important than our goals.
Our natural biology is designed to save energy. Thousands of years ago we were hunters and gatherers, and had to forage and spend days, or sometimes weeks, hunting for our meals. During lean times, we had to conserve energy because there was a lack of food. In modern times, we have a surplus of food available and should therefore have more energy than our ancestors did. So why do we complain that we are always tired? Whereas a thousand years ago it was necessary to do certain tasks because it was a life or death situation, today our environment doesn’t provide us with those types of dire circumstances. For example, if we don’t go out of the house to get food we can have it delivered, now wouldn’t that make our ancestors jealous! Today’s technology makes our lives easier and therefore makes it easier for us to come up with excuses.
It is not our fault that we are hardwired to save energy and find the path of least resistance..but it is up to us to make choices that will be beneficial for our health in the long run and not just in the short term!
Comfort versus Control
Another thing to acknowledge when it comes to excuses is that we make them because we’re stubborn and look for a way out rather than looking for a solution. Rather than fight to overcome the obstacle, often it’s much easier to run and take the easy way out. There are times where we will make up an excuse even if it isn’t real, and that goes to show how much we want to put off prioritizing our health and our goals. It is easier to be comfortable with doing nothing than it is to get out of our comfort zone and try something new! When was the last time you went above and beyond because you knew it would benefit you? If you find that you often choose the option of what you would rather do (such as watching TV for 30 min) instead of what you should do (workout for 30 minutes), it is time to have a talk with yourself and see why you’re making excuses in the first place.
Now let’s take a look at the common excuses most people tend to make on a daily basis:
A poll done on 2,000 American citizens found common excuses they use to get out of exercising and eating healthy. The poll found the following were the most common excuses used (1).
I’m too tired – 49% people use this excuse
I don’t have time – 48% people use this excuse
It’s too inconvenient – 31% people use this excuse
While some of these excuses may be valid, the more excuses we make, the better we get at making them instead of progressing with our health goals. For example, if you continue to avoid exercise because you are “too tired” or “don’t have time”, it makes it all the more harder to get into an exercise routine later down the road.
Other less common excuses were:
I don’t have the money to eat healthy or have a gym membership
Because I want to eat my favorite food / I don’t want to eat those vegetables
It’s not a big deal to skip the gym one day
I deserve a reward for making it through the week
I don’t care if gain a little weight this week
It sounds good to relax at home/ go out to eat
I’m still being productive by cleaning even though I’m skipping the gym
While it is common for us to make excuses, we should try and limit how often we let them get in the way of our success! With the excuses listed above, or excuses you have made before, take the time to ask yourself the Seven W’s,shown below, to help overcome excuses:
Why am I making this excuse?
Why do I feel that way about making this excuse?
Why am I not doing what I know I should do?
What would the outcome be if I did the task?
Would I be proud of myself if I did the task?
What is stopping me from my goals, and why?
By asking yourself these questions and digging to the root of the problem, you are taking power back from the excuses you have made and gaining control to overcome them! Excuses will always be there, but it is time to step up for yourself and prioritize your health goals!
Overcoming Excuses, Is it Impossible?
Most of us have that one friend or family member that always eats healthily and exercises regularly and we often wonder, how do they do it? How do they have the time? How do they have the energy? We tend to put these people on a pedestal and think they’re some sort of rare breed of unicorn. When in actuality, they have just the same amount of time, energy, and willpower as we do. The only difference is they choose to not listen to their excuses. They are tired, but they go to the gym anyway. They had a stressful day, but they chose not to stress eat. They don’t feel like going to bed early, but they stick to their bed time.
Now how do you make that choice to not give in to your excuse? Honestly we can’t say, that is something we all have to do internally and there is no right or wrong way to come to that decision. What we can offer are recommendations for how to make it harder to give in to your excuse!
Make it Harder to Give in to Your Excuses
It is totally normal to struggle with making decisions that benefit us in the long term because they usually are less convenient and take more time (home cooked meals vs. fast food). If you’re finding it difficult to say no to your excuses, consider making it harder to say yes to them. Rather than choosing the easy way out, start acting like the person you know you can be by incorporating the following recommendations!
If exercising regularly is a struggle for you, consider getting yourself an exercise partner! Ask a coworker, friend, or family member to join you in activity a couple of times a week. You can even have more than one workout buddy if your schedules don’t line up. For instance, if your goal is to workout 5x a week but your coworker can only join you on three days, ask a friend to go with you the other two days. It is much harder to skip the gym when your friend is depending on you to be there. And if there is a time where your friend misses the workout, keep the habit of going for yourself! It’s your fitness journey, they are there to support you, they shouldn’t be the reason why you are exercising.
Certain foods can be tempting, and while practicing moderation is a great habit, sometimes it isn’t enough if we begin using moderation as an excuse. Limiting a meal to only being once in a while or when you have a bad day can snowball into having that meal all the time or even when you have a good day. Instead, ask yourself why you are wanting to eat healthy in the first place. If your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, then choose the food option that you know will support those goals! Once you have eaten the healthier option, you will most likely not want that cheat meal anymore! Sometimes having options available to you can help prevent you from making an excuse, and instead can help you choose the healthier meal. Try having pre-made meals delivered to your house each week or looking at a menu ahead of time to keep yourself on track with your eating habits!
If you find yourself making excuses to drink, take the initiative of making that choice harder and less available. Try keeping alcohol out of your household and limit the amount of days you partake in a week to create boundaries. If that is not enough to keep you away from alcohol, see what it is that makes you want to drink. Stress, celebrations, and boredom are all reasons as to why you may want to drink, and reforming that habit in those situations is a great way to start! When you are stressed, go for an evening walk or read a book to keep yourself distracted. Bring non-alcoholic beverages or try mocktails when you attend a celebration, and offer to be the designated driver to have more of a reason to not drink. Find hobbies that you enjoy and that occupy you to keep your mind off of wanting a drink. By setting yourself up for success in tempting situations, it leaves no room for excuses.
We all know that sleep is important and that it is most beneficial to us to get 8 hours each night. Many times we fight sleep because we want more time at night to do our favorite activities like watching TV, reading, or scrolling through social media. This is called time robbing because we are robbing ourselves of time sleeping. This is common with people who feel like they don’t have enough time to do things they enjoy during the day. To counteract robbing yourself of sleep, try setting a time limit for electronics and make an alarm so you know when time is up. Another tactic you can use is determining a bedtime for your phone and your TV. You can set a sleep timer on your television so it automatically turns off at that time. If you struggle with scrolling through social media before bed, schedule time in the morning or on your lunch break for it. Setting an alternate time to go through social media might help with preventing you from fighting sleep at night. If you feel that you are still fighting sleep, set a rule for yourself that if you are staying up late, that you won’t watch TV or scroll on social media. Eventually, there wouldn’t be a point in staying up if you are doing nothing, and you will want to go to bed earlier to occupy that time.
One last recommendation that can help you overcome your excuses is to write them down. Write your top three excuses that you most often tell yourself and then write down how those excuses benefit you. Most likely you will find that there are no benefits to not working out or not eating healthy. Then next to those excuses, write down what you will tell yourself to overcome them. For instance, “Whenever I want to get fast food, I know I have time to cook myself a healthy meal at home and so I will skip the drive through and eat the food that I know will help support my goals.”
“Make an Effort, not an Excuse!”