Inspiration to help you overcome a fitness setback

By on November 3rd, 2017

Tired Setback

setback definitionIt’s been almost a month since the last time I sat down to write a blog post about fitness, or anything else for that matter. I had a setback. I made plans, wrote down my goals… and then life got in the way.Sometimes it seems that the closer I get to realizing my goals, the more obstacles the Universe throws at me. Or maybe I am the one throwing these obstacles at myself? Either way…
I wish I could say that I’m perfect and that staying in shape (and achieving all my other goals) is easy once I decide to commit myself to something… but COME ON! We all know that’s not the case for anyone. And, as much as it sucks, setbacks are part of being a human person. There are no up’s without down’s. Life is a rollercoaster, not a slide.
If you’ve experienced a fitness or fat-loss setback recently, here are three inspiring ideas to keep in mind as you work to overcome it.


You are not alone. Nobody is perfect. We aren’t machines (yet). Here’s what happened to me this month:
I work as a freelance creative-type person. I act, I’m a voice-over artist, I write, I have a monthly musical comedy show at UCB, and I also do graphic design/art direction for several major brands. The design thing started as a “survival job” while pursuing my other goals, but it has strangely grown into a lucrative business of its own. I’m grateful for that.
However, this type of work has a tendency to overtake my life, stealing all of my time and making it difficult to pursue my own projects and goals. (Like my personal quest for single-digit body fat.)
This month I took on two design projects that I shouldn’t have said “yes” to. One was for a new client with extremely poor organizational skills and no leadership to speak of. The other project was with a client I’ve worked for years, and even though I swore last year that I’d never work for them again, they seduced me with dollars. I felt like I needed the money, so I said committed to working on both projects. I acted out of fear, and I immediately regretted these decisions.
In exchange for earning those dollars, I gave up a most of the time I might have invested elsewhere. Time I would have spent writing this blog. Time I would have spent preparing my meals ahead of time. Time I would have spent sleeping. Time I could have spent pursuing my own professional goals.

experiencing a setback

Too tired to eat well?

Yes, I managed to drag myself out of bed and get to the gym 6 days a week as I finished the last month of a 12 week muscle-building cycle. That was an achievement. But, I also managed to overeat almost every day. A caloric deficit? Forget about it. I gained 8 pounds this month. Yeah, some of it is muscle, but a lot of it is fat, too.
That is frustrating. It’s hard for me to stay disciplined in my food choices when it feels like I have no time to think, let alone prepare my food for the day. I failed to meet my goals, and that sucks. Yes, I held onto the one thing I could: getting to the gym every day. But everything else on my goal sheet went out the f’ckin window.
I know I’m not alone in this type of setback. Things like this happen to all of us. Life is challenging. Whether you work a full-time job, have kids to wrangle, or you hit a bump in the road because you’re dealing with depression… whatever the cause, setbacks happen to everyone. They can last for days, weeks, months or maybe you’ve been in a funk for years.
It happens to all of us. But that brings me to number 2:


Setbacks aren’t the end-of-the-road. A setback is part of the natural balance of the Universe. A setback is the pendulum-of-life swinging in the opposite direction for a beat. It will swing back in your favor. It’s easy to wallow in a setback. I believe it’s human nature. Abandoning your pursuit might feel easier than accepting failure and course-correcting. But which will feel better long-term: giving-up now, or achieving your goals? Don’t be fooled into thinking a setback is permanent.
Think about it this way: you NEED the lows to understand the HIGHS. Literally. Nothing is “good” without a point of comparison, i.e. something “bad” to compare it to.
This might sound convoluted and abstract, but it’s incredibly simple: there is no “thin” without “fat.”
So, how do you embrace that understanding in practice? How do you use an abstract concept about balance to get back on the horse and resume your fitness goals?
Use your setbacks to acknowledge where you are, and as a reference to remind yourself where you’d like to be.
How do you accept failure and learn from your setback? You continue to write in your food journal, even when you are eating shitty foods.
Recognize the crappy way you’ve been eating during this setback, and look at how those choices have affected your goals. Did you gain a few pounds this month? Are you tired? Are your clothes tighter?
No, I’m not advocating that you use your food journal to beat yourself up. Do not judge yourself for failing to stick to your plan. You’re not a machine, you’re a human.
But, don’t ignore your journal, either. Remember, this is math. You don’t gain weight because you feel stressed or busy or depressed. (Those are root causes/issues, and sometimes they are unavoidable.) The ONLY reason you gain weight is because you are eating too much (or moving too little). Acknowledge that by continuing to document your caloric intake in your food-journal even when you are in a funk. Write. It. Down.

TIP: In MyFitness pal it’s easy to look at your average daily caloric intake for a week or month. Review that! Don’t look at yesterday and feel bad about the 5,000 calories you consumed or the Chocolove bar you finished in one sitting at 10pm last night. Look at your averages for the earlier weeks and see how far off you were on average. This gives a more detached, birds-eye view of the math, and the math is EVERYTHING.

As you review your journal, remove emotion from the equation. Those extra calories you’ve been consuming don’t care about why they’ve been. They are platform-agnostic. Weight gain/loss is science and math, exclusively.
If you overeat, you gain weight. If you maintain a deficit, you lose weight. This is factual, regardless of how you feel about it. This fact is always true, even after weeks, or months, or YEARS of gaining weight in a setback. Remember: you are always able to lose that fat when you engage the math. No setback is permanent.
You don’t gain weight because you feel bad, just like you don’t lose weight because you feel good. Separate yourself from those feelings about food. Don’t fall prey to a society that confuses eating with emotions. 


I already know what I need to do to achieve in the kind of body I want. I understand the science, and at this point, you do, too. The setback I’m experiencing is a product of not doing the one thing I need to do: maintaining a caloric deficit. The reasons why I am eating poorly are irrelevant, and… sometimes setbacks are unavoidable.
Sometimes you need to make money… sometimes depressed hits you after a break-up… sometimes you are stressed-out because of work or because your family is visiting and they are awful… and sometimes when these things happen your food choices slip. You eat poorly and your exercise habits go off-track because you’re tired or emotionally taxed or strapped for time. It happens to all of us.
But then a window opens up—or your force it open—and you have the freedom to get back on the horse. Because setbacks aren’t permanent. They are a part of the journey, and will ALWAYS have the opportunity to lose that fat! Always. It’s math.
Don’t let a setback derail you permanently. Don’t live in your setback indefinitely. Don’t be fooled into thinking your setback is the new status quo. Recognize it as a “low,” acknowledge your choice in the matter, and then use that knowledge to plan your deficit for tomorrow. Just because you ate that bag of Reese’s last night doesn’t mean you have to eat another one today.
Don’t wallow. Remove emotion and self-judgement from the equation. You know this is an equation, right? Explore the math and apply it. That brings me to the number 3 thing you need to remember during a setback:


I gained at least 5 lbs of fat this month. Now I am working on my plan for burning it off. I’m not interested in making this “5 lbs heavier Nate” the new normal. I’ve acknowledged my setback, and now I choose to recommit myself to my goals.
That feels great! I know EXACTLY how to cut those 5 lbs, and I know how awesome I will feel after I burn them off. I choose to pursue that goal.

Chris Hemsworth Shares Intense, Shirtless THOR: RAGNAROK Workout Video

Thor facing a few setbacks in the arena.

I want to reclaim the energy those two jobs sucked out my life. I want to take more shirtless selfies. I saw Thor: Raganarok last night and I want to be jacked like Chris Hemsworth.
I’ve made a plan to get there, and it feels fantastic to move past the setback I experienced this month.
Do the mental gymnastics you need to do to recommit yourself to your goals, renew your obsession, and then formulate a plan. Maybe you want to start a new training program you’re excited about. Maybe you want to try a new meal planning service that will make it easier to stick to your deficit, or maybe you want to test out a new gym.
Regardless, base the math on where you are at TODAY, post-setback, and get to it.
I’m gonna repeat myself once more time because it’s worth it: This is MATH, and you CAN ALWAYS LOSE THE FAT.

Setbacks are a part of life.

Setbacks are just another step on the road forward. If a setback has you frustrated or short on inspiration, remember to stay focused on these three ideas:
1) Setbacks happen to everyone, and sometimes they are unavoidable;
2) A setback isn’t permanent, so don’t accept them as such. Don’t wallow in a setback;
3) Make a new plan to move forward after a setback, because today is a new day and you can ALWAYS LOSE WEIGHT IF YOU WANT TO.
Thanks for reading this. It is, in essence, another pep talk I am giving myself everyday to remind myself of my own goals. It’s helpful for me to write it down, and I hope it helps you to read it.
The next post is about the foods I avoid, why I avoid them, and it also has suggestions for substitutions. I’m not as militant about diet as you think, I promise. It’s about the deficit, first. You’ll see.

About the Author

Nate Clark

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Nate Clark has been making content for the Internet since 1921. He's best known as a musical comedian performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in Los Angeles, a fitness enthusiast and author, and as a voice talent for lots of stuff. He lives in West Hollywood, CA but he doesn't like visitors.