Project Louise: Sometimes It's Just Plain Hard

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

You know what? This is really hard.

Maybe it’s just the up-again-down-again weather, or the time change, or the work stress, or the home stress, or something I ate or didn’t eat, or the phases of the moon, but I am really, really struggling this week. And I don’t have any great ideas for how to fix it.

So I guess this is all the wisdom I have to offer this week: Change is hard.

Even with great support, even with a trainer at the ready and a terrific strategy coach and friends cheering me on, even with wonderful guidance on changing my eating habits and practicing new exercise routines and being kinder to myself – even with all that, I am just not changing as fast as I want to. Or, more to the point, as consistently.

Yeah, I’m eating better. Most of the time. But I am really, really not getting to the gym. And I can’t quite figure out why.

I took this question to Allison Rimm, the aforementioned terrific coach, and she reminded me of an exercise called the 5 Whys. (It’s a Toyota corporate thing, apparently.) If you have a problem or you’re getting stuck on something, you ask “Why?” five times. And by the time you get to the fifth answer, she says, you should have dug down to the root cause of the problem.

So we give it a try.

“I promised my trainer I would get to the gym on Wednesday and Friday at 7 a.m. this week, and I didn’t make it either time.”


“Well, Wednesday I had been up really late the night before because I was at work late and then couldn’t get to sleep, and Friday I had made that commitment while completely forgetting that it was ‘journal day’ in my daughter’s kindergarten, which I love and do every week. It’s ridiculous that I forgot; I just held two conflicting ideas in my head at the same time and didn’t realize it until that morning.”

At this point Allison observes, “Sounds like a bit of self-sabotage going on. Why do you think that is?”

I have to agree, so I accept that as the second “Why?”

“Because something is making me not so eager to go to the gym lately.”


I ponder this one. “Because I don’t like it as much as I did in January, when all the students weren’t there.”


“Because seeing all those young perfect bodies makes me feel fat and clumsy and old, and I feel like they’re looking at me with pity or ridicule or something.”

At this Allison bursts out laughing and says, “They’re college students! They’re so self-absorbed they’re only looking at themselves in the mirror! And even if they are looking at you, why the heck would you care?”

I guess that’s the fifth “Why.”

“Because it reminds me of being a fat little kid in gym class and being made fun of and feeling really bad.”

Yup. Sounds like a root cause to me, all right.

So: I am not a fat little kid anymore.

I am no longer the fifth-grader who ran a 50-yard “dash” in 18.5 seconds. (In that fifth-grader’s defense, my nose was all sweaty so my glasses fell off and I stopped to pick them up, and the gym teacher still insisted on counting that as my official time. But I’m totally over it.) No one is making fun of me. And even if they are, why the heck should I care?

I will now repeat that 100 times, in hopes that one day I’ll believe it.

And meanwhile, just so you know, this stuff is hard. So if you’re having a hard time too, don’t beat yourself up. Just ask why.

Readers, are there times when you feel as if change is just too hard? And if there are, what do you do about it?

Headshot of Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy Contributor
Louise Kennedy previously worked with The ARTery and as editor of Edify.



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