Discipline Versus Habit

I am 38 years old and have two great kids and a supportive partner. I work hard and I love my job. The only area of my life where i have no control is my weight and fitness. I have an amount of weight to lose and every morning I know that I'm no closer to doing that. This is getting me down now and my confidence is low. I feel like a failure and blame my own lack of discipline. How do I build that to feel good about myself again?



Ah, discipline. Or is it habit. What is it that makes us do the things we do, or, not do the things we should do. One of the worst things we can do at this time of the year, which is a nasty time of year to do anything unpleasant, is to make massive sweeping changes and expect ourselves to endure for any length of time. Anything that involves decision making is not a habit, habits are almost like reflex actions, brushing your teeth, cleaning your hands, turning on the radio. Imagine if it became a habit to add one small positive action into your life every week of this year. Week One, I only take the stairs never the lift or escalator. Week Two, I only eat carbs at one meal per day. Week Three, I will have a weekly meet up, on the same day, at the same time, for an hours walk with a friend. The incremental power of these small changes is not to be underestimated. Then, they just become what you do.

Imagine if by mid March you could list ten small changes that you had made in how you live your life. Now that would not only be satisfying, it would most definitely yield results. We reached out to Marie Gleeson, whose journey from naval cadet to Captain of the LE AOIFE has given her unique insight into people and how to maximise performance even in the most challenging of circumstances. Discipline and structure have been at the core of her leadership in extraordinary circumstance. Her down to earth advice is below.


Firstly, you are not alone – there are so many others who are exactly in the same

boat as you because they prioritise everyone that they care about ahead of

themselves. It sounds like you have a very busy life which revolves around your

family and your job. The key to a successful heath and fitness routine is putting

yourself first (an alien concept to most of us!). This will most likely require a change

in mindset and a discussion with your children and your partner. A fitness routine has

to be just that – a routine. It does not have to be rigid but it is easier in the early days

to try and commit to at least three sessions per week. It will require a review of all of

your commitments, those of your partner and those of children to see where you can

find time for your fitness plan.

The key is to choose an activity that you really enjoy (or see yourself enjoying as

your fitness improves) and ideally one where there are other people involved. If you choose walking or jogging then try to get another member of the family or a friend involved. You will be more motivated if you feel supported. It may be worthwhile searching for a local running club or group – especially if they do a couch to 5K event. The weekly park run is another event which you could involve the whole family in. The more enjoyable you find the activity the more likely you are to commit to it and to enjoy it.

There are other options which are more expensive such as gyms and personal

trainers – this will require a review in order to determine if the financial outlay is

feasible. Many gyms offer taster sessions before you commit to membership which is

a great way to get a sense of how you feel about this type of training. The gym is a

fantastic option as you will get a fitness assessment and a training plan as part of

your membership package (in most gyms) but it is one that can be very expensive if

not utilised so definitely one that you need to consider fully before committing.

You are most certainly not a failure – as I am sure your family, partner, children and

colleagues would all attest to! Self-confidence, particularly as a woman, can be very

linked to personal appearance and to what we believe other people think of us. It

may be worthwhile to consider some counselling sessions in order to have an open

and frank discussion about how you are feeling. Sometimes we do not feel

comfortable to discuss our true feelings, especially with those close to us. The fact

that you consider yourself a failure and that you are struggling with confidence must

be taking its toll on you. It is also most likely a burden that you are attempting to

carry primarily by yourself- it might be nice to offload that pressure. There is no

failure in attending counselling and indeed some would see it as an essential factor

in self-care.

I would recommend that you try to introduce some gentle exercise with family and friends – walking or cycling perhaps?

The New Year also coincides with the start of the Operation Transformation series

on RTE 1 – it might be worth a watch and also downloading the app as there is some

great advice available about fitness and healthy eating. My best advice is to look at

activities that make you happy and that you enjoy, surround yourself with support

and remember that you have a wonderful family who adore their mum/partner. I am

sure they love you to pieces and want you to be the happiest and most content that

you can be – and that means occasionally putting them second.

If you have a question or problem that you would like help with, please hit the request solution button and we'll find people who can help. If you know someone who might benefit from this advice, please do share ANOTHER MOTHER with them.