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Stephanie Ruhle: 2018 is the year I'll beat 'The Creep'

Twelve years after becoming a working mom, I’m suddenly burnt out and feeling like my pants are tighter. Something has to give.
Image: Super Mother
Beating "The Creep" is about saying no when it best serves me and my family, but also to making more time for myself and to better balance all of the craziness life throws my way.sorbetto / Getty Images

All of my life, I’ve been blessed with a fast metabolism and a petite physique. Like most, I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with fitness; sometimes beginning every day at the gym only to forget about my membership for months at a time. I’m lucky in that this didn’t present much of an issue until I became a parent, at which point, I still didn’t fully appreciate the challenge of striking a balance between my career, my family and my wellbeing.

Weeks would fly by without a single visit to the gym. Hours would pass between client meetings, playdates and Mommy & Me classes before I realized I hadn’t eaten anything at all. And when I did remember to eat, it was never a thoughtful endeavor — it was more about grabbing the nearest snack and shoving it into my mouth before my next commitment, which often meant chocolate, candy and other junky foods I would never actively choose if I had the time or energy to think more about it.

'The Creep' is the deadly combination of time passing and priorities changing.

Why am I now feeling less comfortable in my skin? How do I shake this feeling of always being overwhelmed, over exhausted and thirty minutes late?

It was only very recently that I was able to verbalize what’s going on here. I call it 'The Creep.' No — it’s not a groovy dance move. In fact, it’s anything but that. It’s the deadly combination of time passing and priorities changing. It is inevitable that our kids and our jobs will take precedence over all else, but something’s gotta give. Because all of a sudden, twelve years later, I’m burnt out and feeling like my pants are tighter than they used to be.

Life has a way of creeping up on us. It’s not a life or death situation, but it is a matter of feeling like the best possible versions of ourselves. That’s why 2018 will be the year that I beat The Creep. I’m recommitting to saying no when it best serves me and my family, but also to making more time for myself: to eat better, to exercise more (even if it just means opting for the stairs over the elevator) and to better balance all of the craziness life throws my way.

The Food

I read somewhere recently that you should spend as much time and attention deciding what to eat as you do deciding what to wear. As someone who is on national TV every day, this resonates with me deeply —especially considering I can’t remember the last time I thought that intently about my diet.

In fact, I usually only think about what to eat as I’m already in line at the NBC Commissary to buy it. It’s so imperative to think ahead for this exact reason. Many of us simply do not have enough time to buy the groceries, prep, cook and pack the meals — never mind actually sitting down to eat them. So when meal time comes around, we reach for the nearest sustenance regardless of its content.

With that in mind, I’ve turned my office into a fortress of snack stashes. 100-calorie almond packs fill my top desk drawer. Premier Protein shakes line my mini fridge, stacked next to my favorite Baby Bel cheeses and yogurt cups. So when hunger strikes, I am NOT the crazed lunatic in the Snickers commercials — I am just an arm’s length away from a snack that will leave me feeling energized and back in control.

While this may not be the most exciting way to eat, it keeps me in check Monday through Friday. Plus, this pattern of healthy eating becomes far easier when I remember that moderation is key: if I lay off the hot chocolate during the week, I can truly enjoy my time off with my kids — whether it’s chili at the ski lodge, pizza at a friend’s birthday party or the occasional ice cream sundae on family movie night.

What good is taking the time to finally let off some steam if we never allow ourselves to actually take a step away?

The Physical

Like a lot of overcommitted, overworked Americans, I do not have much time to exercise. Plain and simple. Instead of merely accepting this sad fact, I remind myself of it constantly, so that on the 95 percent of days I know I won’t make it to the gym, I remember to go out of my way to get my body moving.

I have a rule: if I’m traveling three stories or less, the elevator is not an option. I’ve become a master of the 30 Rock stairwells, which, if you’ve ever been in a sky scraper in midtown Manhattan, is a huge feat.

I’m also very fortunate in that I live in a walkable city: all of my kid’s schools are within walking distance from my home, as is the local grocery store, pharmacy and anything else I could possibly imagine. Walking is my main mode of transportation, and provides me with mindless movement on days otherwise spent in an anchor chair. While I understand this is a luxury, we can all do more to get on our feet — even if it’s as simple as getting off the couch and taking a short walk around the neighborhood.

On those rare occasions when I do find time for a Zumba class or a jog, I do my best to live in the moment and fully immerse myself in the experience. What good is taking the time to finally let off some steam if we never allow ourselves to actually take a step away?

The Free Time

On that same note, I am challenging myself to be more present during my weekends off and evenings at home: to put the phone down and to step up my game. It is unrealistic to think we can go home and turn off our phones. We are never truly off the clock. But maybe we can put the phone away for dinner. Perhaps we can do our homework when our kids do theirs.

This time is also an opportunity to work on the food and physical strategies: I spend many Sundays cooking with my kids. Whether it’s spaghetti squash, baked chicken cutlet or tacos, I find my kids are always more excited to eat meals they’ve helped prepare. This is a win/win/win: it’s meal prep for the week, combined with healthy living and quality time with the family all in one activity.

None of these commitments are hard. In fact, some of them are almost painfully simple. It’s just a matter of making the effort. If we do more to take control now, life won’t creep up on us later, when we’ve missed opportunities and time has passed us by.

NEXT: I stopped saying 'yes' to everyone and everything, and it changed my life

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