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Whack-a-Mole and Wellness

I’m not sure how popular arcades are anymore. Skee-Ball, Pac-Man, and Frogger have been replaced by Pokemon Go, Fortnite, and Candy Crush. Actually, people still play Pac-Man – but only on their phones.

One game I don’t see very often anymore is Whack-a-Mole. For any readers under the age of 25, this was an arcade game that consisted of taking a rubber or wooden mallet and hitting animatronic rodents that popped up in various spots of the playing surface. If you hit one, two more would pop up in other spots of the board.

It might sound odd, but I often think of Whack-a-Mole when discussing the challenges of holistic wellness.

Let’s say someone is trying to lose weight. If done properly, this process is not just about nutrition. Physical activity, sleep, and stress management all play vital roles in managing this process so it can be done safely and sustainably. If changing your diet leads to increased stress, it’s probably not a good strategy.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to address every facet of wellness at the same time. Too often, it’s just like a game of Whack-a-Mole where you fix one problem only for another to pop up:

“I did a great job with meal prepping this week and hit my daily goals for water intake. But I’ve been getting to bed really late and I’m exhausted so my activity levels have been really low.”


“I’ve been hitting my 10,000 step goal consistently, but I’m really stressed at work and I’ve been stress-eating when I get home every night.”


“I reduced my stress eating, but I'm smoking more cigarettes as a way to cope.”

And so on and so forth.

It is really difficult to maintain consistency in all of these areas, especially if you’re working full-time (and maybe overtime), have kids, deal with anxiety, or are just dealing with the rigors and frustrations of daily life.

But it’s also true that it’s hard to see the benefits of just one of these facets of wellness if you’re neglecting the others.

You don’t need to be a superhero in every area – I never saw anybody get a perfect score in Whack-a-Mole – but you need to be aware of the effects of one factor on the other. Poor sleep can lead to poor nutrition habits, and vice versa. Physical activity can help you manage stress, but it’s hard to be active if you’re tired and over-stressed in the first place. And you won’t get the full benefits out of your exercise unless you fuel properly. You get the point.

If you’re looking to make a change with your diet or exercise routine, it’s fine to work on one thing at a time. In fact, most people are more successful that way. Just make sure that fixing one problem doesn’t lead to another.

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