Fitness is a multifaceted state of being.
We often think of the principal drivers of fitness--exercise (strength, motility, power, agility, stability, flexibility), nutrition, mental outlook, and rejuvenation--as independent components. We forget how each of those drivers depend on each of the other drivers to create what we call fitness. The most easily recognized example of our focus on individual components is how we think a diet is the solution to weight gain. But losing weight is not the same as becoming fit. In fact, there are many people who are thin, but I wouldn't call them fit. How about the person who exercises 2 hours per day, 6-7 days per week but eats junk food. And don't forget about the person who eats like a bird but has a hard time lifting light hand-weight several times. Then there's the person who works out regularly and eats well but continually floods their system with cortisol due to living an unmitigated high stress lifestyle. And then there's the person who is very strong but can't move easily or run up a few flights of stairs or they're flexible but doesn't have much power or strength.
With an awareness of the multifaceted nature of fitness, it becomes clear that a holistic approach to fitness is necessary. We can't just workout or just diet or just meditate or just stretch. We need to do each of them, and do them with a positive, mindful, motivated and playful mental outlook.
Fitness is a path not a goal
When I was obese, I thought that if I just lost the excess weight, I'd be finished. It is a common belief. But a quick look at the the literature shatters that belief. According to the International Journal of Obesity (Int J Obesit 2010;34:1644–54), between ~60% and 95% of those who lose weight will gain it back, and the more weight that is lost, the higher the likelihood that it will be regained. The question of why this happens comes down to a variety of factors with the evidence pointing to biology, psychology, and physiology. With the people I've worked with who came to me after they regained the weight they lost, what I saw was that they had been successful in their weight loss only by changing one area of their life. Some increased the amount of exercise they did. Some decreased the amount of food they ate. Some engaged in mindfulness or meditative practices. But none had changed their lifestyles completely. Conversely, those who undertook fundamental lifestyle changes that included increased exercise, improved nutrition, meditative practices and positive mindset were successful in not only weight loss but fitness.
How to regain fitness
From the place of fitness, it is much easier to recover from a lapse in any of the individual components. I can attest from personal experience that this is the case. Some months back I was injured. To be honest, I don't recall how I got hurt, but I woke up one morning with extreme pain in my shoulders and neck. It was devastating. I could barely move my arms without pain shooting through my neck and the slightest turn of my body caused my shoulders to feel like I was ripping them out of the sockets. After about a week of this I started to get very worried. My mindset crashed along with my exercise routine. Where I had been working out to the tune of an extra >1200 calories burned per day, I was idled. Had exercise been the only pillar of fitness that I developed, I could have gained a lot of weight. Fortunately, thanks to my meditation practice and mindfulness of my eating, I was able to pay attention to the disconnect between what I was eating and signals my body was sending me about how much food I needed. It was in the depths of my physical pain that I forced myself to pay more attention to my nutrition both from an emotional and a habitual perspective. When we feel horrible, when we're afraid, it is easy to attempt to pacify the emotional upheaval with food. The feel-good brain chemicals that get released as a result of a favorite food are what is truly addicting about the food. When exercise is curtailed along with the emotional component, it is important to have a mindfulness about the body's nutritional needs. For the first few weeks of my injury, I continued to eat habitually. In other words, I continued to consume food as if I was still burning an extra 5000-6000 calories per week. Within three weeks, I had gained 5 lbs. Thanks to having a mindfulness and meditative practice that raised my awareness, I was able to catch myself before things went too far off the rails.