We have all been there, many times! Things are going great. You’re eating well, moving your body regularly, and then..something happens, and all your best-laid plans are out the window. A crisis at work, the loss of a loved one, a weekend getaway, or… a global pandemic that changes everything! Sometimes it’s nothing memorable, you just sort of… stop trying.
What do you do when you realize you’ve fallen off the wagon?
It’s simple. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and climb back on.
Were You Really “Off the Wagon?”
Before talking about how to get back on the wagon, it’s worth asking yourself if you were really off in the first place. It’s one thing to lose your way for a while and make choices that erode the health gains you’d made. It’s another to allow yourself to enjoy a decadent dessert at a fancy restaurant, or to have one stressful week at work that leaves you with no time to meal prep or go to the gym.
There’s no set timeline where you can say, “Now I’m officially off the wagon.” There’s no set number of lenient meals, sweet treats, or sedentary days in a row that determine that you’re not “in” a healthy lifestyle anymore. It’s subjective. There’s no membership card.
The point of this exercise is to avoid the temptation to make a big deal over minor blips. Diet culture is all about “cheating” and “failing” and “starting over.”
When you are aiming to live a BOSS life, self-flagellation or shame spirals aren’t part of the plan. Sometimes dessert is just dessert.
That said, there are times when you’ve well and truly fallen off the metaphorical wagon, and you’re ready to get back on track.
Let’s break this down into three parts: what you need to do immediately, in the short term, and making plans for the long term.
1. Just Start
Just start. Make your next meal a healthy and satisfying one (check out my Boss Body Bible for tons of good options).
Hop on to my Instagram account, choose one of my workouts and do one set. Set a bedtime alarm on your phone and actually hit the sheets when it goes off. Whatever success looks like to you, take one concrete step. That’s it.
“Start by fasting for a day”—it’s common advice.
Fasting offers a quick jumpstart. Fasting burns through glycogen, accelerating fat burning and putting you on the road to ketosis if that’s your plan. It’s also a symbolic marking or commitment to making today a changing point.
Note: This isn’t a good strategy for people who have struggled with disordered eating behaviors in the past. Fasting isn’t inherently problematic, but it can be, such as when someone gets into a cycle of “cheating” then fasting to “atone”.
If fasting isn’t your thing, no problem. A high-intensity exercise session also burns through glycogen and ramps up fat burning, especially if you don’t replenish with carbs after. You can commemorate your first day by starting a new journal, circling the day on your calendar in red mark
er, preparing a special meal, making a public commitment to friends and family, or hiring a health coach. Or, as I said, you can just take the first step and not look back.
2. Bask in Your Initial Victory
Once you’ve eaten one healthy meal or done one workout, congratulations, you’re back on track. Now you have to stay on track, but take a minute to commend yourself.
If your inner critic tries to tell you that you won’t really be back on the wagon until you string together 30 sugar-free days, or you’re deadlifting your previous personal best, shut that voice down straight away! Those are great goals, but you don’t have to achieve them before you are allowed to feel proud that you took the first step.
3. Make your life easy to stay on track
- Stocking your fridge with on-plan foods, and donating foods you don’t want to be eating
- Picking a few basic recipes to get you through the first few days, or starting your week with a meal prep
- Getting your home workout equipment unpacked and putting it in a prominent spot
- Buying those new running shoes and leaving them where you see them first thing in the morning
- Moving the TV and the phone and tablet chargers out of your bedroom
- What is my biggest obstacle, and what can I do today to remove that obstacle, or at least make it easier to avoid?
- What are two or three things that I can do today to make it easier to stick to my goal?