During our final LUNA practice of the season, I was jogging along with my teammate Syreeta when she asked for the low-down on whether or not I really eat clean and work out all the time. Because I work in the fitness industry and blog about healthy habits, she wondered if it was, in fact, realistic to be disciplined 100 percent of the time.
Much to her relief, my response was a laugh as I walked her through the previous weekend’s activities and eats: Thanks to a combination of travel, a busy workweek beforehand, some minor pregnancy aches and pains, a football game and crummy weather, I’d not only missed my workouts but also ate anything but what I’d call “clean” or the previous 48 hours.
But I explained my philosophy: Falling off the wagon — whether it’s an unplanned off day or a weekend of heavy eating — isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever. You don’t get points for being perfect when it comes to a healthy lifestyle; you succeed by making incremental, sustainable changes and by being consistent.
Not only was Syreeta already doing everything right by choosing workouts that get her excited and keep her coming back for more, but it was also a great reminder for myself that there’s a big difference between losing one battle and winning the overall war when it comes to staying fit, healthy and happy…especially right now!
So here are my five tricks for getting back on track when I fall off the proverbial wagon, be it working out, eating clean or otherwise:
1. Wake up, don’t beat up. Get out of your head; you’re not weak or flawed, you just suffered a minor setback. I find it helpful to focus on quickly correcting course and asking myself what I can learn from the experience (i.e. if I don’t work out first thing in the morning, I know now that it likely won’t get done later in the day).
2. Worry less, act more. Rather than fretting about whether you’re strong enough to commit to certain changes, it’s a lot more productive to use that energy to make a game plan for fixing whatever’s broken in the current system. I used to get upset with myself for missing a scheduled workout, but now I accept that it happens and move on, making a plan for my next one.
3. Accept and appreciate. Everyone has cravings or days where they don’t feel motivated. I just try to notice when they happen and figure out what’s going on (am I over-tired and craving a sugar pick-me-up? over-scheduled and not leaving time for self-care activities?) so I can address it in a way that establishes a new, healthier habit (a brisk 10-minute walk during the afternoon slump or an appointment in my calendar to work out with a friend).
4. Learn from success stories. We all have strengths and weaknesses; while I’m good about workout goals, I tend to have less patience when it comes to cooking (especially during the week), so I lean on friends for advice. I’ve got several girlfriends who have a knack for whipping up healthy meals mid-week, so I hit them up for tips and aim to model their behavior at least 80 percent of the time.
5. Above all, be mindful. Huh?! Well, ever feel like you go into a trance when you bust open that bag of chips? Or say yes to any invite before considering how it’ll impact your schedule? That’s auto-pilot, where it’s easy to let urges drive your actions. Instead, I try to stop and think about a decision’s impact, which makes it easier to keep myself accountable.
Remember: We all fall off the wagon at one time or another. What separates those of us who are successful from those of us who end up in a vicious cycle is the ability to “fail fast” and then get back at it.