When you’ve fallen off the wagon, eaten something you wish you hadn’t, not quite finished the eating challenge you set out to do, or had some other less than stellar episode with food or drink, what do you do? How do you get back up and continue on your journey towards better health? Here are a few things that I find helpful when getting back on track to a better version of me…
1) Reflect. Regardless of the journey you’re on, it can be extremely valuable to reflect along the way. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will miraculously have clarity around your actions and be able to stop any similar behaviors before they happen again (I wish!), but it does mean you will have a greater understanding of why you made those choices. The why is important because it provides an opportunity to understand what triggers certain behaviors, let’s you decide if those choices are in line with your goals or not, and perhaps sets the stage for making different decisions the next time. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process. Just try to understand why you stumbled so that you can be aware of that particular obstacle in the future.
2) Plan. So you took a nose-dive. When you get up and dust off the crumbs, you need to start moving forward, and in order to do that effectively, you need a plan. Even if you aren’t a natural planner, this step is important and it helps you get back on the path to success. I’m not talking about an elaborate, step-by-step layout for your entire future, either. What really helps is just knowing what you’re going to do next. Maybe it’s your dinner plan or even just what things you’re going to buy at the grocery store so you’re all stocked up. Maybe you plan a few snacks so that when hunger strikes, you’re prepared. The point is to take some ownership of your next steps and then do it.
3) Get going. Totally unrelated to food, my dad once told me that sometimes you just need to start behaving as if “it” (in this case maybe the “it” is a balanced approach to food or whatever speaks to you) were true. This might sound strange, but think about it. Instead of dwelling on past disappointments or bad choices, just start BEING. Make the next bite a healthy food, drink a cup of tea, get a workout in. Don’t let what was or what might or might not be hold you back. Just get moving in the direction you want to go. The longer your behaviors align with your goals, the greater the likelihood of reaching them.
4) Take it one step at a time. Sometimes we fall so hard that it can seem overwhelming to begin again. We think we’ve failed and might as well just give up. Or we might identify so deeply with the person who returned to old habits that we think it’s impossible to break free. In order to move forward, we need to be okay with taking small steps in the direction of our goal. Each moment is an opportunity to remind yourself that you already ARE that person you see in your mind’s eye and each deliberate step in that direction helps strengthen that belief. With each tiny step, we get closer and closer to realizing that best version of our self.
5) Celebrate. Celebrate every little thing. Our brain loves it when we reward it so if we celebrate frequently the little actions that we take that move us closer to our goal, our brain is going to help us move a little closer again. We want our brain on our side, right? Well then…tell it that it’s doing a great job! Pat yourself on the back, literally or figuratively, give a little cheer for yourself, actually SAY, “Great job!”, or do a little something special, like carving out some time for a bubble bath or buying some new workout gear. Whatever! The important thing is to take a moment to mark the occasion of working towards your goal. You deserve it!