How to get back on track when your diet has derailed
It’s 2:30pm and all I can think about are cinnamon rolls and cake.
I wander into the kitchen, trolling through cabinets looking for something to satiate the sugar beast that’s rumbling inside me, and settle on a spoonful of almond butter on a date. It helps, but honestly, not much. Now I’m dreaming of ice cream.
What on earth is going on? I have beaten my inner sugar monster to the curb but she’s back and she’s HANGRY..
We just got home from a much-needed family vacation, and I can honestly say that I ate horribly. My body and mind are still reeling from it. Daily indulgences, only the most minimal amount of veggies, slipping into carbivore territory, not enough water… Holiday mode on steroids.
Sometimes folks think I stand here on my pedestal of kale and bone broth to tell you how to eat. Let there be no mistake: we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the trenches and I know with painful intimacy what it feels like to fall off the wagon and wonder how in the world I’m going to get back on.
Here’s what I do when it’s time to get myself back into food shape:
1) Don’t wait until Monday.
Start now. Start the moment you realize you’ve been eating horribly, you feel like crap, and you’re ready to take control of things again. “I’ll start on Monday” is really code for “I know I should be eating better, but I’m not feeling ready yet so I’m going to go hog wild between now and Sunday night and will magically drum up the willpower I need on Monday morning.”
This is a recipe for disaster. I can tell you from first-hand experience if you wait until Monday either the change won’t stick or you’ll make it that much harder on yourself.
Because you’ve got other stuff to worry about on Monday: work, getting the kids to school, weekday commitments. Why add “get back on food plan” to the list? Further more, if you’ve been cramming in every indulgence you can get your hands on as you gear up for the day the diet hammer descends, that day is going to suck. Mondays are hard enough as it is.
More importantly, when you start now – whenever “now” is – you send a strong message of empowerment. You’re the one in charge of your food, you can master this anytime and anywhere, not just on Mondays with all the other yo-yo dieters.
Last week I got real with my diet on Wednesday. My husband started a 21-day cleanse on Thursday. Give the other days of the week a chance.
2) Be gentle with yourself.
It’s easy to beat yourself up when you realize you’ve slipped far off your ideal program. So what if you’ve been eating as though the grand cupcake famine is right around the corner? Welcome to being human. Recognize that every single food manufacturer – from the massive corporate entities with huge marketing budgets to the quaint new ice cream shop down the street – is out to lure you away from eating well. They want you to eat their food, lots of it, and they don’t really care about how it affects your health or waistline.
Once you realize that most outside forces are conspiring against you, you can be a little more forgiving of yourself. It’s sad but true that eating horribly is a societal norm, while taking good care of what you eat can actually make you the odd man out. It’s totally backwards, yes, and we’d all be much healthier if it were the other way around, but it is what it is.
So be gentle, take a big breath, and know that your commitment to yourself is bigger than all these external influences, your health vastly more important. No self-flagellation allowed.
3) Do what you already know.
You know more than you think you do. You don’t need a health coach or another diet book to tell you the basics. Yes, there are as many, often conflicting, theories on what “healthy eating” is as there are flavors of ice cream, but the central principles are the same: do what you already know:
Drink more water
Eat more veggies
Cut the sugar
And so on…
Make a list of everything you know you should be doing, and start there. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. You can always get help fine-tuning later.
4) You might feel worse before you feel better, and that’s ok.
We have this idea that when we switch from eating junk to eating healthfully, we should see and feel the results immediately. It’s a real kick in the pants when you start eating well and initially you feel worse.
Make no mistake: these foods – especially sugar – are as addictive as drugs and we go through withdrawal when we cut them out. To get through it, drink more water, get extra sleep wherever you can, and know that it will be worth it when you get to the other side.
5) Build in a release valve: the 80/20 rule.
No one’s perfect. Not me, not you. We all need our treats. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence – it’s when it becomes a daily habit that we get into trouble. If you told me I couldn’t eat another Kyra’s cinnamon roll ever again I’d sit down and have a good cry. But if you told me I could have one day a week where I can indulge my guilty pleasures to my heart’s content, I’d be much more willing to be very disciplined the rest of the week. So that’s exactly what I do.
What are your strategies for getting back on track when you’ve fallen off the food wagon? Share your experience in the comments below!
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