How to Brush the Dust Off when You've Fallen Off the Wagon
Good morning, Monday! You recently set new challenge with a specific exercise or eating plan. You’re busting at the seams with excitement, motivation, and dedication. You’ve been on track for several days and maybe even weeks, however, today is a challenge and you find that there’s a roadblock up ahead.
Maybe a work deadline was moved up, a family member got sick, or an appliance broke and needs replacing, the list goes on and on! The situation needs to be managed despite your feelings of overwhelm, and as a result, there’s no time to go get a workout in, and a drive-through seems to be the most practical option for dinner.
Within a day’s time, the plan that you were on moves to the back burner, and you feel like you’ve fallen “off the wagon.” You wake up the next day feeling defeated and you’re back where you started. It’s natural to experience bumps in the road after setting health goals. When those unavoidable roadblocks come, use the tools provided below try to put in your toolbox for a little help. Here’s how to make sure it stays a bump and not a derailment.
You’re Not Alone
Over the last several years working as a health and wellness coach, there’s not a single client I’ve coached or supported who hasn’t fallen off plan at some point. In fact, as a coach, I expect it. It’s why I always talk about not letting perfect be the enemy of good. We’re human and striving for perfection is not realistic.
Come Back to Your “WHY”
We often get stuck in the “what” of our plans: what workout we’re supposed to do, what meal we’re supposed to eat, what habit we’re supposed to focus on. When things get tough, it’s the “what” that’s easy to give up on. But, it’s not as easy to give up on is your “why.” For any goal you’re trying to achieve, it’s critical to identify the real driving force behind the changes you’re making. Maybe you hope to be healthier than your parents so you can be more involved with your kids and grandkids. Or maybe you want to prevent or overcome a chronic illness. Or possibly you’re looking to regain your confidence and energy after a challenging time in life.
Whatever that force is for you, it’s helpful to remind yourself of it regularly, but especially when you feel like you’ve fallen off your plan. Bringing it to the forefront of your mind might be exactly what you need to shake off the stumble and keep going.
Drink Some Water, Break a Sweat, and Make a Healthy Choice
From a practical standpoint, the best thing to do is to try to get out of your head and pick right back up with the healthy habits that are part of your plan. Not tomorrow, but today. Even if it means going back to the basics – just take a step forward!
Track Your Habits
Self condemnation gets you nowhere but spiraling downward. We can be too quick to commiserate on misses and self-shame. Using data can help bring awareness to the likely insignificant meaning of the “off-the-wagon” situation you’re experiencing. One great tool for this is to commit to tracking your habit consistency over the course of your program duration. That way at a glance you’ll be able to stack up today’s wrong move against several days’ worth of regular and steady change.
Reframe as Situational, Rather than Personal
Life happens to all of us, and any strict approach that’s free of flexibility only sets us up for disappointment. Instead use these times as a learning opportunity to encourage lasting change.
It’s likely that the situation you find yourself in will happen again at another time or in another form. Instead of mentally bashing yourself for not “powering through” and living up to unrealistic expectations, fill in the blank with “I wish I would have had ________ on hand.”
Whatever you fill in the blank with, make a purposeful effort to have that thing on hand for next time.
It’s not about IF you’ll fall off the wagon, but when. What you choose to do when that time comes will determine if you’re ultimately successful. Having a set plan to follow is pivotal to ensuring you stay “on the wagon,” even when th