We’re all allowed some indulgence at times and the festive season is the hardest time of the year to keep healthy eating on track.
Before you know it, a few days or a week has gone by and you seem to have slipped straight into old unhealthy patterns. You may feel guilty and beat yourself up and that makes you crave comfort snacks and behaviours even more. Does this sound familiar? If it does, know that you are not alone.
So what can you do when this happens? Here are 10 things you can do to get back on track:
Don’t turn the setback into a moral issue
You’re not a bad person or destined to be unfit and unhealthy forever just because you slipped up. Try to think of the setback as a way to develop better coping skills. What can you learn from what happened? How can you prevent it or handle it better in the future?
Learn from your experience
If you don’t recognise what led you to fall off the diet or exercise wagon, you’ll probably react the same way the next time the situation arises. Write down a list of the situations that trigger you to overeat or skip training, and plan an alternative for each. For example, if parties are your downfall, have a healthy snack beforehand to keep your appetite in check. Arrange to meet a friend at your training session to make it less likely that you will skip the run.
Don’t try to make up for the slip by eating too little and exercising too much
This will only set up an unhealthy pattern of gaining and losing weight and create anxiety about your relationship with food. Even worse, you could pick up an over-training injury which will set you back. Just continue on from where your training and nutrition plan says you need to be. Chat to your coach if you are unsure about where to start.
Look at the big picture
If you’re trying to lose weight, realise that your journey requires a decrease in calories over time, but it doesn’t matter what the exact time period is. So consider your food intake a week or a month at a time instead of every day. Chances are you’ll have good days and bad days and slipping up once in a while isn’t that big of a deal. You can always make up for it later in the week, or at the next meal. Just be careful not to slip back into continuously slipping. Similarly, your body takes time to build fitness and if you miss one or two training sessions it will not derail your whole journey.
Renew your motivation
Going off your diet or exercise is a signal that your motivation has veered off track. So sit down and take stock: When you were following your programme, how did you feel? What was motivating you then? Recreating those feelings can help you get your incentive back.
Plan ahead to keep hunger at bay
When you let yourself get too hungry, it’s all too easy to overeat. To avoid that, plan nutritious snacks into your day. When you’re away from home, carry a “snack pack” filled with healthy options. Just like you don’t want to eat too much, you also need to be sure not to eat too little. Drink lots of water as well as dehydration can mimic hunger.
Don’t deprive yourself
Cutting out all your favourite foods is a sure-fire way to trigger feelings of deprivation that can lead to a binge. Instead, choose healthier options: have a half-cup of low-fat frozen yogurt instead of a pint of ice cream, a bite-sized chocolate instead of a whole one. Make sure you select food that tastes good to you to include in your meal plan. Healthy does not have to be boring.
Don’t stop moving
Even if you don’t have time to make it out for your full planned run, duck out for a 20-minute run when you have a gap. Even a short run will help your burn the extra calories and help relieve the stress that can trigger overeating. Exercise also releases feel good hormones that help to lift your spirits and improve motivation.
Find an “accountability partner”
This can be a fellow runner or just a friend or family member who will provide encouragement for your efforts. Share your intentions and goals with your partner and check in regularly to help keep each other on track.
Change your routine
Perhaps you slipped into old habits because you became too used to the new routine. Spice it up. Use this as an opportunity to try a new exercise class or activity and add some new, healthy foods to your regime (visit your local farmer’s market or a food festival for inspiration). It will add spark to your routine and keep you from getting bored.
Remember, going off track does not mean that you have failed and should give up! It simply means that you’re human and you have an opportunity to change your path with every new decision.
Elsabe is a strength coach at Fit.STRONG Coaching. She is a fully qualified, REPSSA registered Personal Trainer who believes that age is irrelevant and fitness is for everyone. She specialises in sports specific training and conditioning, weight loss, rehabilitative exercise and functional fitness. Read more about Elsabe here