This is Chapter 7 from my book, Weight Loss Zen, in the “Back on Track” section.
I heard a story about someone who got off track for a good while, and how she found her way back. The story itself doesn’t matter too much, because so many of us already know it: she wasn’t doing her plan, but couldn’t say exactly why. There was always this little thing or that little thing, whatever it was, getting in the way. So she’d surely do it “soon.” Except soon didn’t seem to ever show up.
Personally, I suspect this is phase two of the “Diet Detour” that trips up even long-term, dedicated and smart dieters. Phase one is the creep, perhaps beget by bargaining (“a little won’t hurt”), becoming gradually more frequent until you’re not really on your plan much at all anymore. Maybe you still believe. You may still have the faith, sisters and brothers. But you’re not practicing.
So you feel guilty. You chastise yourself and maybe get disgusted. And feeling as crummy and out-of-control as you do, you look to soothe that burn with a little more junk food comfort eating, followed by promises you’ll restart “soon.” You even mean it. But somehow, that soon never arrives.
Well, why not do something now, then? Now is super soon, after all. You want to get back on that wagon?
Here are some easy-to-follow tips for folks wanting to get back on track. Mix and match. Pick whatever appeals to you and just get yourself restarted already, for goodness sakes! You’ve got a life to live, y’kno.
Start improving your habits, whatever shape they may be in, RIGHT THIS MINUTE. You don’t have to exercise three hours a day for it to count as an improvement. Fifteen minutes of activity is an improvement over none, and far more manageable than hours at a time. Maybe your eating isn’t clean, but you can start avoiding the worst of the worst, right? Even if you’re not fully back in the swing, you can get the ingredients for some of your on-plan favorites and add them to the menu rotation, right? Just freakin’ start, man.
Stop asking yourself what’s “wrong” with you. There’s no inherent character flaw causing detours. Stress, illness, injury, business, family, whatever all distract us sometimes. You know? Any combination thereof. There are myriads of reasons people detour. The guilt-tripping just makes it harder to keep your attitude positive. By now, you know that’s crucial, right? ‘Cause it is, man!
Take care of your other needs (both physical and emotional). I harp on this, because I think self-care is usually the first item on the schedule to get cut and the last to be restored. Commitments to others always take precedence. What a waste: when we care for our own needs, we are SO much better equipped to help others, it’s just a no-brainer. Love thyself first.
Set the stage for success. What helped you before? Did you cook ahead? Have some favorite snacks on hand? Haul around your favorite water jug everywhere? Happily while away the hours perusing new recipes? You don’t have to be fully in the zone to start doing some of the stuff that helped you stay on track when you were on track.
Start knocking down obstacles. Look at what situations create the most problems for you, and start there. If friends have desserts at get-togethers, start bringing your own, plan-friendly dessert. (Others may appreciate this as well.) If you can’t pass your spouse’s snacks, buy a flavor or type you don’t like. If you tend to overeat when you’re tired or stressed, start addressing the tired and stressed issues, and the eating part falls into line.
Please stop calling the sugar-encrusted junk food “treats.” I know this is how we’ve referred to them for years. I still do it sometimes, too. But when what you’re really treating yourself is less health, is “treat” really how you want to describe it? Would it sound as appealing if we called them “fat pills” instead of “delicious donut hole treats?” Mentally connect what you’re eating with what it creates. Not feeling your best is NOT a treat!
Remember: It wasn’t that hard when you were in the zone. Remind yourself. I know of almost no one who has done this for any length of time who found it remotely as difficult as anticipated beforehand. With the huge variety of options and recipes, there is no excuse to be bored or unsatisfied with your food. Developing workable habits takes some time and effort initially, but soon become second nature.
Reread your plan. There will be bits and pieces you’ve forgotten, and just reviewing the material helps build motivation and resolve.
Participate in a community (like Low Carb Zen on Facebook). Even if you’re not currently eating well, interacting with others who are will help inspire you. Seeing what they are talking about will also help remind you of the tricks of the trade, and why you decided to do it in the first place.
Think about the people who love and count on you. While people always say “you have to lose weight for yourself,” considering loved ones can be some of the most powerful motivation available. Staying healthy and strong allows you to look forward to a longer, brighter future together. Setting a good example for your kids may significantly alter their lifestyles and health for the rest of their lives. It really is the absolute best gift you can give loved ones, taking good care of yourself.
Look for progress and celebrate it. Perfection isn’t necessary (and its quest often becomes nothing more than a fancy method of procrastination). Any progress contributes positively to the sum total. There is NO improvement that’s too small to build upon. It all counts.
Don’t stop. If I had to sum up the secret to any and all dieting success in two words, those are the two! Don’t stop. The only real failure is to give up on improving your health and your life. You’re coherent enough to read these words? Then you’ve still got some kick left. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop.
Focus on what you’ve got. A life of denial and restriction gets old fast. A life of enthusiasm and anticipation inspires and energizes. While this obviously applies to your menu, if you actually focus your attention on what you like about the rest of your life, it will help you be a happier person as well as a happier dieter. Happy people do better.
For many, detours ARE just another part of the journey. So treat it that way. Be kind to yourself and build yourself up. Give yourself permission to address your own needs, and remember that eating well is one of those needs that pays off so many ways.
Encourage yourself along the same way you would a beloved friend, and you can’t go too far astray.
And welcome home.