It happens to the best of us. Sometimes you get caught up, life gets in the way, your schedule changes, you lose motivation, or a cheat day turns into weeks or longer, and you haven’t picked yourself back up. And that’s okay. It’s time to dust yourself off and get out of this rut. You can do it, you just might need some pointers to get into the right mindset.
Realize It’s Okay to Start Again
We can all become obsessed with timelines. And having a timeline can be essential to achieving a goal or sticking to a plan. When that goal is fitness or health oriented, we can easily wallow in our failures of not meeting that timeline, but the truth is it’s never too late to start again.
Don’t let this period of inconsistency dictate the rest of your life. Just think about the future: you can either get back on the wagon, and eventually reach your goals; or you can continue with your current lifestyle and be the same or worse off in 6 months or a year from now. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Start Again ASAP
Start today, don’t wait for tomorrow. If you are waiting for everything to align in order to start again, you’ll be waiting forever. It’s easy to make excuses and put things off. “Today won’t be perfect, so I’ll start tomorrow”, or “I won’t have time today to do everything I want to do, so I’m going to do nothing at all”. See how that sounds?
“It’s too late to go to the gym”, or “I ate like an jerk at lunch, so I’m going to eat like an jerk the rest of the day too”. Your day does not have to be perfect. Put effort into smaller changes if necessary. So you don’t have time for the gym – how about a light home workout, or a few stretches, or even writing out your goals or plan for the future. Do something for yourself today that will help future you. And when you look back in 6 weeks, you’ll be happy that you didn’t wait. Because if you did, who knows what other excuses you would have made, or what obstacles would have gotten in the way. The only one standing in the way is yourself.
Don’t Punish Yourself
So you’ve been eating like a real jerk lately, or you’ve been skipping the gym entirely. The worst thing you can do for yourself is go into a cycle of yo-yo dieting or exercise by extreme diet restriction or extremely unpleasant exercise. Don’t starve yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Just start your plan again (or your new plan) with how you intend to do it long-term. The key here is thinking of how your actions will affect you long term. If you start a crash diet, you may well end up binging and coming back full circle. Stick to something sustainable.
Track Your Food
Want to lose weight? Calorie deficit. Want to gain lean mass? Calorie surplus. These don’t have to be extremes. However, if you’re not properly tracking your food intake, you can be over or underestimating how much you’re consuming, by a lot.
The key to tracking your food is to weigh your food. Nutrition labels and serving sizes lie. A serving size of peanut butter is 32 grams, 210 calories. However, what you put on that tablespoon is probably closer to 45 grams, 295 calories. That is a difference of 85 calories. While 85 calories might not seem like much, consider all the other things you’re consuming that are underestimated in calories. You can easily consume an extra 500 calories just from measurement inconsistencies throughout the day. Over a week, that’s 1 lb. that you didn’t lose.
Same goes if you’re trying to gain lean mass. Just because you should be in a surplus, doesn’t mean that that surplus has to be outrageous. If you’re consuming too much of a surplus, along with any muscle you’re building, you’ll also be gaining unwanted fat.
Get a food scale, a calorie tracking app (that allows you to create your own entries in grams) and set aside those measuring cups. The discrepancies are major.
Okay, maybe you’ve lost some or a lot of strength. Going up a flight of stairs now leaves you winded. That doesn’t mean you just give up. It means you start doing the things you can do, and aim to continuously improve.
Maybe you want to get moving again, but find it hard knowing where, how, or when to start. How about start by doing anything? The best exercise is one you can safely perform. So if you’re wanting to gain your strength again, you will need to be lifting weights, and you will likely not be able to lift the same amounts you were previously. Start with a light weight, and go from there. Don’t be ashamed that you’re not as strong as you wished or you were, be proud that you got back up and started doing it again. Ignore the opinions of others, and do what you can safely perform and what gets you moving, period.
Maybe all you can handle now is a brief walk. That’s okay too. Walk, swim, jog, whatever you choose, do what you can, push yourself a little, but not enough for you to be too sore to move the next day. Moderation is key.
Change the Things You Can
Not everything can be changed, and that’s just a fact of life. Change what you can, and adapt to the things you cant.
So maybe now after this hiatus from diet and exercise you won’t meet your deadline of having the “perfect body” by January 1st. But you can change that timeframe of when you’d like to have your “perfect body” (if that’s even a thing). Maybe your gym is only open from 5-2, but you’re a night owl. You can either change yourself by waking up earlier to get to the gym when they open, or you can find a new gym.
There’s a solution to (almost) any problem, you just need to find one that is feasible for you. And sometimes you might not like the solution, and that is when you need to consider how important your goals are to you.
Renew Your Motivation
Motivation can come and go in waves. So in periods when you just don’t care, you need to revisit your “WHY” and think of solutions that will get you back on track to complete your “why”.
This can be from finding new activities to be active in, new foods or recipes to try, meeting or following new people, implementing a reward system, or remapping out your plan.
Learn From Your Experience
You can gain something from this experience. Failing doesn’t mean you have to fail forever, and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. In fact, with this setback, you might have been led to new or better opportunities and ideas this time around. Don’t ever give up on the things that are important to you.