As weeks pass since you finish the 6 Week Challenge or maybe even before successfully completing the program, you may find yourself slipping. If you don’t catch it early and don’t have the right mindset, you may do what you thought you never would again: go back to couch surfing and junk food binging. You may feel negative emotions like anger, frustration, or shame, may feel like you failed, or may go into denial and totally avoid facing the issue.
However, on the road to a healthy fit lifestyle, relapses happen, they are common, and they are not a catastrophe. It doesn’t have to cancel out all your hard work. Even minor bad habits are hard to break, so treat yourself with patience and kindness. When it comes to major behavioral changes, few people do it perfectly first time around. For most of us, it’s a process. By recognizing what can trigger the relapse, you can develop better techniques for anticipating and avoiding roadblocks. The key is planning, NOT willpower.
Here are five common triggers.
Everyone deals with stress differently. Some go to the gym, some veg out with a book or a TV marathon, some hit the sauce or open the fridge. In the past, when you had a bad day at work or got in a fight with a loved one, you may have resorted to food for solace (or alcohol, which – among other things – is high in calories, carbs and/or sugar, hinders weight loss , and increases appetite). Unless you learn healthy means of combatting stress, you will want to start binge- or pleasure-eating again when you feel the pressure.
As with everything, preparation is key. If you are going out to a restaurant with your friends, check out the menu and decide what you will order ahead of time. If you are going to a gathering at your friend’s house, bring a healthy dish or two. The host will appreciate it, and you will have something to default to, if no other healthy options are available. For some events, you may want to have a good hearty meal at home beforehand and skip eating there altogether.
Way too often we get overly concerned with what other people may think about our nutrition choices. The truth is people don’t care! They want to hang out with you because they like your company, not because you both like hotdogs and chips.
On a separate note, there will be some people who will mock your healthy lifestyle and brag about their own self-destructive habits and behaviors, wearing them as a badge of honor. Don’t give those jabs a second thought, for they have little to do with you and everything to do with that person. You see, as humans, we hate internal conflict. So if you know you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, you have two choices: change it or continuously justify it. Every change comes with a pain of some sort and requires work, determination, commitment, courage, consistency, and discipline. Constant justification of poor decisions, actions and behaviors, on the other hand, does not have these requirements. Though in the long run, not having the courage to leave your “comfort” zone will cost you much more pain and suffering than a change ever would. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.” Thank you, Mr. Franklin, for pointing out that we are masters at justifying right about anything we do – whether it helps us or hurts us.
So don’t let these people bring you down. You are on the right track!
Whether it’s for work or pleasure, travel can throw off our healthy routines and make us vulnerable to relapses, both in nutrition and fitness. Instead of giving up and telling yourself you’ll pick things back up when you get home (which is more difficult than you think, if you completely fell off the wagon), make a specific action plan to get you through your next trip unscathed.
1) Research where you’re staying and what workout options you have. Do all this BEFORE the trip.
* When I used to have a gym membership, I would GoogleMap the closest gym to my hotel, know its hours of operation, and make a plan on what times I was going to work out.
* Many hotels have a swimming pool and a small gym with some equipment.
* YouTube is full of awesome no-equipment-needed HiiT workouts. Find and save 2-3 videos that you like, and make your own simple training program: days, times, and workout focus/video. It will take you literally 15-20 minutes, and will save you the headache.
2) Make eating a BIG priority. Always! You can’t out-train the spoon and fork.
* Pack some healthy snacks with you in your bag – apples and almonds are a great go-to.
* If at all possible, choose a hotel room with a small kitchen. Fridge and microwave are great! Stove is a big bonus.
* Before going out to eat, check out the restaurant online, look at the menu, and pre-order your meal in your mind. Stick to grilled and steamed options.
* Pick your battles! Make it a cheat meal, not a cheat day/s, and compensate by having a good cardio workout and eating extra clean on the days before and after.
3) Stay active!
* Go for a run around town. Enjoy a nice hike. Walk laps in the airport. Have a morning jog on the beach. Swim in the ocean. Just keep moving!
Life nowadays is incredibly hectic. And can I tell you a secret? No one has time for ANYTHING. “I can’t do XYZ, because I have no time” is a faulty mindset. We MAKE time for the things that matter to us, for what we desire most. Wake up an hour earlier for work and hit the gym, before your brain realizes what you’re doing and tries to come up with excuses why you shouldn’t! Spend 1 hour on a Sunday night to prep lunches and put them in containers for the whole week. In that same hour, you can throw some chicken breasts and fish in a food steamer, and you’ll have two healthy nutritious proteins ready to put in your dinners for the week.
Lack of support:
If your family and friends are not supporting, embracing and adopting your healthy lifestyle, you are more likely to fall back into your old ways. The solution is trade your family for a more health-conscious one. Just kidding! Having a strong social support network is paramount to our success. Join a gym that values community and provides encouragement & support, not just weights and exercise machines. Become active in online Facebook groups that focus on health, fitness and nutrition. Recruit a friend to go jogging or hiking with you. Enter in fun races or other fitness events and meet new like-minded people.
Finally, remember that it’s okay if you fell off the wagon. What matters now is getting back on. Now that you know what triggered it and sabotaged your fitness and health, you can be more prepared in the future. Recognize that relapse is nothing more than a stumble or a setback. In fact, if handled the right way, a relapse can actually open the door to lasting success, as you learn more about yourself.