No matter how long you have been consistently eating clean, eventually we all have setbacks. Vacations, illness, holidays, and unexpected life events can often derail a clean eating plan for an extended period of time. While a day or two of off track eating won’t derail your progress a week or two (or more!) will definitely throw you off track. It’s normal, it happens to everyone, but it doesn’t have to mean a permanent end to your healthy and fit lifestyle! Regaining weight and backtracking on your fitness progress by missing workouts can be a blow to your confidence and it is difficult to regain forward momentum. This week I’m going to use my personal experience and what I’ve learned from my clients to help you deal with this tough but inevitable part of living the fit lifestyle.
First let’s talk a little bit about what to expect and why. Let’s assume you have been consistent with your clean eating and exercise for at least several months. Your body has made many physiological adaptations to your changes in lifestyle. You are fitter, your muscles are stronger, your metabolism is faster and you may be leaner as well. All of these changes are maintained because you continue to follow the habits that lead to the changes in the first place. Now if you were to stop exercising but maintain a healthy diet you would see a decline in your fitness level and after two to three weeks you would start to lose muscle strength and definition. As you lose the muscle, your metabolism will decline accordingly. If you don’t change your diet at this point, then you will start to gain body fat gradually. So, if you go away on vacation and don’t exercise but keep your diet clean, then at worst you will lose a little strength. That’s not a big deal and you will gain it right back after a week or two back in the gym. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. Most of the time this hiatus from exercise is accompanied by an enormous increase in food and often alcohol intake. This is an incredible shock to our system and we will often end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Keep it up for a few days in a row and the rapid weight gain will start. By the end of one or two weeks of this you could easily pack on 10 to 15 pounds or more!
Now let’s assume you have done just that. Gone on vacation for two weeks, didn’t work out at all and ate and drank to your heart’s content. You come back home and step on the scale and see that you have gained 15 pounds. Not good, but don’t freak out! Much of that scale weight will be bloating and water retention from all the junk food and alcohol. And as soon as you get back to healthy eating habits and exercise that will be shed within a few days. So now that 15 pounds may only be 6-8 pounds. Still not good, but it could be worse. Remind yourself that actions have consequences and now you have to deal with the result of two weeks on indulgent eating and drinking with little activity. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just make a mental note for next time so you learn from the situation. Then get back to your regular routine and those pounds will eventually come off.
I know that getting back to your healthy habits is often easier said than done, so here are some tips to get you back in the groove.
Fall back on old habits – Whether it’s cardio in the morning, eating the same breakfast everyday, or doing yoga before bed. You want to immediately resume any regular habits you had before you got off track. Habits are stored in a special part of the brain and if you can tap into that it can help shift you out of “vacation mode” and back to “routine” mode.
Exercise – Even if you are exhausted or injured and can only do a little, working out can help reset your rhythms and can also help with jet lag!
Rekindle your motivation – Were you working towards a specific goal before getting off track? Get yourself amped up again by looking at motivational pictures, reading books, or talking to people you admire.
Don’t hide – Even if you are embarrassed because you gained a lot of weight, don’t avoid friends, family and social situations. Getting back on track will be easier with support from those you care about. Isolating yourself will only make you feel worse.
Learn from your mistake – If getting off track was your fault (as opposed to being cause by an accident or illness or something out of your control) own up to your mistake and learn from it. Then forgive yourself and move on. It’s important to accept responsibility for your actions, but don’t dwell on it.
Find peace – If you were thrown off track by something out of your control, try to find the positive in the situation. Do what you can, but don’t stress out over things you can’t control. Eventually the time will come when you will be able to get back on track. Lean on your support group during tough times and never give up.
This article was researched and written by Follow @DaraCoxPT
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