Everyone has been there, you decide to start a new diet and exercise plan and you do great for the first couple of days and then life happens and you go off track. No big deal, you reload and start over again. Then boom, life happens again and you need to start over once more. Fast forward through several cycles of this and you find yourself in one of two situations. You became a healthy during the week and anything goes on the weekend’s person or you give up all together. Why does this cycle happen? You have your plan, you know what you need to do, and it should be simple. The truth is you have been spending a lifetime developing bad habits and there is no magic switch to turn them off. Your life is full of obstacles preventing you from obtaining your goals including; social events/holidays, family and friends, and the biggest obstacle of all - your mind.
Let's tackle these obstacles one at a time and look at strategies to overcome them. One of the hardest obstacles are social events/holidays. The good news is that these are usually planned way in advance giving you plenty of time to prepare a plan of attack. What normally happens when you are trying to be healthy at a social event? Usually you go into it saying, “I am only eating healthy snacks and drinking water.” Then you get there and someone offers you some snacks, and you might turn down this first attack. Then someone offers you a beer, and you once again decline. Then people start to ask you if everything is ok and possibly make you feel guilty for not indulging a little. Then the urging of one snack or drink won’t kill you and you give in. Unfortunately it doesn't end at one; it turns into a night of indulgence. You wake up the next morning and you feel guilty and a little nauseous. This is when you ask yourself why did I do that and tell yourself I am starting fresh on Monday. You start fresh on Monday and it works until the next social gathering and then it turns into groundhog’s day. How do you avoid this? It's extremely difficult, the first thing you need to do is share your personal journey with your family and friends. Let them know you are starting a healthy lifestyle and most importantly tell them why. If they understand the deep down emotional reason for your lifestyle change, they are more likely to support and help you. If they don't understand, then they are more likely to sabotage you. Finally, figure out what food will be at the event that fits your lifestyle and commit to sticking to that plan. The more concrete of a game plan and the more social support you have, the less you are relying on willpower and the higher your chance of success is.
I touched a little on how to deal with family and friends already, but let's talk about why they sabotage you in the first place. There is the rare situation where they are petty and jealous of your change. However this most likely is not the situation. Most of the time, your family and friends sabotage your progress simply because they do not understand why you are doing it. Being overweight, even if it is obvious is not enough for them to want to help you on an emotional level. Since in most families’ food means love, that notion will subconsciously override a need to simply lose some weight. They need to understand the emotional reason you want to lose weight. This could mean explaining fear of heath issues, early death, not being able to keep up with kids, or confidence issues that being overweight might cause. Once they understand this reason, their emotional need for you to be happy and healthy will hopefully override their need to show love in the form of food.
Finally let's tackle the greatest challenge of all, your mind. Your mind seeks gratification, resists change, and will go through crazy lengths to justify actions you know are bad. Throw out the notion that “willpower” is what will get you through a difficult lifestyle change. Willpower is a diminishing resource. This means the more you use, the less you have and once it is gone for the day, it is gone. What is crazy is that not just using it diminishes your willpower; stress also diminishes it. This is why at the end of a high stress day you are more likely to go home and binge than on peaceful days. So how do you make changes with out using up willpower? You make a detailed plan and leave yourself no options. These means planning meals a week in advanced: Make a grocery list, only buy what you need for based on your meal plan for the week, and prep everything that needs prepped for easy cooking during the week when you get home. If you have a plan and prep everything ahead of time, you are no longer trying to make last second willpower decisions; you are simply following the plan. Plan your workouts for the time of day you have the most energy. Morning workouts use the least amount of will power because the stress of the day has not gotten to you. If you have easy access to a workout facility at work lunch workouts are a great route to take. If you must exercise after work take your clothes with you change before you leave the office. Once you decide what time of day your workout will take place you need to put it in your schedule as an appointment that you can not change or miss; make the commitment to yourself! The true key to success is leaving no room for failure.
These tips may not immediately stop the restart cycle, but they will lessen the likelihood of it. They will however make the moments when life happens easier to deal with and the unhealthy slides less damaging.