Do you ever go on vacation and enjoy lots of good food, and several weeks go by before you get “back on track” with your eating habits and workout routine? Or maybe you have the feeling you have fallen off track for a day or even just a meal, and it leaves you diverging off the path even more? Either way, I think there is an underlying mindset that makes it harder for us to get back on track.
We associate “failure” with food.
Too often we associate food with failure.
“I shouldn’t have eaten that.”
“I ate too much.”
“I’m never going to reach my goals if I keep eating like this.”
Even phrases that almost excuse our behavior, but still hold guilt,
“Why did I do that? I never eat like this.”
Today, give yourself permission to let go of the fear of failure and the guilt you associate with food. Food can be so many good things…nourishing, healing, social, joyful, a celebration. Why do we insist on attaching negative labels to something that literally gives us life?
One of the biggest observations I’ve made in working with hundreds of people and their diet is the guilt and shame they express when explaining to me the decisions that they deem poor. When I say “It’s okay,” it’s almost as if a wave of relief washes over them. It’s like they can’t believe I’m actually saying, “It’s okay.” The longer we beat ourselves up over any decision, the more time and energy we waste on that decision. Besides, most studies have certainly shown that positive reinforcement goes further than punishment.
So, let’s imagine you have a busy weekend and end up eating out a few extra times, grabbing a few quick meals out of the fridge and enjoying a few desserts more than usual. Sunday night comes around and you realize that what you did over the weekend doesn’t coincide with your long-term health or weight loss goals. Guess what? It’s done and it’s not ruined. Don’t wait until tomorrow to make a change; if you are already feeling off balance, choose tonight to find balance in your evening snack.
Respond and Recalibrate
I’ve found that developing a healthy intuitive balance with food is one of the best ways to not only avoid food guilt, but stay on track. If you’re still working on finding balance with your food choices, check out my popular post on the subject.
If you give up the negativity and the feelings of failure, you can find your equilibrium much quicker. Instead of feeling ashamed or like you “messed up,” understand those feeling are simply your internal balance reminding you to pull back towards center. When you get off track, beating yourself down (even if only for a slight moment or a short phrase) will lead to less positive feelings and make it harder to find that internal balance. On the other hand, recognizing your situation and responding to your body’s need to recalibrate allows you to view the situation in a less emotional and critical way.
This leads me to my second point, finding the balance and recalibrating.
Finding Your Way Back
A vacation of dinners out and dessert coffees shouldn’t make you want to come back and hop on an extreme or restricted diet. Maybe you gained a few pounds, but the best way to get back to your usual is to jump in with your usual patterns. Sometimes this can be hard to do, so here are a few tips.
Getting Back on Track After Vacation
1. Make a plan and stick to it.
If you’ve been on vacation, have a plan for when you get back. This could mean having a meal plan already laid out for the week you get back. You could even take care of this before you leave! It may even involve doing some simple meal prep ahead of time. Just make sure you don’t prep something that will go bad before you return. If it’s just a weekend or even a day off, have your recipe ready and grocery shopping done before you leave. If you’re like me after a vacation or long weekend away, the last thing you want to do when you get back is get groceries.
2. Homemade Freezer Meals
Before you go on vacation, take a little extra time to stock your freezer with a few homemade freezer meals. Sometimes it’s just hard to come home and immediately return to your usual routine of grocery shopping and cooking. This will give you some extra time to ease back into your routine!
3. Eat at Home
It’s so much easier to get back on track when you cut back on eating out. If you’ve been busy and have had to eat out more recently, realize it’s okay. All the same though, take that dive and get back to cooking at home! Pack your lunch and prepare your breakfast ahead of time. It’s so much easier to find a balance when you’re fixing the majority of your meals at home.
Don’t Let One Day Determine Your Mindset
Maybe you struggle with feeling like you’ve fallen off track and ruined it with a single meal, day, or even weekend! Don’t let this mindset derail you! Stay positive and remember, your diet is more about what you do day in and day out. Perhaps you had a donut for breakfast and fall into the mindset that you’ve already “ruined” your nutrition goals for the day, so why not have a piece of cake after lunch? Try to avoid this mindset and choose to find your balance instead.
Implement some healthy eating habits while dining out to help maintain your balance. Once you reach your balance you will find it will be easier to enjoy special foods in moderation without feelings of guilt, knowing that it’s part of our natural equilibrium. Every now and then, we will all stray from our usual habits and the most important key is to jump back on the wagon and keep a positive mindset about food.