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Falling Off the Wagon: What to do When You Let Good Habits Slip

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Sometimes we have to fall off the wagon in order to see how well we are doing. Here our our tips what to do when good habits slip.

What to do when you let good habits slip

I have noticed something that I like to call “Oh, F*$k It!” syndrome. It’s when you have been cruising along with habits that serve you well when all of a sudden you just can’t do it anymore. Sometimes this collapse is brought on by exhaustion and sometimes outside stressors. But when that moment hits, you make the decision to let your good habit slip.

For me, this most often takes place when I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and I finally break down and “cheat” somehow. Maybe it’s ordering a pizza when I already have food that’s ready to cook, sleeping in rather than doing my stress-relieving workout, or drinking a little more alcohol than I should.

The reality is that these moments are completely normal and to be expected. We are human and will slip up. But we tend to see these decisions as failures, which can bring on feelings of guilt and shame.

After having one of these “falling off the wagon” moments we can react one of two ways: 1) we see this as a one-off moment and return to our healthy habit, or 2) we buy into the “Oh, F*$k It!” mindset and make additional decisions that undermine the health or wellness goal we are pursuing.

To help you to avoid going down the guilt and shame spiral, I want to share with you what I try to remind myself in these moments: Sometimes we have to fall off the wagon in order to see how well we are doing.

I have found that re-framing these moments in this way helps me to break out of the feelings of failure and instead take a step back to see the good, rather than just the bad.

This can be challenging. It can be tough to resist the impulse to throw in the towel. It can be temping to give up the the habit and revert to old patterns. It’s hard for me, too. But once you’re up and running again, it feels so good (both physically and emotionally). Here are tricks that I’ve used to help me get back into the swing of things when I’m having trouble.

What to do When Good Habits Slip

Sleep: good habit

Get Some Rest

As I mentioned above, for me, these slippages most often happen when I am exhausted and I have found that this pattern plays out with lots of people. So the first thing I recommend is trying to get some more rest. Perhaps that’s getting to bed earlier. Or maybe it’s taking a 15 minute break (or even nap!) in the middle of the day. But giving your body and mind some time to reset and restore can do a huge amount for your ability to get back on track.

Be Kind to Yourself

Let go of the guilt. Recognize that even falling off of the wagon shows how far you have come. After all, the fact that there is even a wagon to fall off of is a big deal! If you focus on the guilt you are much more likely to get stuck in a negative feedback loop where you create a (false) narrative of failure. You deserve better than that, so give yourself some grace.

Italian Caprese Sandwiches

Make it Easy

As you attempt to get back into the swing of things, try to incorporate some options that are easy for you.

If you’re struggling with food decisions, try to focus on your favorite foods and recipes that serve you well and are easy to prepare. Sandwiches loaded with vegetables, scrambled eggs, a simple pasta, a loaded salad with all your favorite add-ons. The goal here is to remind yourself that 1) returning to your good habits doesn’t need to be too hard and 2) you will enjoy the food!

If exercise is what is tripping you up, start slow. Instead of a full-on workout, try a shorter or easier option and then celebrate the success of completing what you were able to do. For me, going for a walk or doing a pilates or yoga video can be a great, easier, re-entry point.

Ramen Vegetable Noodle Soup

Try Something New

If part of the reason you fell off the wagon is that you’re tired of your usual routines or options, one great way to get the motivation back is to try something new.

With food, look for quick, easy, healthy recipes that seem fun and exciting (our recipe search can be great here). This week, for example, when I was feeling less than enthused about cooking, I decided to try four new recipes to get me engaged again. Some have been keepers, some not, but all have kept me interested.

If exercise is what you’re working on, try a different workout or a new walking path. If staying hydrated is your goal, maybe it’s time to add some flavor or pizzazz to that water. No matter what the habit, finding a new spin or approach can reinvigorate you and help you get back on track.

celebrating your successes can help you to start your habits again.

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Oftentimes, when we let a habit slip there is a piece of our internal narrative that goes something like, “the changes I wanted aren’t happening, so this effort isn’t worthwhile.” If this is part of the equation for you, then I recommend pausing and taking stock of the small wins or accomplishments that have come from the habit you’ve been working on.

Maybe you have more energy. Perhaps you’ve discovered a new ingredient you love. It’s possible that walking up the stairs isn’t as exhausting. Maybe you’ve saved on your food budget by cooking more. Or maybe your kids tried a new food. The point is, I bet if you think about it, even for just 30 seconds, you’ll be able to come up with a positive outcome of the work you have been doing.

Just seeing what accomplishment and celebrating it can be the motivation you need to get back to it.

What do you do when you let good habits slip? I’d love to hear your tricks in the comments. And if you need a gentle nudge to get cooking again, The Scramble’s online meal planner can help immensely!