How to Get Back on Track after a Diet and Exercise Break
How to Get Back on Track after a Diet and Exercise Break
When it comes to diet and exercise, I am the consistency QUEEN. For reals. Over the last 3 years of conscious, regular effort I’ve managed to lose and maintain a 30 pound weight loss, and drastically alter my body composition. But ya know, even queens get beheaded sometimes. I’ve also gained and lost the same 5-10 pounds multiple times in the last 3 years. Sometimes I lose my head and go overboard on Doritos and frosting (not together, though. Don’t be gross). But most of the time it’s because of something more significant than that.
By that I mean the weight gain – which is temporary, by the way – happens due to something worthwhile. Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and football game watch parties. Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and stocking candy. Camping season burgers, beer, and s’mores. Birthday cake I spent hours baking and decorating for my children’s parties. Brewery visits during once-in-a-blue-moon visits from friends and family. French fries and booze during an oh, so rare night away with my husband.
On the other side of the same coin, there are also some less fun reasons for putting diet and exercise routines on the back burner. They are no less worthwhile than the fun ones. Entering a busy season at work. Losing a loved one. Night-waking with a newborn. Recovering from an injury.
Any one reason, fun or not, might cause a spike in the scale. But typically it drops again relatively quickly, because NEWSFLASH! It’s not actual, pure fat gain. I promise. It’s water retention, sodium, and the actual weight of the food that was consumed still needing to *ahem* make its way out of the body. The “real” weight is gained, and sticks around a while longer, when a few of these uncommon events happen in close succession. Christmas cookies, bam! Long weekend of traveling, bam! Babysitter for New Year’s Eve, and the subsequent hangover you wish you had a babysitter for, bam BAM!
Gain some perspective
It happens! Sometimes it feels like you can’t catch a break, or like your diet just keeps getting sucker punched over and over again. But try to keep it all in perspective. If you try to tell me that putting on a few now and then while loving and living your damn life isn’t worth it, you’re going about this whole fitness thing all wrong. Sorry, not sorry.
We all have lives to live through every bonkers, ridiculous, stressful, joyous season of, well, life. So live it. Live it all and live it well. So what if you gain a bit of weight from time to time? You’re never more than some time and consistency away from striking the weight from your record. And you get to keep and cherish the warm, fun-filled memories you made while you gained it. Win-win.
Recently I was lucky enough to have my sisters- and brother- in-law come to Colorado for a visit. The last time they were all able to come out together and stay at our place was over 3 years ago! I stocked up on all the snacks and treats I don’t normally buy. Eating in moderation was not a thing. I day drank (and night drank lol). Missed a workout. Ate real, full-fat ice cream, cheese, and butter. I probably couldn’t even count on 2 hands how many donuts and croissants I forced my body to process. It was a 5-day over-the-top, full-on food and booze free-for-all!
They left early in the morning on a Tuesday (and I miss them as soon as they left!). That Tuesday I ate within my calorie range, hit my protein goal, and worked out. Just like that. I also caught up on all the usual chores I neglected while they were here. It was like a switch flipped and it was time to TCOB. That stands for ‘Take Care of Business,” in case you didn’t know. I was back to my regularly scheduled programming, and I was here for it. It was time, and I was ready.
This wasn’t the first time, and won’t be the last, that I bounced back to my training routine and healthy eating habits almost immediately after an “off” day or week. In fact, just a few days ago my sweet tooth got the best of me between 10:30 and 11:00 pm. I effed my entire day’s macros up and down in a measly 30 minutes. But whaddyagonnado? That’s life, hun. And if you’re gonna throw in the towel on your weight loss and fitness hopes and dreams because of a Hostess cupcake or 3, well, it’s time to wake up and smell the sweet roses of redemption. Because there ain’t nothing – no way, no how – that can stand between you and your fitness goals as long as you don’t quit!
How do I manage to get “back on track” after a diet and exercise break? Check out these helpful tactics and tricks to see how I do it, and how you can, too.
1. Throw away leftovers.
This one seems silly, but it’s saved my ass a number of times. If there’s 3 day old birthday cake still on the counter, there’s a greater chance a fork might work its way out of the drawer and start shoveling it into your mouth than say, if the cake is in the trash can. Jus’ sayin’. You had your cake and ate it, too. It’s time to say goodbye.
Can’t control yourself around even the stalest of Cheetos? Toss ‘em! At most you’re out like, two bucks. Maybe my privilege is showing, however, it’s worth $2 to me to set myself up for success and move on. Christmas cookies have a shelf life, and takeout French fries heat up for shit. Throw them away! No matter how hard, rubbery, and not worth it they were, you can’t get those calories back after eating them.
2. Stock up on healthy food.
Make sure you have plenty of goal-supporting foods on hand for meals and snacks. It’s all too easy to drive through or grab the potato chips when hunger strikes. Be prepared with healthy foods that you enjoy eating.
3. Make a to-do list.
I heart to-do lists. Really, any list. Packing lists, shopping lists, you name it! They keep me organized, focused, and less likely to let something fall through the cracks. The number one thing on my to-do list on any given non-rest day is my workout. True story.
If you want to get back into fitness, start meal-prepping, clean the house, or remember all the bullshit moms gotsta pack for a trip to the pool, a to-do list has GOTCHU, girl. I list out the what, when, and where of my day, from appointments and playdates, to chores and errands. Sometimes I even outline my whole week’s worth of days so I know what to expect and plan for. Knowing you want to workout, finish a project, or catch up on laundry is one thing. Making it happen is another.
Having full awareness of your schedule is how you make the time to get everything done. Stay on top of the stupid, yet necessary, crap so you have no excuses to not prioritize your workout when the time comes.
Every Thursday my to-do list includes picking up dog poop and taking out the trash. Hell no I don’t want to do these tasks, but they have to be done. HELL NO am I going to let these BS chores stand in the way of my training.
By having it on my to-do list, 1) I don’t forget about it and kick myself Friday morning when the trash truck drives by, 2) I fit it in outside of my protected workout time. Even if that means not getting it all done at once. Sometimes I bring down the bathroom trash with me in the morning, pick up the dog crap while the kids eat breakfast, empty the kitchen trash in the evening, and take out the recycling somewhere in between.
Breaking down tasks into smaller, quicker sub tasks makes them that much more manageable. Similarly, for meal-prepping I put “place grocery pickup order” on my to-do list on Friday, and “pick up grocery order” on Saturday. That way by the time meal prep Sunday comes around I have my recipe decided and ingredients stocked and ready to go.
Outline the daily habits that will get you closer to your long-term goals. Goals are great, but you must place your focus on the smaller stepping stones that will lead you to actually achieving them.
Give it a go
Whether you think you’re a to-do list person or not, I urge you to give it a try. At least until you get back into your groove. Especially if you’re struggling to just get going again.
Honestly, I respect and admire anyone’s ability to keep on top of their shit without a list. Even if they are carefree, haphazard, lawless freaks…
4. Keep Moving.
Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” It’s credited online to both Benjamin Franklin and Lucille Ball. Both geniuses in their own right, but I’ll go with Lucy because I Love Lucy is my all-time favorite television show ever.
I’ve found the more I have to get done, the more I get done. Whether I’m being productive or being lazy, it seems to snowball. When I’m accomplishing tasks, I just keep moving. When I’m sitting on my butt scrolling the internet, it makes it that much harder to get up and be productive.
Did I mention I love to-do lists?
This is another area where a task-oriented to-do list comes in handy. A quick glance and I might see something that I can knock out pretty easily between or during other tasks. Call to schedule an appointment on the way to the library to return books. Fold laundry while dinner is in the oven. Start the robot vacuum before heading out the door for my daughter’s ballet class. You get the idea.
Productivity is Powerful
It’s easier to make your way to the gym or your workout space when you’re already up and moving. It’s easier to keep your hands out of the junk food when they’re busy getting shit done.
5. Give yourself grace.
There’s no sense in beating yourself up. No matter what the scale reads, how your pants fit, or how icky you feel, what’s done is done. All you can do is move forward. Remember the whole perspective thing I talked about earlier, give yourself credit for the billions of things you do every day, and move on to what you can control from this point forward.
When I got back to it after my 5 hedonistic days of food and drink, I acknowledged the fact that I did manage 1 resistance training session, and got wellll over 10,000 steps most days between hikes and sight-seeing. I took it easy on the booze one night and didn’t eat all the caramel cheddar popcorn out of the unnecessarily ginormous Sam’s Club economy sized bag.
You deserve some credit
Sometimes giving yourself grace is just changing the narrative from “oh my god I ate so much popcorn” to “but I didn’t eat all of it.” Or “dangit, I missed a workout” to “but I still got lots of physical activity!”
Recognize your wins to energize yourself back into your routines. Focusing on your perceived downfalls isn’t going to motivate you.
6. Don’t punish or restrict yourself.
To piggyback on giving yourself grace, it’s important to note that trying to “make up” for overeating and undertraining by slashing calories to bits and spending hours in the gym is not the way to go. You don’t need to torture yourself because you lived your damn life. Which you’re allowed to do. You took care of yourself how you wanted to or needed to in the moment, and that’s that.
Move forward with a clean slate. You’re not digging yourself out of a hole, and you didn’t screw up. That’s all in your head. Just move on with the goal of feeling healthy, happy, and strong. Not just after you’ve reached your weight loss and fitness goals, but more importantly, during the process of working toward them.
You’re allowed to feel healthy, happy, strong, proud, and like a complete badass right now, regardless of size or ability. The journey is the destination.
Enjoying the process gives you the gifts of freedom and consistency. If you hate your methods, they (and any progress you’ve made using them) won’t last. You and your body are not things that need to be fixed or punished. You are a beautiful human who deserves happiness and food.
Whatever step you need to take to 180 yourself back into your routine, do it. Drive to the gym, eat the apple, push start on your workout app, log into myfitnesspal. Whatever it is, just do it. The first step is the hardest. But it will give you the momentum you need to take the next one. And the one after that, and so on and so forth. You’re always one choice away from taking back control and empowering yourself through fitness and nutrition. Ditch the regret and just take the first step. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get back in the swing of things.
How do you get back on track after a diet and exercise break? I’m always interested in ideas on how to move forward, so drop yours in the comments below.
Connect with me on Instagram to see me live my life, continue my fitness journey, and struggle my way through motherhood. Pin this post on your fitness board for the next time you need a push to get back on the fitness horse!
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