Falling off the wagon happens to all of us — even if you set exciting goals for 2021 and beyond and especially after a year like 2020.
Maybe you started off the new year fully inspired to cook every day, but then life got busy and ordering in is just easier.
Or you decided to take a little break during the holidays and you haven’t quite gotten back on track yet.
Regardless of why you’ve lost sight of your goals, being hard on yourself isn’t the way forward.
Studies have found self-criticism can negatively impact weight-management efforts and well-being.
“It’s important to be self-compassionate and recognize that there will be challenges,” says licensed clinical psychologist Sheva Assar, Psy.D.
Here are some strategies for getting back on track and starting healthy habits.
1. Be specific
“One significant reason for not following through on resolutions is not identifying specific goals or planning how you will achieve those goals,” explains Assar.
Skip vague decisions like “eat healthfully” or “get in shape” and clearly define your intentions.
Is it doing yoga several times per week or getting more veggies on your plate?
It’s also important to find the right workout for you — not just the one your friends like to do.
2. Have a plan IRL
Another hurdle for not following through or getting sidelined is not having an actual plan, according to Assar.
Once you have a goal, figure out ways to put it into action around your schedule and lifestyle. If you’re just getting started with eating healthy or you prefer expert guidance, a nutrition program like Ultimate Portion Fix or 2B Mindset can help kick things off.
3. Be mindful
“It’s very easy to walk to the kitchen, get a snack, and mindlessly eat it,” says Reyna Franco, M.S., R.D.N., and C.P.T. with the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Studies suggest mindful eating can increase your enjoyment of food and reduce the tendency to judge yourself.
Planning meals and snacks, eating at the table (rather than in front of the laptop or TV), and putting food on plates can help you slow down and eat more mindfully.
4. Don’t do it because you should
“Many times, people’s resolutions are influenced by what they think they ‘should’ be doing, rather than what is actually meaningful and motivating to them,” says Assar.
Ask yourself: What would it mean for me to fulfill this goal? Why is it important to me? What value of mine is it connected to?
You’re more likely to stick to healthy habits you enjoy.
5. Be your own best friend
“When you slip up, respond to yourself like you would a friend in a similar situation,” says Assar. “Often times, we are much more supportive and understanding of others than we are of ourselves.”
Remind yourself why you wanted to achieve a certain goal or look at other options that may serve you better. Give yourself some grace.
6. Let go of the “all or nothing” attitude
“If you’ve slipped up, it does not necessarily mean that you have not made any progress or erased all the progress that you have made,” says Assar. “Focus on the lessons you have learned.”
If you bought a bunch of fresh veggies at the beginning of the week and didn’t have time to actually cook them, make a comforting soup (or freeze them) and reassess how you can better achieve your goals going forward.
7. Remove known hurdles
“If your goals are nutrition-related, ensure your refrigerator and pantry are full of healthy snacks,” says Franco. “Get rid of the trigger foods, including foods with added sugars.”
Having a bag of chips sitting on the kitchen counter makes it easy to snack all day and get off track.
Replace tempting snacks with better choices, like fresh fruit or healthier treats.
8. Check in with yourself and others
“Having someone to talk to about food and exercise will keep you on track,” says Franco. “Support can come from a friend, family member, online group, or a registered dietitian nutritionist.”
Studies have also found frequently monitoring your goals makes you more likely to achieve them.
That might be a quick glance at the calendar or journaling in the morning or at night.
When it comes to goals, there is always another chance. “Just keep moving your thoughts forward,” says Franco.