Sometimes life can be a minefield, littered with temptation and booby traps that sabotage our best attempts to take charge of our health, eat a well-balanced plant-based diet, and live at our best. Occasionally, we can trip up and find ourselves off course.
Maybe it was the constant temptation of so many sweets over the holidays, only to find that “I’ll just have one” snowballed into a week-long sugar coma.
Or maybe it was a crazy work week, and you just couldn’t find the energy to make dinner after stumbling through the door. A few days of eating take-out turned into a few weeks, and you still aren’t cooking many meals at home.
Perhaps it’s just hard to stay motivated when your not-so-supportive significant other brings tempting food into the house, eats it right in front of you, and then makes fun of you for not trying some.
However you fall from the straight and narrow, the important thing is how you respond to it and get back on track. Good eating habits take a long time to build, but they can easily slip away, and it can be hard to regain that initial momentum and motivation.
But with the right blend of planning and support, you can get your diet back on the right path, feeling your best in no time. Even if you’re busy, struggling with cravings, or just can’t seem to find the motivation and willpower to stick to it, you can get things back under control.
Here are the three steps to help make it happen.
Step 1: Make a Plan
Eventually, something will make you want to get back on track. Whether that’s a number on the scale or a favorite pair of pants that don’t fit quite right anymore, you’ve crossed the line in the sand.
This is a crucial moment because what you do with that initial motivation matters. If you immediately jump headlong into a complete life makeover, you often won’t follow through.
A successful reset starts with a good game plan. Here are two recommendations to make yours a success:
1. Start with just three days.
The biggest challenge you face when getting back on track with your diet is the simple fact that it’s easier to not do it! It’s better to set an achievable goal that isn’t super intimidating.
2. Set clear rules and follow them 100%.
It seems paradoxical, but making a 100% commitment to a few clear rules makes it easier to follow through.
Clear rules help eliminate the need to make a momentary decision about whether or not something is on plan, and removes the possibility for justifying bad choices.
Also remember that you want to engineer a win—so be sure to craft achievable rules that fit within your current dietary program or lifestyle.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Note that your rules don’t have to be only about eliminating things from your diet. It can be effective to work on “crowding out” the bad by making sure you get plenty of the good stuff.
Lists like Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, NMA’s seven daily foods, or our “green light” foods, provide a framework to make sure you’re getting the most healthful, nutrient-dense foods. By focusing on those foods, there is less room for other, less healthy foods.
2. Schedule, Commit, and Create Accountability
As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest obstacle to getting back on track is simply not doing anything. So, once you have a plan, it’s time to put it into action.
If possible, choose a three-day window where you don’t have many social obligations and will have some free time to prepare food for yourself.
But know there will never be a perfect time, so just choose the best option. It shouldn’t be more than two to three weeks from now, and no sooner than three days. You need a little time for your commitment to sink in, and a few days to prepare as well.
So here is some tough love from your buddy Matty J: Pull up your calendar right now and schedule your three-day reset. I’ll be here waiting for you when you get back.
I’m still here! Waiting…
Okay, got it scheduled? Great. Now it’s time to up the ante and add some accountability. Ask a friend or two to join you (they can even set their own unique food “rules,” but the timing should be the same). Or better yet, make a commitment with a friend who can play ref, and commit to paying them 10% of your monthly salary if you don’t follow through.
Sound painful? It’s supposed to be.
When getting back on track, we need a little kick in the rear to make us change our ways. A little extra motivation (like some money on the line) goes a long way towards keeping you on track when temptation inevitably comes calling.
Now that you have a game plan, have scheduled your reset, and added support and accountability, you’re ready to go. All you have to do now is show up and follow through.
3. Review Your Reset and Build Off Your Wins
While a three-day reset is a great thing to do on its own, you can get more bang for your buck by using this reboot as a jumping off point by turning these things into healthy habits.
After the reset is complete, take some time to do a review:
… Could you keep or tweak your rules to make sustainable progress long-term?
… What practices could you integrate into your daily routine?
Think of it as expanding on your three-day reset by adding a new rule or expanding on the ones with which you’ve already been successful.
If you’ve been making home-cooked, plant-based meals, can you commit to making healthy meals at home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?
If you’ve been avoiding white flour and sugar, can you quit altogether, or limit yourself to just one treat in the evening or only on the weekends?
If you’ve been doing yoga for 10 minutes each day, can you tie your practice to a daily activity to create a stronger habit? Or can you sign up for a weekly yoga class that will create more accountability and help ensure that you follow through going forward?
Or if you’re ready to add a new rule, you could…
- Start each day with a smoothie, full of fruits and veggies.
- Have carrots and a healthy homemade dip at work and home for when you get a snack craving.
- Limit alcohol intake to weekends only (or try taking a complete break).
- Use water instead of oil when sautéing veggies for dinner.
- Replace soda with sparkling water.
Notice that in each of the above examples contains one key element: 100% commitment to a specific rule or goal and clear boundaries.
This commitment sets the boundaries in advance, which helps to turn these practices into self-sustaining habits. Once the habits are established, we can rely less and less on willpower to stay on track; our healthy choices move towards becoming automatic.
And that, my friends, is the holy grail.
The best way to make continual progress is to schedule a weekly review to look back on the week and see how you did, ideally with your accountability buddy. Did you follow through on your commitments? If not, what could you tweak in the coming week to help you do better?
A weekly review provides continual support and accountability and gives you a chance to refine your approach. Establishing these healthy habits is a work in progress, and this is a great way to build a foundation for ongoing support.
Ready to Get Started?
Everyone struggles with making the right diet and lifestyle choices. Whether you’re hoping to get back on track after a rough week, or you’ve been struggling to reach your happy place for months, you’re not alone.
Getting back on track can be intimidating—but it doesn’t have to be. By engineering your three-day reset (here’s a free Reset Bonus Pack), committing to a few attainable goals, and getting some friends to join you on the journey, you’ll be on your way to a win in no time.
Believe in yourself. I know I do.