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Picture this. You’re clicking on all cylinders when it comes to health. You’ve made it to the gym regularly for a month, your nutrition is dialed in, and you’re feeling confident. You’re seeing progress, feeling motivated, and fairly certain that nothing can stop you now from reaching your health and fitness goals. Then you get an injury, take a family vacation, or suddenly need to travel for work, and in a flash, all that hard work seems to have been for nothing.

At this point, It can be tempting to quit altogether. Or you can choose to rise above it, make the hard choice, and figure out a way to get back on track with diet and exercise after a lapse and be better than before.

How do you get back on track with diet and exercise after a lapse?

Plan Ahead

The majority of people who begin a fitness plan will experience a setback at one point or another. And the number one way to combat a lapse is to plan for it in advance. So as you’re starting your fitness journey, ask yourself these questions.

  • What will I do if I can’t make it to the gym for a while or if the gym closes for a period?
  • Do I have equipment at home or bodyweight workouts that I can turn to in a pinch?
  • How will I plan for vacations?
  • Will I stick to a particular diet the best I can, or will I go entirely off program with the intent to enjoy myself guilt-free?
  • How do I intend to handle the holiday season?
  • Am I going to bring healthier dishes to gatherings to make sure I have something to eat?
  • Am I going to eat what’s provided and plan to consume fewer calories earlier in the day?

If you think through possible lapse scenarios in advance, you’re far more likely to stick to your plan. It’s much easier (not to mention less stressful) to go into vacation knowing you plan to eat dessert, and you might gain a few pounds than it is to say you’re going to stick with your nutrition plan then feel bad about having a slice of cheesecake at dinner.

Accept it and refocus

All hope is not lost due to one lapse. Slipping into the all or nothing mindset can be detrimental to your health and fitness program and your long-term adherence. If you haven’t written down your fitness and nutrition-related goals yet, do it now. It’s nice to have something tangible to point to when you feel like it’s all for nothing.

When you see on paper that you want to lose the weight to get on the floor and romp around with the kids or because you want to check running a half marathon off your bucket list, it’s easier to re-motivate yourself to get back to it.

Commit to the comeback right away

The most important part of coming back from a lapse is coming back and doing so quickly. Once you’ve identified a setback, make a plan to get back in the gym or to cook a healthy meal. The most detrimental thing for so many people is believing that a lapse ruins the whole journey. One bad meal isn’t going to ruin your progress, just like one great meal isn’t going to achieve your weight loss goal.

The power is in the progress and the compounding effects of everything you’ve been doing. Don’t wait until tomorrow to get back on track, start right now.

If you recognize that you missed 2 workouts in a row, look at your calendar and schedule a time for your next workout. If you’ve been eating too many sweets, go to the store and buy some frozen fruit or healthier sweet options. There is no time like the present to get yourself back into your healthy habits!

What not to do after an exercise or nutrition lapse

Now that you know what to do let’s take a second to discuss what not to do after a lapse.

  • Don’t beat yourself up – Imagine a friend came to you and said, “I really fell off the wagon this week with going to the gym. I missed two workouts in a row, and I feel like I should just stop trying to get in shape.” I can practically guarantee that you wouldn’t tell that friend they suck, and they should just give up. You would be supportive and tell them to get back on it this week! Treat yourself like a good friend and practice kindness and forgiveness. Beating yourself up is not serving you or your long-term health goals.
  • Don’t overcompensate by going crazy with cardio or starving yourself – Especially for people who have gone off track on a diet, it’s tempting to think spending two hours on the elliptical is the solution. Overcompensation makes you miserable and feels like a punishment. And that can turn into an incredibly vicious cycle of going off the rails and trying to over adjust to get back on track. Just get back to your regularly scheduled programming, things even out in the wash.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of your fitness journey, a lapse of a couple of days, weeks, months, or even years is a blip on the radar. Keep your goals in mind, stay steady, give yourself some grace, and press forward. You’ll be grateful you did.

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