When we fall off track, we typically view it as evidence that we will always fail. We say:
“Here I am again – just like last time – can’t stick with anything – more proof – I knew it!”
Then we lump it together with all our past experiences and throw into a box marked NO WILLPOWER so we don’t have to think about it.
I get it, I don’t like to think about failure either. It feels gross. Especially when you are used to doing things well and especially when it revolves around something you want so much. It’s uncomfortable and you feel ashamed, so staying in that feeling is the LAST thing you want to do.
But here’s the thing, experiencing the set-back and then really thinking about what happened is the ONLY way that you will reach your nutrition goals long-term.
Seriously, there is no other path.
I’m not saying this to make you feel better for falling off track. It’s not going to be followed up by a Hang In There cat poster or a video about how many free throws Michael Jordan has missed. This is not a cheerleader moment, this is just the science of change.
If you have ever said “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” this is really what that means. It’s not blowing past rough situations, but instead looking back and learning from them.
Don’t confuse failure and learning
Brooke Castillo uses a really great analogy of a baby learning to stand. Babies don’t have an innate ability to stand up. They may have the desire, but it is the learning and getting back up after falling that builds strength and skills. Without the effort of repeatedly getting back up, a child could never stand, walk, run, etc.
If you think about it, you already know this. You’ve done this with pretty much everything you have ever learned. Whether it’s riding a bike or parenting or finding your friends apartment in a giant complex. You have the capacity, it just may feel weird applying it to something that you feel like you should already know.
(Side note: if that baby had the same amount of How to Stand information coming at her as you have How to Eat information coming at you, she would probably want to quit and watch Netflix too!)
Resist being punitive and be specific
Based on our assumption that we “should” be able to figure this all out, there is a lot of shame and emotion involved with eating. So, when we start to ask ourselves why we fell off track, we can be punitive and jump to broad generalizations. Although it might feel like you can lump all set-backs into a giant pile of failure, if you drill down you will find that every single one of them had a specific cause, and therefore a solution.
Here are some examples:
|Set-back||Initial Reaction||Specific Thought||Solution|
|I was “good” all week but then my co-workers wanted Mexican so I ate a burrito the size of my head.||I have no self-control, I am addicted to Mexican food, I should quit, or maybe give up carbs.||Actually, I liked what I ate during the week but I really like lunch with my co-workers on Fridays.||Continue bringing lunch but plan to go out on Fridays. Maybe try the taco plate, which is not the size of my head.|
|I started a 30 day cleanse but only made it 2 weeks. This happens every January.||This is too much work and I’m too lazy, it’s so easy for everyone else, I quit.||I always feel desperate and mad at myself at the beginning of the year, so I do something extreme because I want change quickly. I don’t think that is working for me. Still I want to make a change.||Take the main concepts but loosen up with some of the rules so I don’t have to cook all the meals because that is always what causes me to quit.|
|My family was in town all weekend. All they want to do is eat and drink. I got wrapped up in it and now feel terrible.||There was nothing I could do. My friends and family sabotage me. I need to be emancipated.||Just because they are on vacation, it doesn’t mean I am. I like some of the meals but eating out all the time isn’t as much fun as I thought.||Next time I will make breakfast and bring snacks with me when we are sightseeing. It’ll make it more fun because we won’t have to stress about food. Plus we won’t want to fight each other because we are hangry.|
You may not be able to relate to these exact examples, but hopefully you can see the basic idea. It’s not the set-back that is the problem, it’s that we use that as an excuse to quit.
Sometimes we think that success is in perfection and being able to control everything. In reality, food confidence comes from knowing that no matter what, you’ll be able to handle it. Learning from falling off track is how you get there.
And if a Hang In There poster helps, you can use that too!