Anyone who has made it a goal to lose weight and get fit has probably fallen off the weight-loss wagon once or twice. (Or a million times).
It happens for a variety of very good (OK, some not so good) reasons: vacation, a special occasion, illness, loss of motivation, etc. But it’s not a reason to give up. What’s important is to get up, dust yourself off, and get back to it.
But how do you get your mojo back?
Take a page from your gadgets and hit the (mental) reset button.
For example, I haven’t worked out in a while. And the less I do, the less inclined I am to do so. But in my heart of hearts, I know the longer I don’t exercise, the harder it will feel to start up again. But I’m determined to do it, especially since I know that if I want to get back on the health wagon, it’s all in my mind.
Here are 5 mental reset tricks I’ve used in the past that have gotten me back on the right path.
5 Strategies for Hitting the Mental Reset Button
1. Forget the bad, remember the good
Sometimes it seems like the weight of all my sins are almost too much to bear: Most recently, it was the month of drinking (hey, it was my birthday!), followed by late-night snacking (ditto!) and morning hair of the dog (with the snacking, not the drinking). Just thinking about it makes me want to climb into bed and order in food for the rest of my life. But I have to to let go of my (overindulgent) past and start anew.
The bottom line: Get your mental eraser out and forget about all the drinks you drank and all the foods you forked into your mouth. It happened, you can’t change it, so leave it in the past.
But do remember all the times you crushed it — when you were eating healthy, waking up early, exercising, and feeling good about all of it. If I take a few minutes to meditate, I can almost imagine myself back on my old schedule of healthy eating and working out. Once you have that picture of the healthy you in mind, take steps to make it a reality (again), like focusing on hydration and fiber.
2. Just put on your shoes
When I first started training for a marathon, one of my trainers told me an important trick: Just focus on the first step. So when I woke up groggy at 6:30 a.m. I would think, “Just put your on your shoes, you don’t have to go anywhere.” And I did: I’d plunk my feet on the floor and lace up my shoes. With my shoes on, it was ridiculous to wear pajamas, so I’d get dressed and ready.
“Just go outside,” I’d then tell myself. “You don’t have to go running, just stand on your porch.” Of course, I would be dressed and standing on my porch. “Might as well start running, I’d think. (You wouldn’t think this mind trick would work day after day. But it hasn’t failed me yet.)
The bottom line: There are situations where it may be more helpful NOT to look at the “bigger picture.” Rather, focus on the small changes and tasks that you can do right now, and slowly but surely, you’ll be moving in the right direction. Instead of trying to roar back into beast mode with your workouts, ease into it with some low-impact programs or fun dance workouts.
3. Believe that healthy will become a habit
Some people form a habit in 21 days. For others, it may take longer. Research suggests it can take people anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit. The researchers found that “people are reassured to learn that doing the behavior gets progressively easier; so they only have to maintain their motivation until the habit forms.” The study also found that working hard for two to three months on instilling a new behavior is attractive if those doing it know it has a chance of becoming second nature.
The bottom line: Be patient and keep trying. You may actually be at an advantage, since you’re not starting from scratch. You already know that you can do it because you’ve done it before; you just need to course correct and get back to where you were.
4. Remove the obstacles
Shawn Anchor, happiness guru and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, says that by taking his guitar out of his closet and putting it on a stand in plain sight, he was able to make practice a daily habit (even though taking the guitar out of the closet only took an extra 20 seconds.)
That’s why when I was running, I left my sneakers near my bed. In the summer, when I swim in the morning, I pack my goggles, swim cap, and towel the night before.
The proof is in the pudding: In an experiment, Google put the M&Ms in their kitchens in opaque containers in harder-to-reach areas, and put the healthier options out in front. They found that over a seven-week period, staffers in the 2,000-person New York office consumed 3.1 million fewer calories from M&Ms.
The bottom line: Don’t give yourself reasons not to eat healthy or work out. Set yourself up for success by clearing the way — literally and figuratively — of any roadblocks.
5. Go easy on yourself
It’s so easy to get into an all-or-nothing mindset, which is how I fell off the health wagon in the first place. Taking a few steps back (or sideways) is practically unavoidable, no matter what your goals are.
The addition of all positive actions and habits will soon outweigh the less-than-healthy ones and you’ll be back on the wagon in no time.