Getting Back on Track with Working Out and Eating Healthy (My Thoughts)

So the other day, I jokingly (but seriously) asked those who watch my Instagram stories if they ever wondered if bloggers and influencers make up their own questions when they do Q&As on Snapchat and Insta. I’ve always assumed that if I ever tried to do a Q&A no one would ask any questions and then I’d be super embarrassed and probably have to do just that (make up my own questions) to avoid committing total social suicide (LOL).

Even though I didn’t ask for questions, I was pleasantly surprised to receive some in response (maybe those influencers aren’t making up their own after all?!). And I have so many thoughts on one of the questions that I decided to dedicate a whole blog post to it. The question:

What is your go-to when you want to get back on track, both in the kitchen and with workouts?

In this post I’m going to give some actionable tips and advice for this, but I think it needs to be done in the context of a broader discussion of the topic of falling off track with healthy living. So let’s do just that!

Changing My Mindset: I’m Never “Off Track”

Over the years, my mindset has changed drastically. In college, days were either “good” (ate pristinely and minimally and worked out) or “bad” (binge ate ice cream, cookie dough, pizza and was completely inactive). In my mind, there was no middle ground, and as a result I would swing violently between the two extremes.

I was putting so much pressure on myself to be perfectly “healthy” that any slip-up, no matter how small, was seen as failure and I’d consider the whole day a loss, binging on junk food and telling myself I’d just start again fresh the next day. I was either 110% on track or 110% off the rails.

But over the years, I’ve found that the less pressure I put on myself to be perfectly “good” when it comes to eating healthy and exercising, the easier it is to be just that. The less I think about working out and eating my veggies as things I absolutely have to do, the more enjoyable they become. I now honestly look forward to working out and genuinely prefer to eat nutrient-dense foods. Because I don’t punish myself or feel guilty for skipping a workout or indulging in dessert, doing those things doesn’t send me into a tailspin of bad health decisions.

Some people thrive when given a specific training schedule and/or meal plan. I am not one of those people. As far as I’ve come with this whole moderation thing, I still have a bit of the all-or-nothing impulse, so for me, rigid structure doesn’t work. One misstep from the plan makes me feel like a failure, and there’s a sense of obligation that comes with it which totally zaps the joy out of the activity/meal for me.

I’ve found that for me, healthy living is a life without restrictions or fixed guidelines when it comes to food and exercise. I’m never off track. The track I’m on curves and loops at times, but stressing about those detours only makes them worse and longer. Enjoying the view and accepting the detour as a part of life makes it much more enjoyable (and easier to get back on course!).

As the negative chatter in my mind has quieted, I’ve become better able to listen to my body and give it what it wants and needs. I eat what my body craves and I do the workouts I feel like doing and enjoy. I switch things up all the time so I’m never getting bored, and if I do get bored, I just stop doing that type of workout. A big reason I don’t often feel “off track” anymore is because I don’t hold myself to a specific workout regiment or type of diet. Am I eating mostly nutrient-dense meals? Am I moving my body and challenging it physically? If so, I’m good.

There are SO MANY ways to move our bodies, there’s no reason to do something you dread. Plus, if you hate something, your chances of sticking to it regularly are slim. Find a workout you enjoy and then integrate others that support it. For example, if you love running, make that your focus. But mix in some yoga and strength training to help you run stronger and injury-free.

Now I realize if you’re an elite athlete or have specific physical performance goals this laid-back approach might not suffice, but if you’re just looking to be healthy and feel good, the formula is a lot simpler than you might think. Don’t overcomplicate it!

How I Get Back into a Healthy Routine

So all that being said, everyone goes through periods of time when our daily habits aren’t the healthiest and one day turns into two which turns into a week, and before you know it, you feel a bit stuck.

The first step to getting back into a healthy routine is to acknowledge why you got off it in the first place. While it may not seem like it all the time, our bodies want to be active (with adequate rest) and nourished with healthy foods. It’s all the other shit (stress, time management, social environment, poor emotional coping mechanisms, etc., etc.) getting in the way and telling us otherwise. Trust me, you’re not being inactive and eating sugary, processed foods because your body wants you to. Figure out what’s really going on.

In recent years, when I’ve been “off track,” it’s usually because I’ve overextended myself with work and taken on too much. As my schedule becomes jammed and the stress from trying to complete everything increases, I start prioritizing work over all else, including self-care. In my brain I know that I could make time for a quick workout and that I’d feel better for having done so, but the work stress sort of paralyzes me into a woe-is-me mindset, and I stay stuck in this vicious cycle of not working out because I’m stressed, yet being stressed because I’m not working out. So work stress is the culprit at the surface, and the deeper issue is probably that I need to learn to say “no” and recognize my work load limits.

Depending on what your “why” is, the solution will vary. For me, the broader fix is that I need to learn to say “no”. On a more immediate scale, however, there’s something I like to do in these funks that I think most of us could benefit from doing once in a while: To get out of an unhealthy routine, I take a “me” day.

Now when you hear the term “me day,” images of indulgence might come to mind. But the type of “me day” that I’m talking about is one in which you give yourself what you need, which is not necessarily the same thing as what you want (but hopefully they’re not too far off).

I’m not suggesting you completely blow off all your responsibilities and pull a Ferris Bueller—I’m suggesting realistic self-care. When I read articles on the topic of self care that suggest you meditate for two hours a day, practice yoga all morning and take a six hour bath each evening, I always think, Gurrrrrl, who’s paying your damn bills?! Because clearly it’s not you. LOL.

If you have a corporate job, maybe you plan your “me day” for a Sunday. If you’re a mom, maybe it’s a “me afternoon” where you treat yourself to a babysitter. The point is to make time to give yourself what you need.

It’s honestly been a while since I’ve felt the need to do this, but I’d schedule my “me day” for a day I don’t teach or a weekend day. I’d go to bed early the night before—even if that meant leaving some work unfinished—and would workout first thing in the morning (my favorite time of day). I’d do a fitness class at one of my go-to studios and eat a healthy breakfast afterwards. I’d go grocery shopping and fill the kitchen with healthy foods and do some cooking while listening to one of my favorite podcasts. I’d probably still do some blog work because I genuinely love what I do, but I’d do the fun parts—writing, photography, picture editing. I’d end the day with some yoga and meditation.

It’s a day of prioritizing what I’ve been neglecting. Some work might be left undone, but that’s ok because I’m investing in myself and am ultimately way more productive when I do. That one day leaves me feeling invigorated, refreshed, and ready to get back to work *without* sacrificing my healthy routine. It serves as a little reminder to my body how amazing it feels to eat quality food and exercise.

Motivated and moving forward from there, I’ll get my workout in first thing in the morning before work and excuses come into play and I’ll be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. If I start my day on that note, there’s usually a ripple effect of good choices throughout the rest of it.

I love this idea of a “me day” involving exercising and eating well. We tend to associate things like spending a lot of money, indulging in sugary foods, and drinking that extra cocktail with “treating ourselves” (#TREATYOSELF). Those things aren’t bad—I’d even encourage them from time to time!—but to a certain degree I think we need to switch the narrative in our minds. Working out and choosing quality foods is something we get to do, not have to do. Exercising and eating healthily are not a punishment, they’re a treat. I think when we make this mindset shift, that’s when health becomes a lifestyle and not just a track from which we fall off and on.

And in my experience, the longer health is a lifestyle, the easier it is to maintain. If I haven’t worked out in five days because I’ve been on vacation, I’m genuinely excited for that first workout back. It’s not something I need to force myself to do, I want to workout. And because I’ve been consistent with eating reasonably healthy for years, after a weekend of eating sweets and not-so-great foods, I actually crave a salad or green juice.

Ok, longest post ever, but one more thought before I wrap it up:

The number one thing we need to understand about fitness and eating healthy is that it’s going to look different for everyone. Ultimately you need to find what works for you and in giving tips on these topics, I’m just sharing what’s worked for me. Really the best advice I can give is to get to know yourself. And when you think you know what makes you tick and why you do the things you do, prod a little deeper.

 

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Comments

  1. This really resonated with me, I’ve been indulging a ton lately with friends since 4 of them are moving out of state at the same time for grad school. It’s been interesting to see the difference between how I deal with that now as opposed to how I would have dealt with it a year ago. I know that a week or two right now of giving myself the space to enjoy my life fully is going to be better in the long run, and I shouldn’t sweat it.

    That being said, I do need to have an actual plan for getting back to it, since there’s nothing more demotivating than running headlong into a workout only to feel like you’ve lost ground. Easing my way back in is key to maintaining that confidence!

  2. What has worked of me is integrating walking into my daily work flow and I did it with a Treadmill Desk. I was experiencing what the research confirms, that sitting all day negates the gains made in the gym. No matter how effective my work out, sitting all day wiped out those gains.
    I’m using the http://www.UnSit.com treadmill desk. Whether or not you buy one, GET UP and MOVE…walk out doors, walk around the office, get a FluidStance balance board.

    Don’t just sit there, MOVE.

  3. Jessica Cohen says:

    I absolutely love this post! Thank you for writing and sharing these words – everything really resonated with me. Especially this part….
    healthy living is a life without restrictions or fixed guidelines when it comes to food and exercise. I’m never off track. The track I’m on curves and loops at times, but stressing about those detours only makes them worse and longer. Enjoying the view and accepting the detour as a part of life makes it much more enjoyable
    I pinned to re-read again in the future. 🙂

  4. This was fantastic!!! Thank you!

  5. Getting back on track food wise for me means tracking what I’m eating for awhile until I get back in the groove. I love using My Fitness Pal for that – it’s so quick and easy to use.

  6. I love your perspective on this, and I love the idea of a “me day” focused on health. When I take a “me day” it’s usually about lying in the sun reading or puttering around the house. Those are nice too, but I really like the idea of scheduling a “me day” to focus on recharging my healthy habits.

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I have a few take aways that struck me. The idea of a ME day is great. You should make time to give yourself what you need to recharge. Recently my husband was traveling and I was needing a long run. Set up a time with the sitter and busted it out. I felt great after. Second point, “Investing in myself and am ultimately way more productive when I do.” YES! You are recharged and put your needs first. More people, especially moms could benefit from this.

    Perfectly “healthy”, ugh, that could be it’s own longer post. It’s common and really trips people up. I used to health coach because changing gears and I heard this all the time.

  8. This blog was just what I needed, I’ve always struggled to find the right words on my attempts at a healthy living lifestyle (which I love having but also struggle with the all in or all out mentality) Thank you for sharing your thoughts bc I feel so much more motivated to get rid of that all in/all out mentality and stop putting a large pressure on myself to be perfect when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle…bc what the heck is healthy about trying to be perfect??

  9. BeeCusCus says:

    I love that you write, “Exercising and eating healthily are not a punishment, they’re a treat.” I’ve never felt this way more than in living and working abroad, in the middle of nowhere. Getting salad greens and being able to have a fresh veggie salad is often nicer than any sugary dessert I could have.

  10. You really made me think with this bit: “acknowledge why you got off it in the first place”. And pretty soon I realized it was the damn morning sickness. Ok all-day sickness. I stopped making myself breakfast the evening before and started eating outside of my usual times in order to avoid feeling even sicker. Now that this has passed and I’m also once again cleared for moderate exercise I still can’t get myself “on track”. Will definitely try with a me day reset 🙂

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