Editors Note: Rachel Mac is a commercial litigator in Chicago, Illinois, who lives a healthy lifestyle despite 12+ hours per day in the office. She has come up with a low-maintenance healthy lifestyle that allows her to eat well and hit the gym regularly, with a schedule that’s anything but. Rachel is a regular contributor. Find Rachel on Facebook and on Twitter.
Happy Monday! For most people, Monday is a fresh, clean start on a new week. But if you overindulged in food or alcohol this weekend you may have woken up feeling off. Fear not! You’ve come to the right place for ideas to get back on track and get the week off to a healthy start.
I. Forgive Yourself
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dwelling on a cheat won’t make it go away., and by the time you reach the next day, it is already in the past.
Jean Fain, author of “The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving Kindness,” gives self-kindness a lot of credit for success in weight loss. And being kind to yourself has benefit going forward, too. If you fixate on the weekend’s failings, you can enter the new week feeling hopeless. Forgiving yourself and putting the issue to rest enables you to move forward and get back into the swing of your healthy lifestyle. And in fact, it may be this too-hard-on-yourself mentality that led you to cheat in the first place; a diet that is too restrictive and an anxiety-ridden approach to fat loss is likely to lead to cheats because it is incredibly stressful.
II. Take an Honest Assessment
There is nothing you can do to erase your off-the-wagon activities, but you can be honest with yourself in an attempt to stop it from happening again. What is your vice? Is it alcohol? Sugar? Fatty foods? Examining your patterns can help you identify problematic behavior. For a long time, I struggled with eating healthy in social situations, especially those that involved food and alcohol in combination. Letting my guard down often meant consuming hundreds–or thousands–more calories than average, which led me to wake up most Monday mornings feeling guilty and hopeless. I now know to have a plan of attack when I encounter situations like this, and I go to parties with a full stomach, limit alcohol consumption, and stick to the veggie tray to keep myself on track.
The most painful part of being honest with yourself is assessing the damage. This can be hard to do in a self-compassionate way, but there are strategies you can adopt to make this less painful. Look at yourself in the mirror. Are you puffy and bloated from salt? Dehydrated from drinking? Remember that the changes you see are just as quickly undone as they are done. Bloating dissipates, you can re-hydrate yourself, and a few days of healthy eating can get you right back on track to where you were before you fell off the wagon. If you’ve had an off weekend, chances are it’s not your first; you know that by jumping headfirst back into your healthy lifestyle, you’ll feel great again by Tuesday or Wednesday, so get to it!
III. Make a Plan
Once you’ve forgiven yourself for your transgressions, it is time to move on. Looking ahead to a healthy week with a positive attitude will help you get past the cheat and get back on track. Anticipating the week’s challenges–and visualizing your successes–when you’re in a start-fresh mindset will help you tackle the obstacles that will inevitably arise. If you know you’ll be in a social setting with food and alcohol, set a plan now and envision your success, think about how great you will feel next Monday when you wake up healthy, guilt free, and ready to start your week.
IV. Reset Yourself
It’s time to get proactive about getting your body–and healthy mindset–back. Staying productive and working toward getting back on the wagon helps me to move past a tough weekend. Here are my tips:
- Drink lots of water to flush the extra salt out of your system; this will also help re-hydrate you if you overindulged on alcohol over the weekend.
- Increase your fiber intake with veggies (and a certain protein bar…) to help get your system moving.
- If you’ve overdone it on salt, consider taking a potassium supplement. Sodium causes you to retain water, and potassium pushes it out. As with anything, consult with your physician before adding supplements to your routine.
- Eat foods that are natural diuretics to deal with bloating; asparagus and red cabbage both have natural diuretic properties that will help flush out some of the extra water you’re retaining. Dandelion-root tea has the same effect.
- Do the things that make you feel strong and healthy. Take your vitamins, and get in a good workout. If you’ve overeaten over the weekend, use the surplus calories to boost your performance in the gym. Lift whatever body part needs the most work, and get in a little extra cardio. I always find I have super strength when I’m at a caloric surplus, and muscles love those extra calories.
- If you’ve overdone it on sugar or other carbohydrates, scale back on them for a few days so that you give your body a chance to even out. When your muscles are full of glycogen (which is how the body stores carbohydrates that aren’t immediately used as energy), excess carbs are stored as fat, so if you start the week with a lot of carbohydrates you may be compounding the weekend’s damage.
V. Get on with your Life
Release the negative feelings associated with cheating and remind yourself that you life a good, healthy lifestyle, and the occasional slip-up won’t undo all your hard work. And also remember that you’re in good company. Even the most dedicated fitness professionals, competitors, bodybuilders, people with steadfast discipline day in and day out, fall off the wagon from time to time. The difference between those who fail and those who succeed is that the winners don’t let their slip-ups define them. If you can manage to keep a slip from turning into a downward spiral, you will continue to make progress.