I have tried a variety of diets over the years. The fad diets would lure me in with their promises of fast weight loss and happiness and I would commit with a gung-ho attitude. I stick with the program and did what I was suppose to do and most of the time was met with moderate success. But there would always come that point in my diet where I would take a break.
I would have lost a few pounds, I would feel better about my body and therefore myself and I felt like I could get back to life as regularly scheduled. The diet had done what it was suppose to do and I could move on. I never viewed these diets as lifestyle changes and that is what helped perpetuate the cycle of losing and gaining weight.
There finally came a point where I realized that I couldn’t just change my life for a few weeks and then take a break while I went back to my old lifestyle. I had to make a lasting change that would go on forever. It sounded daunting, but I knew that I needed to take a big step if I wanted to be healthier and finally enjoy life to the fullest. So I flipped a switch in my brain from diet to lifestyle change and got on the path to a healthier me.
And it worked. While it was really tough at first to think that I would never be able to go back to what I used to eat if I wanted to keep moving forward, I fought my way through and got lasting and healthy results. I wasn’t taking a break this time. I was all in and I was never going to change. But weirdly, that kind of got me into trouble again.
I had committed so much to being the healthiest me possible that I scared myself from straying at all. I couldn’t miss a workout, I couldn’t overeat, I couldn’t choose the wrong food or everything would come crashing down around me. That switch that I had flipped got stuck in the opposite direction and now I was worried about failing and returning to the unhappy person I was before.
It was an important lesson that I had to learn to be able to move on. I couldn’t view the way I ate and exercised as a temporary change but I also couldn’t be so afraid to stray that I was rigid in every aspect of life. I had to learn to be flexible and trust myself to do what my body needed at the right time. So how do you know when you reach a happy medium?
By trusting yourself.
When you first start, it’s going to be hard. You’re going to want to eat like a million Big Macs and you’re going to want to sit on the couch rather than do a 30 minute workout. It’s really hard to let yourself take a break at this point because it will be so easy to slip back into your old habits. Once you start to realize that all your old habits have been replaced with new and healthier ones it’s a little bit easier to see where you have wiggle room.
While I don’t personally believe in having a “cheat” day or meal (it just doesn’t work for me), it’s ok to know that one meal is not going to destroy what you have worked for. If you notice that your body is sore and achy and the thought of heading to the gym for your workout makes you want to cry, then it’s ok to take a rest day. That’s your body’s way of saying, “Hey, I need a break here!” That’s ok, rest days are good. Enjoying life is good. Being flexible and able to adjust to the situation is good.
It takes a little bit of practice to find the right balance for you and your body. Be kind to yourself as you discover what works for you and what doesn’t. Remember, it’s what you decide to most of the time that is going to impact your overall health not the tiny slip ups every now and then.