I am super awesome at sticking with workouts and clean eating…for about three to four weeks. I find a workout that really excites me, follow the exercise and eating plan to a T, make sensible choices eating out, and get killer results. But then I allow myself one cheat meal because “I’m human” and “I deserve a treat.” And more often than not, that cheat meal turns into a cheat day, which turns into a skipped workout, which turns into my regaining all of my weight within a few days.
Days, I said. Four weeks of work lost in four days. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this. (Darn you, breakfast tacos!)
The question is – how do we come back from this? How do we resist the binging and laziness that got us into bad health in the first place, and that want to take us back there? And if we do lose some or all of our progress, how do we keep from completely throwing in the towel on our health?
You Can Physically Alter Your Brain – Seriously!
One of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes says, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Now Albert Einstein didn’t say this because he was a motivational speaker. He said it because he was a scientist stating a scientific fact.
The fact is that the more you think about something, the more you tell yourself that one thing, the wider and deeper the neural pathway (kind of a “thought highway”) becomes in your brain. The wider the pathway becomes, the easier it will be for you to keep coming back to that thought.
And the more you tell yourself that one thing again and again, you’ll soon find that you default to that way of thinking without even realizing it. You can literally physically alter your brain’s neural pathways in your favor by being purposeful with your thoughts. That’s heavy.
How to Rewire Your Brain to Stay on Track After a Cheat Meal
So what kinds of things do we need to be thinking to come back from a workout or binge eating failure? I’m glad you asked!
- Remember how good, good health feels. If I dwell on the number on the scale, it’s hard to work up motivation to jump back in. I mostly just work up feelings of defeat and disappointment in myself. But if I remember how strong I felt with more muscle mass, how I could think more clearly when I was fueling my body with healthy, whole foods, how I didn’t tire so easily bringing in the groceries, walking upstairs, playing with my daughter, now those are the things that can inspire me to get back to that place of health.
- Remember how good discipline feels. Besides my body feeling better, I mentally and emotionally feel eons better when I’m practicing discipline in my life. This includes following a consistent workout schedule, making the time to plan healthy meals, and building the mental strength to say no to late-night binging. It feels good to be in control of your own body and mind, and it sets a whole new tone to your entire day. You feel more capable, like you could conquer the whole world if you wanted to. And you do, in fact, conquer more mountains, because you believe in your head and your heart that you can.
- Remember why you started in the first place. Everyone has a different motivation for getting and staying in a good place health-wise. And despite what you may think, your reason is more than a number on the scale. Maybe you’re working out because you want to feel more comfortable and confident in your own skin. Maybe you want to tackle your day-to-day life with more energy and endurance. Or maybe you want to be there for your kids as long as you possibly can. Whatever your reason, zero in on it and think about it. Think about it often! And when you’re tempted to take a detour from the path to better health, think about it again. Because the more you think about it, the more you dwell on it, the more you’ll become it. We become what we focus on.
- Kill your excuses and take responsibility for your actions. I have the best excuses, and most of them sound pretty legitimate. “I’m tired and should listen to my body.” “Physical health isn’t everything. I want to focus on other things too.” “I’ve earned a little break.” I’m not saying that you should eternally be on some sort of diet or exercise plan, never taking a break to enjoy life. I’m saying that one small allowance can lead to another and to another. Other people will help us to excuse ourselves from good health. They don’t want us to feel bad, it’s the polite thing to do, and it’s more fun if they’re not the only one eating ice cream. But when it all boils down to it, you are responsible for you. As author Steve Maraboli said, “By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.”
- Be reasonable. Focus your efforts on creating an everyday healthy lifestyle that’s doable for you. On the other hand, you have to be reasonable about finding a healthy, balanced lifestyle – something that you can maintain for years, not just weeks, that can survive busy, stressful times and birthday parties and holidays and girls’ night out. An all-or-nothing mindset is great for very short periods of time, but it’s difficult to maintain. Plus we usually throw the whole thing out the window with one slip-up.
You Can Survive a Cheat Meal…or Week
Being purposeful with your thoughts can physically rewire your brain for success. And a rewired brain will work in your favor.
It will increase your odds of healthy eating, exercise, and other positive habits, and help you to rebound more quickly from eating entire pizzas for your cheat meal. (Admit it. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, this is a safe place.)
Think about (1) how good, good health feels, (2) how good discipline feels, and (3) why you started in the first place. (4) Kill your excuses, but (5) be reasonable about your health and lifestyle.
You can be your own worst enemy or your own secret weapon. So use your thoughts wisely.
P.S. Sign up for instant access to our handy dandy calendar, 28 Daily Goals to Kickstart a Healthier Life. It’s the perfect tool to help you transition into a healthier mindset in just 28 days. Nab yours free here!
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