Falling Off the Wagon

Jeffrey Heit Health Guide
  • It happens to the best of us- even yours truly. Any of you who have read my blogs over the past year or so know that I often draw on personal experience to write them. This one is no exception. Sometimes, life gets very hectic and there are certain things that happen beyond one's control. Recently, there was a death in my family. My father-in-law passed away after a brief bout with cancer. There was a lot of traveling and child care issues that my wife and I had to deal with. Needless to say, there was also a lot of emotional stress, poor eating, difficulty managing time and weight gain. While hopefully, this kind of circumstance is a rare occurrence for most of you, it is probably not uncommon to "fall off the wagon" when life gets hectic. Eating habits suffer, you lose sleep, you stop working out and you gain weight. More important than the slip- up itself is how you deal with it, and what you do to snap out of it.

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    Firstly, acknowledge that you're slipping up- but don't berate yourself. Self loathing only serves to frustrate you and cause you to eat garbage- and more of it. Give yourself some leeway. Some things you may want to tell yourself are, "I know I'm eating poorly and not exercising, but at least I'm aware of it", "I'm going to allow myself these next 2-4 weeks to break my diet and skip out on the gym, but my circumstances are extenuating", or "clearly, I don't feel as good now as when I am on my program- I can't wait to get back into shape". The one thing that you do not tell yourself is that "I'm lazy and fat" and "I'll never lose this weight and get back into shape".  Sometimes, being more lenient on yourself will actually prevent some of that emotional, guilt driven, impulsive eating.


    Another thing to look forward to, once you do feel ready to get back to the gym or start any exercise program, is that exercise clearly reduces stress levels. Multiple studies have been done which show that exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is therapeutic when it comes to stress. Know that you will eventually get back on your program and feel better because of it. Also, when it is time to restart, begin slowly. Ease in to it.  You may be surprised to learn that even though it took you anywhere from six to twelve months to get into shape, it will only take about four weeks to fall out of shape. You may not be able to pick up where you left off.


    Basically, attitude is everything. If you allow yourself to take a break from a diet and/or fitness regimen because life's extenuating circumstances sneak up on you- don't fight it. The more you fight it, the more frustrated you'll be and the more likely you'll eat and be sedentary from anger. Give yourself time to heal and recover and let the "noise" quiet down. You'll probably find yourself wanting to get back on the wagon in a few weeks- and you'll feel better for it. Just start out slowly and don't "over do it". The last thing you'll want when getting back on a program is a new injury. Also, if you're finding it inordinately difficult to get back to normal in a few months, you are losing sleep, or are having trouble concentrating; contact your primary care provider. It may be as sign that something more serious is going on like depression or generalized anxiety.

Published On: January 05, 2009

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