by Krystal Hawks, ETC blog contributor

Let’s start with the idea of “falling off the wagon.”  I want to clarify that this is all part of something called life, not something that happened because you are lazy, unmotivated, non-deserving, or whatever other idea you forced yourself to believe.  One day you had a regular workout routine and an eating plan, the next…well, life got in the way.

That’s okay.  It’s called life, and the good thing about life is that there are many times in life where you can try again.  I think that’s what they mean when they say tomorrow.  Tomorrow signifies the future.  It doesn’t always just mean the day following the current one, but it always signifies the future.

Life happened and you are ready to take control again…now what?

Pick a day and start. No need to mention tomorrow right now.  Don’t wait until Monday, the first of the month, New Years’ Day, or any other time that causes you to procrastinate being happy.  Now is a good time.  Are you ready to get back on that wagon?

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Okay, you have chosen a day…now what?

Make small, realistic changes. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a healthier lifestyle is the same way.  Don’t overwhelm and discourage yourself with how you used to be, what your friends are eating, or what celebrities are doing.  Start small, and make small changes over time that can be the foundation on which you build and grow.  This helps you stick to these behaviors and a healthier lifestyle long-term, not just during swim suit season.

Set goals and visualize them. Make a dream board, write on sticky notes and post them all over, set your phone background to something that inspires you.  On day one don’t think, “okay, I need to lose 50 pounds by _____.”  Instead, start with, “let’s get active every other day, let’s revamp one meal a day to something healthier, let’s drink more water.”  These small, but mighty, goals will work together to get you closer to your ultimate goal without you even realizing!

Choose to do something you look forward to. If you like to do something, there’s a greater chance you’ll do it more often than something you hate doing, simple as that.  If you hate running, but love taking your dog for a walk, choose the dog!  Pick an activity that brings you joy and is something that you can see yourself building into your schedule.  Use these enjoyable pursuits to add physical activity into your day and blow off some of the steam life creates.

Reinvest in new workout gear. A couple new shirts, a pair of shoes, a pedometer will excite you and motivate you to become more active.  After all, don’t you feel better in a new outfit rather than a stained, dingy one that’s ill-fitting?

Get a training partner! Make each other accountable and be one-another’s biggest cheerleaders.  It’s extremely hard to skip a workout despite a horrible day when your other half is already there and warming up.  Check-in with each other and celebrate your progress together!  Make your workouts sociable and fun…something you can look forward to!

Reestablish good eating habits. A cheat meal can easily become a cheat day, then a weekend, and soon a year.  I understand life comes up, there’s cake at birthday parties, there’s popcorn at the movies, etc.  I want you to have that, but I want to you plan your days in advance and budget for them.  After all, champions are unfortunately not fueled on ice cream, so you shouldn’t be either.

  • Start with beverages. Beverage calories are easily overlooked, but, sadly, are not missed by your waistline.  Luckily, these are easy to eliminate from your diet—ditch those with artificial dyes and sweeteners and grab water, sparkling water, and low-fat milk instead.
  • Be smart with condiments! They are usually full of sugars, and their flavor is rarely tasted!  Watch out for high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, and dyes, and switch to fresh herbs, natural mustards, oils, and vinegars instead.

Stop self-criticizing. Remember it’s called life and it happens to everyone.  Accept your downfalls and use them as motivation to get back on the wagon and try again.  Embrace the groggy and sluggish feelings you experienced shortly after that big greasy burger and fries. Use them to your advantage.  You must eat good to feel good, food is fuel, and you can’t fill up on dyes, sweeteners, and saturated fats.

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It is extremely easy to fall off the wagon called life, but it is just as easy to get back on, you just have to start somewhere!  Pick a couple of these tips to focus on each week and you’ll be feeling better and living an active and healthy life.  Happy riding!

At the end of the day, we are all doing our best.  Don’t give up.  Love yourself.  And #eatthechocolate.