We’ve all been there. We had a few fabulous days of eating healthy and exercising and then—BANG—all of a sudden life happens. A late night out with friends, a last-minute business trip, a sick child at home. You’ve either missed your designated time for fitness or you simply don’t have the energy to prepare a healthy meal. Either way, you’ve hit a wall and are having an off day. Sometimes it can take several days before you find yourself inspired enough to give your nutrition and exercise program another shot. It’s the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting at its best, but it can be stopped.
As an expert of sport and exercise psychology, one of my objectives is to help my clients work through the off days we all inevitably experience from time to time. Here are three techniques you can use right now to not only get switched back on during an off day, but also to limit the amount of off days you have altogether. The end result is that you’ll give yourself the greatest opportunity to follow through on your daily goals and achieve your personal best mind, body and overall spirit.
1. Undervalue the bad days and overvalue the good ones. Many people have been conditioned to harp on their mistakes while quickly moving forward from their successes. Consequently, this way of thinking and behaving robs them of the opportunity to develop maximum confidence—a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.
In sports, professional athletes and coaches will often say that the person who wins is usually the person who can best recover from errors. Top athletes have learned to identify their mistakes, but instead of dwelling there, they quickly learn from them and move on. They also take the time to pat themselves on the back for all of their achievements.
It’s okay to strive for perfection, but as soon as you start demanding it, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. When life gets in the way of following your diet and fitness plan to a ''T,'' take five minutes for personal reflection. Remind yourself that it’s OK if things don’t go 100 percent according to plan. It's helpful to identify the things you could better control for next time, but then quickly move on and focus on at least one achievement you have already made that day (or yesterday if it’s first thing in the morning). Taking your focus away from the negative and toward your personal strengths and accomplishments will create a boost of positive energy for finishing the day with a success.
2. Change your environment. When people have an off day, they are experiencing a reduced level of motivation for healthy living. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this problem; research continues to prove that motivation and productivity increases when our environment changes. In fact, a commonly-used phrase in sports psychology is, ''A change is as good as a rest.''
Any type of change, such as stepping outside for some fresh air, turning on motivational music, finding a new healthy recipe, or getting off the treadmill and onto the elliptical can generate fresh motivation to help you stay on track with your diet and fitness plan. Whenever you feel a lack of motivation for your healthy lifestyle, change up at least one aspect of your environment and experience what it’s like to have your batteries recharged and motivation restored!
3. Just move. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is get off the couch and just start to move. However, once you start moving and the dopamine kicks in, you’ll find it much easier to keep going. During off days, it’s less important to stick to the pre-planned exercises or routine and more important to just get up and do something. If you really don’t feel like lifting weights, get outside and go for a walk. If you don’t feel like spending 20 minutes in the kitchen preparing a healthy meal, choose something simple to eat (that’s still healthy).
The next time you experience an off day, challenge yourself to commit 5-10 minutes to taking action on one of the three techniques above. Once you start moving, you’ll experience an amazing shift in energy, focus, confidence, and overall commitment to your healthy lifestyle.
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