When you stray off course on a weight care journey, it usually goes a little like this: “OK, I’ll just start my movement routine again on Monday” or, “I’ll eat more veggies after the weekend.” And the next thing you know, three weeks have passed, and you’ve gotten into your old habits again. Hey, you’re not alone.
And it’s OK. So you blew it. No one is perfect—and it’s unrealistic to think that you need to stick to your healthy habits 100 percent of the time. That’s not just our opinion. There’s some science to it all.
Don’t push “getting on track” off to a random date; experts say you should get back to your healthy habits with the next meal or movement opportunity. (10-minute break? Go on a walk!) Persistence over perfection FTW.
Intentions don’t have as big of an influence on behavior change as the context cues that trigger your behavior, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin. It works like this: If you repeatedly skip workouts for a few weeks, skipping workouts becomes a habit that’s tougher to break. Your intention may be to move next week, but your past behavior—skipping exercise—trumps your goal of moving more. Or perhaps you stop at your favorite coffee shop on the way to work. The location sparks a desire to grab a latte and some pastries. The good news is that this same psychological phenomenon are also how healthy habits are formed.
It’s all about repetition. So if you have an off day, don’t make a someday plan—make a today plan. Because the sooner you get back on track, the more automatic a habit will become, and the easier it’ll be to stick to it. Plus, research shows that even if you slip up, one misstep isn’t likely to derail you. Instead, what matters is what you do next. Here are six ways to get back on track:
Let’s ditch the part where you beat yourself up. Instead, when things go south, remember this: A slipup is an opportunity to learn and grow. As cheesy as that may sound, it’s true. And it’s step #1 to get back into your routine.
It’s easy to think you have to skip the next meal or ditch the carbs just because your diet wasn’t perfect one day. But hear us out: Don’t restrict yourself to make up for it. Skipping meals or cutting out certain foods to *save* calories can backfire. In a study published in the journal Eating Behaviors, when people tried to suppress thoughts about “off-limit” foods, it led to cravings and binge eating. Another study in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that when the subjects ran on empty for too long (as in skipping meals), they were more likely to overeat later in the day. In other words: not helpful. The better idea is to practice self-care and try to make better choices next time. Keep reading for more on that.
Ask yourself: When’s the next chance you could support your well-being? Is it the next meal, snack, or workout? The point is to make a commitment to starting right away—rather than next week. Remember, research shows that it takes multiple missed opportunities to form habits that can set you back. So aim for persistence over perfection (we’re human, after all).
According to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, if you fall into less-than-ideal habits, the evidence is strong that breaking your habits can lead to positive behavior changes. For example, you might typically plop on the couch and turn on the TV after a long day. But what if, after work, you stopped at a park and hit the trail for a walk instead? By changing your context cues (your environment), you can disrupt the behavior you want to change by eliminating the trigger.
Habit stacking is when you identify a habit you already do each day—like brushing your teeth or brewing a cup of joe—and add on a new behavior. Let’s say you want to get more movement in. The next time you’re waiting for your coffee, get in some squats; when it’s ready, throw it into a to-go mug and do some laps around the neighborhood. While there hasn’t been a lot of research on the effectiveness of habit stacking, James Clear, a habits-building expert and the author of Atomic Habits, is a huge proponent of the technique.
Now that you have some tips in your back pocket, know that your daily habits can significantly impact your weight care journey. It’s 100 percent normal to have good days and bad days. So don't let one goof become a habit that takes you off course.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.