We all come off-track with our health and fitness at some point. Often we start out with the best of intentions, but perhaps set the bar a little too high and too soon for ourselves. It may be that you've been attempting to stick to a pretty restrictive diet or have tried to keep up with a tough workout plan without really giving any thought to whether it'll fit well into your current lifestyle.
Whatever the reason for coming off-track, the real key to 'getting back on plan' is to address your mindset first. No one seems to talk about mindset when it comes to health and fitness; we all just jump straight into changing up our food and exercise, but this is a huge mistake!
Without the right mindset, you'll struggle to keep going when things get tough or stall when it comes to getting started in the first place. You may even be struggling with internal issues you didn't realise you had, like emotional eating and self-sabotage.
Below are my 10 steps for getting back on track with your health and fitness, and you can get started with these right now.
To help you with these steps, I have a free workbook you can download which contains useful exercises as well as all of these steps (so you can refer to it throughout the next few weeks). You can download it by clicking the link below:
Got your workbook? Great, let's get to it.
Step 1: Leave the guilt, self-punishment and dieting mindset behind.
After repeating the dieting cycle a few times over, eventually, you come realise that there are no quick fixes for getting your health back on track, it just takes time, self-forgiveness and showing yourself some TLC. If you’ve fallen off the track of a diet plan, know this: it isn’t your fault – it’s the diet! Draw a mental line underneath this experience and tell yourself "that's the end of dieting, I'm going to do this properly now, by taking it one step at a time and not being so harsh on myself".
Step 2: Remind yourself what being "on track" looks like for you.
Be really specific about what you define as "on-track". How do you feel when you're on track? Do you feel in control? Energised? What are your habits like? Then think about when you realised you were "off track" and why you think this happened. In the workbook, there's an exercise to help you jot some thoughts down and get really clear on what being "on track" means.
Be honest with yourself when it comes to thinking about why you came "off-track" - were your plans too rigid for a real person's lifestyle? We can't all have the lives of personal trainers and celebrities - we have to come out of the gym at some point to work, run business, look after kids, socialise and deal with general life admin! Was your diet too strict? Did you feel deprived or like you were missing out? Were you using it as a form of self-punishment? This can be a very difficult area to pick apart (and one we dive much deeper into in The Health Mindset Programme).
Step 3: Assess your health - the right way.
I don't just mean jumping on the scale and declaring that you need to lose a few lbs. The overall picture of your health and fitness is made up of far more than the number on the scale. You also need to keep tabs on your body fat %, waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose readings and cholesterol levels. These can all be checked by your GP, local pharmacy or even using at home devices.
Knowing these numbers not only helps shape the right health and fitness goals for you but could actually help you reverse or prevent serious illness like diabetes type 2, heart disease and stroke. So getting tested and assessing your overall health regularly, could even save your life!
I also have a free health assessment workbook to help you assess, record and understand your readings - if you've just signed up to download the Ultimate Guide to Getting Back On Track With Your Health & Fitness, you'll receive a free copy of this the very next day (as I don't want to overwhelm you with so much information all in one go!). Alternatively, you can buy a paperback copy of The Health Assessment Workbook on Amazon.co.uk.
Step 4: Set action-based goals (Not results-based goals)
At this stage, we tie together what we’ve covered in the previous two stages and use that to set the right kind of goals for ourselves. These will be goals that are tailored to our personal health needs as well as being goals that we can stick to and make a significant impact on our health.
In the Getting Back On Track workbook, there's an exercise in there to help you set action-based goals, instead of results-based goals. I explain the difference between the two and the three main problems with results-based goals in this post on goal setting and discuss this in the workbook too.
Step 5: Identify your motive
Once you've set some action-based goals, it's time to think about your reasons for doing this. Real talk time: Whatever the fitness industry, slimming clubs and glossy mags tell you, it is not enough to simply list "summer holiday" or "wedding day", because as soon as these events come round - your motivation dies right there! These a superficial reasons and usually tie in with results-based goals. None of these will change your health for the better, over the long term. None of these will help you maintain your health either.
Some key questions to ask yourself at this stage:
- Why does your health & fitness (not weight!) matter to you?
- Is it harder for you to stay the same and carry on as you are? Or to make a change?
- Are there more advantages to changing your lifestyle, than disadvantages?
- Are you doing this because you want to, or because someone else (media, doctor, family, husband, friends etc.) have told you it's something you should do?
- Would you benefit from addressing issues in other areas of your life first, before tackling your health & fitness? (Relationships, work, family etc.).
There's an exercise in the free workbook to help you jot some initial thoughts down. We also dig much deeper into identifying your motive in The Health Mindset Programme.
Step 6: Create a motivating environment
Identifying your motive for getting back on track with your health and fitness will no doubt fire you up for getting started. A bit like the first few chapters of those dodgy miracle diet books that promise the absolute world, if you'd just stop eating "this one ingredient" (I'm rolling my eyes just typing that!).
The truth is, we need more than a motive to keep us going with our goals [Click to Tweet this] . We need to make our actions a habit or routine, which we'll come to in Stage 7, but first, we need to set up the right environment.
Here are some suggestions for the strategies you can put in place to help you maintain your motivation and stay on track. Some may seem like a little woo-woo, but they will all have a huge impact on your motivation, health and happiness.
- Create a motivation board (whether digital or hard copy) and place inspirational quotes on it, along with your plans, tracking sheets, shopping lists, gym timetables and anything else you find helpful to have to hand.
- Tracking habits using planning sheets so you can see how you’re progressing
- Look for progress beyond the bathroom scale, recognizing NSVs. Set up a health assessment routine to monitor progress using other vital stats (refer to The Health Assessment Workbook).
- Ditch the negativity – have a social media cleanse, a magazine cleanse (especially the kind that point out celebrity flaws and make you feel rubbish about yourself), and close yourself off from negative people.
- Surround yourself with success - try support groups, find like-minded people who have habits you admire and want to emulate, listen to podcasts, and proactively use social media for coaching and inspiration, rather than comparison.
Step 7: Adapt your lifestyle for a healthy routine
This is all about fitting a healthy lifestyle into a real life. This can be hard to do at first until you find your ideal routine. This is why we've already taken steps to find & maintain your motivation. But whether you're a busy parent, work full time or own a business (heck, maybe even all three!) there are steps you can take to set yourself up for a healthier lifestyle.
Start by writing down your usual daily routine and then pick it apart in detail. Ask yourself, where are your obstacles? What’s happening in your day that’s tripping you up when it comes to your health and fitness goals? There's space for you to do this in the Getting Back On Track Workbook. Time hacks and healthy living routines are also covered in The Health Mindset Programme.
Some quick fixes I found useful in my own life:
- Signing up to an online gym and buying some basic, easy to store, gym equipment so that I can workout from anywhere at any time, for when I can't make it to my gym.
- Buying pre-prepared (but not processed) frozen vegetables to use for my cooking - this means I can make a huge range of healthy meals from scratch in under 20 minutes.
- Cooking extra food when I have to time to cook from scratch, and then freezing the leftovers to heat up on the hectic days.
- Taking time on a Sunday to figure out who will be in the house and when for which meals for the week ahead. I use this as an outline to plan meals ahead and then write my shopping list accordingly. This way I don't buy too much food for it to go to waste, or end up eating any old rubbish the day before I order the shopping. This takes me no more than 20 minutes to do but saves so much time in the long run.
- I then order my food shopping online. Because frankly, I hate shopping - it's a giant waste of an hour at the weekend, that I could spend doing better things (Netflix!) and I find it quicker to search directly for what I want and avoid the impulsive urge to buy everything I see that's on offer or is covered in chocolate.
Step 8: Avoiding the temptation of a quick fix
As I said, setting up new routines is hard initially. But you know what? Any kind of change, in general, is going to be hard. Hopefully, you already established in stage 4 that this kind of change is worth it, compared to the alternative of carrying on as you are. If you're struggling at this stage, then please go back and repeat stage 4.
If you stick with your action goals and carry on refining your routines and finding little lifestyle hacks, they eventually become habits - and you won't have to rely too heavily on motivation to pull you through it.
It may be that at this stage in your progress you need to do some work on your 'all-or-nothing' approach or ask yourself: why are you in such a rush to get results? [Click to Tweet This]. For example, are you delaying other areas of your life and happiness because you think you're undeserving of them until you reach a certain weight? Are you trying to restrict your lifestyle too much? Is this making you feel miserable and like you're punishing yourself? There's a helpful exercise in the Getting Back On Track Workbook to help you jot some initial thoughts down.
This is usually the point where self-sabotage comes into play. Often there are feelings buried deep within our minds that we're not aware off, many of which may stem from issues with body image, self-acceptance, or perhaps painful memories in our earlier life. In The Health Mindset Programme, self-sabotage is an issue we dive deeper into.
Step 9: Conquering the most common pitfalls
This includes addressing complex issues such as self-sabotage, negative body image, low self- worth and emotional eating - all of which can completely derail even the best of habits of you're having a tough time in your life. These are very tough issues to address, and you need to think about working on these over the long term. In the short term, focus on building an awareness of them, and really looking at your habits and whether these issues could be coming in play here.
Helpful awareness strategies include:
- Tracking mood alongside food
- Spotting patterns in your behaviour
- Identifying triggers for emotional eating – what happened or what were you thinking/feeling before you reached for the food?
Once you have an awareness of what’s going on, you can thing dive into honest self-reflection. This isn’t always easy to do and sometimes requires the help of a professional.
Here are some prompts to get you started:
- Are you comfort-eating? Have you experienced trauma in your life and food is a source of comfort for you?
- Are you self-sabotaging because you don’t think you deserve to look after your own health?
- Are you self-supporting because of a fear of success? A fear of success is more common than people think – for example, you might be worried that your partner or friends will treat you differently if you lose weight.
- You might be afraid that changing your health around will make you feel unsettled in other areas of life (which can happen) often when we’ve successfully improved one area of our lives we start to look at the other areas and want to improve them. As we already know, change can feel very unsettling and scary at times, so it may be that you’re self-sabotaging to prevent the upheaval that change will cause.
When it comes to tackling issues such as emotional eating, you may need to put in place strategies for experiencing and dealing with an emotion instead of numbing it (anger, sadness, loneliness). These might include finding human contact, hobbies, mindfulness, self-care, exercise as a distraction create a fulfilling daily routine so you don't feel the need to 'reward' with food.
Whatever your pitfalls may be, it’s so important to pull away from the mindset of dieting and weight loss, and instead, switch your focus onto your actions and habits. You could begin by writing down some thoughts in a notebook, or a private blog – or even Evernote on your phone. Start by writing out what your pitfall is and then repeatedly explore your answers to the question ‘why’, until you feel like you’ve a breakthrough insight into the underlying thoughts behind your actions.
Step 10: Rinse & repeat
Anytime you feel like you're going off track, revisit the previous stages. This will keep you out of the dieting cycle and eventually you'll reach a point where your health habits are firmly in place (you may even enjoy them!) and you stop beating yourself up with ideas like perfection vs failure.
So there we have it, the 10 stages of getting back on track with your health and fitness goals. Notice there were no diet tips or gruelling workout regimes? Instead, we focus on your mindset, because this is what changes everything about your life.
To help you get started right now, remember to download the Getting Back On Track Workbook using the link below. You'll also be sent a free digital copy of The Health Assessment Workbook the very next day, and if you're looking for a supportive environment, you'll be invited to join our Facebook group.