Staying on the healthy path.

All too often we hear phrases like “I’ve fallen off the wagon” or “I have gone right back to where I started” when it comes to healthy eating or healthy living. These phrases imply that life is about a destination – that once we reach that desired way of eating/feeling/thinking/exercising, we should stay there…. forever…. effortlessly.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), this is not how life works. This is not how people work. We are not robots and no one is perfect.  As cliche as this sounds – life is a series of ups and downs. There is not a single person out there, no matter how amazingly perfect their life may look from the outside, that doesn’t have days when they feel crappy, when they wish they could go back to bed, crawl under the doona and stay there, when they don’t get to the gym or go for a run or even get off the couch! There is not a single person out there who eats only perfectly nourishing and healthy things every single day of their life, who never accidentally has one drink too many or loses the ability to stop at just one piece of chocolate.

In fact, as I am sitting here writing this post, I have finished off half a block of Lindt 90% cocoa chocolate… at 11 o’clock at night! Am I happy about that? No. Do I wish that I had put the block away after 2 pieces? Absolutely. Am I going to beat myself up about it? No. Am I likely to do it again sometime? Extremely likely! Is it going to affect what I choose to eat tomorrow? Not a chance.

So how can I ‘stuff up’ like this and not let it affect me? Because I am human and because I don’t consider it to be stuffing up. When I get up tomorrow I have a choice, I can tell myself that because I ate half a block of chocolate last night I have failed, have fallen off the wagon and have ruined all of my hard work. Or, I can start my day fresh, because tomorrow is a new day. Because it is what we do the majority of the time that matters.

Here are a few tips to help you to stay on the wagon:

  • Don’t expect yourself to be perfect.
  • Realise that thoughts are just thoughts – they are not facts. You don’t have to listen to them.
  • Understand that you have a choice in everything you do. We cannot change or control what happens to us but we do have a choice about how we respond to these things. Eat a whole block of chocolate – that is your choice, skip the yoga class – also your choice. Own that choice and then move on. Maybe you will make a different one next time.
  • Learn to act mindfully – stop and listen to your body, pay attention to your thoughts and your emotions. Notice what is really going on for you and make your choice based on what you notice. Are you feeling stressed or anxious? bored? tired? sad? overwhelmed? Notice that. What does it feel like in your body, in your breath, what is going on in your mind? Now choose what you want to do about that. You can stop yourself from feeling by filling that emotion with food or alcohol or you can practice tolerating difficult feelings and do something that makes you feel ok. Whatever you do, do it mindfully and remember that you have a choice in what action you take.
  • Don’t expect yourself to be perfect.
  • When you ‘fall off the wagon’, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. Every day is a new day, every choice is a chance to start again. Living a healthy lifestyle is about starting again over and over and over.
  • Cry when you need to – having a good cry can do wonders and is a normal way of letting go of emotions. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • Have healthier options for things that you have no desire to live without. Mine is chocolate. I have no intention of giving it up. But I choose the darkest kind I can, make my own when I can and make sure I have healthy chocolate options in my house for when I really want them (after I have checked in on my body to be mindful of what is going on). Somedays I eat none of these things, others I eat way too much – that is ok. No one is perfect.
  • Remember that it is what you do the majority of the time that matters.
  • Make sure you have things in your life that bring you pleasure.
  • Don’t expect yourself to be perfect.
  • Try to do something each day that nourishes your body, your mind and your soul. Check in at bedtime to see if you have managed any or all of these and think about what you can include tomorrow.
  • Do your own research and decide what is right for you, at this point in your life. Don’t blindly follow a diet or exercise program because someone else says you should. Understand the choices you are making and the research behind them so that you can stand behind that decision 100%. As your life and your needs change, do more research and make whatever changes your body needs.
  • If you are having trouble learning to listen to your body, tolerating physical sensations or regulating your emotions then seek help from someone with suitable qualifications and experience. Don’t expect to be able to manage everything on your own. You can contact me for a recommendation or to arrange a personal consultation.

I hope that you find this helpful. I would love to hear your thoughts on this post and any advice that you have for others.

Do you have some more tips to add to this list?

As always, I love hearing from you either in the comments here, on my facebook page or on instagram – tag me @thenourishedpsychologist

11 thoughts on “Staying on the healthy path.”

  1. Really enjoyed this article Monique. It resonates with where I am at in my journey and aligns with my values.

  2. Thank you. I really enjoyed reading this! Mindfulness, moving away from the judgement of good/bad was a game changer for me too.
    I love the multiple don’t expect yourself to be perfect. It’s worth the emphasis!

  3. I was only just saying to my husband that I feel like my healthy ways are slipping but after thinking about it those thoughts only came about after a weekend away where we were out of normal routines without having the usual healthy planned meals and snacks. Worried my taste buds were starting to like the ‘bad stuff’ again but I’m hoping after getting back on track this week My healthy mind set will return (and I’ve hardly been bad just not 100% perfect)

      • Anna, I had a similar experience, took some store bought ice cream to a BBQ, and had to take the leftovers home (sigh), I hate throwing stuff away, so for the next 3 evenings my husband and I finished the tub, eventually I was gagging at the sweetness of it and the horrible gunky sensation in my mouth. I was so proud that I could experience this feeling and happily not buy that STUFF again. Next time it’s Monique’s ice cream all the way! Seriously yum!

  4. haha love how you have don’t expect yourself to be perfect!!! SOOOO true!
    Great post.


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