So the holidays have come and gone, and suddenly it’s time to ring in the new year. For many people, January represents a time for self-reflection, new goals and change. But it’s also a time when the diet and fitness industry preys on people who are feeling vulnerable after a long holiday season. With all of the gatherings, parties and general business that come with the time of year, it’s easy to be distracted and to let some of your health behaviours slip. Spread that out over the month of December, and it’s no wonder that people get to January feeling like they’re off-track with their goals!
Unfortunately, that combination of feeling off-track and the “new you” messaging that gets thrown in your face by the weight loss industry can lead people to make some bad decisions for their long-term success. But fear not! You really don’t need a 180 degree change, and it doesn’t have to be painful and guilt-ridden. Read on for our tips to getting back on track.
1. Let It Go (queue Elsa)
If you saw our post on Surviving the Holidays, we hope that you paid attention to the part that told you to enjoy yourself! For most people, this is not the time of year to be trying to lose weight. And whether you like it or not, the holiday season comes every year. So if you’ve come out the other side feeling off-track with your pre-holiday routine, the first step really needs to be letting it go. Don’t be hard on yourself, and don’t wallow in despair or frustration. The longer you do, the longer it will take to get back to your plan. Instead, accept that things are rarely perfect at this time of year, and move on.
2. Avoid the Quick Fix How many times in the past have you set a New Year’s resolution around your diet or your weight? And how many times have you given up on that resolution by the time the calendar turned to March? Remember, sustained progress means that you weren’t on a diet before the holidays, which means that you aren’t going on one now either. So this year, resist the urge to go down that road again. You don’t need a quick fix, and you don’t need to lose 10 pounds by next week (remember, there is no “quick fix” with weight). You just need to let it go and refocus.
3. Get Some Sleep The holidays are exhausting, aren’t they? Once again, the parties and gatherings, as well as the stress of shopping, cooking and hosting tend to lead to some late nights and restless sleep. Even if you’re lucky to have some downtime over the holidays, it’s easy to let your sleep schedule slide. The problem is that lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your energy level, your appetite and your food cravings. Before you can look after your lifestyle goals, you need to look after yourself. Set yourself up for success by getting back to your normal sleeping pattern.
4. Reset Your Kitchen
The holidays tend to bring a lot of treats and goodies into the home, which is wonderful! We sincerely hope you were able to enjoy the delicious dinners and treats that come with the season. But once the holidays are over, the best of intentions can quickly be sabotaged if you’re surrounded by temptation in every cupboard. So another key step should be to minimize this to a reasonable level. Decide which treats are your favourites, and plan to enjoy them for another week or two. But it’s probably best to ditch the rest, especially if you don’t really love them in the first place (we’re looking at you, eggnog and fruit cake!).
5. Review Your Key Behaviours
This one is pretty straight forward, really. You need to review which behaviours are critical to your success. Think back to November, before the holiday rush started. What was working well for you? These tend to be the things that make everything else fall into place, like meal planning, grocery shopping or eating breakfast in the morning. Maybe it was your workout routine to help with your energy level, mood or stress management. If you haven’t really figured out your key behaviours yet, this is really a crucial exercise. See our posts here and here for big picture ideas that can maximize your success.
6. Set Some Goals
Once you’ve figured out your key behaviours, it should be easy to identify which of these has slipped or stopped recently. First, make a list of the goals that you want to reset, and then you should pick one or two of these behaviours to focus on this week. Remember, you didn’t build your healthy routine overnight, so it probably isn’t realistic to be 100% back on track overnight either. Get to the grocery store and stock up your kitchen after the post-holiday cleanout. Get your meals planned out for the week again. Maybe you need to start packing your lunch again, or perhaps it’s time to cut back on the sugary holiday drinks. Once you’ve built that behaviour back into your routine, you can move on to the next item on your list.
7. Keep Track (at least for a while)
No, we’re not talking about food journals, or at least not necessarily. Here’s the thing - if it’s a behaviour, you can track it. If you track it, it’ll stay top of mind, and it’s easy to evaluate your progress. So yes, that could include a food journal for a while to help you get back on track. But that could also mean tracking some of those key behaviours with a simple system of notes or check boxes. Did you eat your breakfast this morning? Check! Did you hit your steps goal today? Check! For many people, tracking actually is one of their key behaviours (did your head just explode?). If it isn’t, that’s fine too. You can stop tracking in a few weeks once things are settled.
We hope this post has been helpful in laying out your plan for getting back on track. Notice that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all list of goals or behaviours here - after all, you’re not on a diet, right? In practice, you could use this same process at any point during the year if feeling off-track - it’s not just the holiday season that can get in your way. But speaking of the holiday season, it’s never too late to start planning for how to handle things next year!
Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year!