If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard about someone who said they were “off the wagon” or “back on the wagon”, I’d have a lot more dollars! I mean I get it, it’s a term to describe to someone that you’re either totally living against your goals, or back on track toward your goals, but the term itself is so black and white. Like you can’t have a bad day, or a bad meal but in general still be pointed in the right direction? You must either be totally out of control or totally strict toward purity? I get it but don’t get it at the same time. I’ve screwed up so many times. I’ve eaten more than I should, I’ve had two or seven more drinks than I should on some random Friday night from time to time over the last 12 years. Does that mean I’m off the wagon? Or does that mean that I made a decision to behave a certain way for one meal and have every intention of picking myself back up and pressing forward?
This is a journey. Journeys have ups and downs, turns, twists, flat parts and challenging hills. The point is we’re all on it, it’s not like making a bad decision one night suddenly takes you out of your journey. You’re still in it friend. Having the mindset that you’re “off the wagon” simply gives you the mental permission to keep staying off the wagon, but if you realize this journey is never ending and simply made up of decisions we make every meal, every temptation, every craving, it can put it in perspective.
I’d recommend having the mindset that you’re on a journey up a mountain. It’s going to take a lot of time to get to the summit but you will do it one day. What you invest each day dictates your progress toward the top. Good day equals forward moving progress. Bad day means you stay the same or even take a couple steps back, nothing that you can’t overcome the next day but a setback nonetheless. With this mountain mindset we are never “off our journey” or “off the wagon” we have simply made decisions and action that did or didn’t move us toward the summit that day or meal. Not a huge deal, especially since you can decide in that instance what’s important to you and work toward making a step toward the top in that same day.
There was a client of mine who was with me for over two years. The first year she only lost 10lbs. 10lbs in a years time isn’t anything to brag about, especially not my clients who a majority lose 6-10x that amount in a years time. This client spent a year “falling off the wagon” every time she even got a craving! A simple craving would send her into a tail-spin of over thinking and emotions. She expected perfection from herself and when a simple craving came on she assumed she was a failure for feeling it and obviously not strong enough to do this so she talked herself into caving and binging. Week after week it was a similar story. I tried multiple approaches on her. We went through visualization of her goals, hanging sticky notes around her house to remind her of her journey and desires, morning goal setting rituals, journaling, I gave her permission to text me regardless of time of day if she was feeling weak or tempted because I wanted to remind her in the moment of weakness of the things we discussed every single week on the phone. Suddenly everything we had discussed, this mindset I described above became very clear to her. That was a major turning point in her life. In the second year of working with me she lost 93lbs (vs. 10lbs the first year). Nothing tangible changed. She was still eating to the plan I provided, she was still doing the workouts like before. The only thing that truly changed was her mindset and expectations of herself. She finally was giving herself permission to not be perfect. She felt cravings just as we all have from time to time but instead of feeling like she was a failure, she analyzed them, asked herself what she was trying to control or distract herself with the food and handled her focus rather than beating herself up for her urges. Real, physical progress only came when she allowed herself to start looking at all of this as her journey rather than an unrealistic, unsustainable thing.
Some of the biggest setbacks I’ve seen come when life happens. A death in the family, a cheating spouse, a termination from a job, these are all things that can stress us out to a point where we feel we’re making so many bad decisions that we’re not even on our journey anymore. The truth is we’re always on our journey. You are right now and the decisions you make today will dictate whether today sits you stagnant at the base of the mountain or whether you will take a few steps toward the top.
You’re stronger than you realize, believe it, own it, brag about it if need be, it’s all you! Be the YOU, you want to be, the perfectly imperfect human who is OK not being perfect but will always strive for forward progress. THAT’S the mentality of a champion, a winner, because losing is never an option even when we fall down temporarily. We learn, we grow, we progress.