Falling off the Wagon

Why are we learning this?

Sooner or later it happens to all of us. We’ve been training hard, eating well and yet we become susceptible to external forces that get in the way and send us backwards.

Whether it is illness, family, travelling or those unexpected events that pop up every now and then, it is important to know what to do. We can’t stop these difficult events in your life but we can show you ways that we have used to help people get over them and get back on track.

“Every day is a new beginning, take a deep breath and start again..” – Ritu Ghatourey

One thing we can be sure of throughout any programme, there will be times when you fail. Often these times are a result of factors beyond our control that overwhelm us. It could be as simple as a long holiday, travelling with work, an extended bout of flu or even a more serious personal problem. All of these can provide challenges whether they are physical (e.g. physically unable to exercise or maintain control over diet) or emotional (lack of motivation, distractions, lapses in support).

What is important, is to realise and accept that you aren’t making progress before setting a plan to get started again. It is often surprising how getting back to a healthier routine can help you gain positive strength to deal with the problems that first caused you to fall off the wagon.

The Theory:


Sometimes it is obvious that we are not doing the things we know that we should be doing, and sometimes it happens so gradually that we may not realise. We often see people who aren’t achieving results as fast they feel they should be, starting to stray away from the programme and in turn creating a cycle of poorer results. People can start to lose discipline with their diet, start eating comfort food, drinking more alcohol or stop exercising. Often these choices are the result of some external pressure and understanding the root causes is vital to getting back on track. If you can realise early on that you may not be heading in the right direction, for whatever reason, then it is easier to make sure you deal with any problems and stay on track. It is inevitable that your progress will be impacted, but staying motivated is very important and may help you deal with that underlying problem more effectively.


Major setbacks do happen. When we have these life impacting events, people often forget that eating well and doing some exercise can have a dramatic impact on your mood and how you deal with these underlying stresses in your life.

Once you have realised that you have had a major setback, it is important to remain positive and realise that you need to address a problem. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get large results straight away and instead focus on gradually getting back into a routine. It is often useful to see the path to getting back on track as a series of steps:

Talk to someone close to you, be it a loved-one or your trainer and tell them what you plan to do (getting some support and encouragement will really help)

Start to focus on small changes rather than your overall goal

Focus on 2-3 key steps that you will make in the week ahead (this could be as simple as going for a walk or cutting down on comfort food/alcohol)

Do a food diary to bring some awareness and structure back to your eating habits

Set yourself some simple rules, such as “exercise more days than you don’t”

Make sure to track your achievements and set yourself small goals each week until you are back on track.

A recent example:

A client went through a traumatic experience at work

They stopped exercising, started drinking in the evenings and increased their reliance on comfort foods such as takeaways and high fat/sugar snacks

The first step was realising this wasn’t sustainable and looking for help/support from friends

They focused on the week ahead rather than previous long term weight loss goals

First step was to limit alcohol to 2 days per week and try to walk (something they enjoyed) 3 times per week

The following week they completed a food diary and set small goals, cut down on sugary foods and cook at home on week nights.

By focusing on small steps, and gradually progressing they got to a point where they were back to normal and again focusing on long term goals


Sometimes we just have to deal with minor setbacks. One of the most common is coming back from a 2 week holiday where you have let your hair down, eaten anything in sight and drank your annual alcohol limit. People come back feeling sluggish and finding their previous routine difficult. Unfortunately, life is unfair and letting yourself go can take more than 2 weeks to recover from. However, if only for short periods we find that being stricter than normal for several weeks afterwards can often get you back on track:

Realise that you let yourself go and now need to compensate for the over-indulgence

Set yourself a strict exercise plan and realise that it may be harder to start with than before

Move to a stricter diet plan, often we say to aim for a perfect 100% healthy diet for a few weeks (lets face it you probably had enough treats on holiday), which normally results in people achieving 90/10 (no-one is perfect)

Following this for a few weeks should help you get back on track, but if it is seeming too hard then try following the steps above for Major Setbacks.

A recent example:

A client went away for a week with friends to celebrate their 50th birthday

They celebrated everyday with alcohol, unhealthy food and hardly slept for 7 days

On return, they felt tired, overweight and lacking energy to get started with their programme.

As they felt they had gone backwards they were demotivated to get going again – for some reason it is easier to accept failure.

With support from those around them and guidance from a trainer, they followed a strict routine for 2 weeks

Aiming for a 100% diet and doing moderate exercise which increases in intensity as they got used to it again

Although the 2 weeks were not as fun, it got them back to where they were before and to a point where they could follow a normal programme aimed at long term results.