How To Get Your Diet Back On Track When You’ve Fallen Off The Wagon

You've succumbed to the temptation of chocolate, crisps and takeaways. Don't panic, it's just a blip. Here's how to get back on track.

Woman eating pizza and salad

So it happened. Your diet was going just great: you’d been eating all your low-calorie, clean eating-friendly foods, meal prepping like a pro, getting in some regular exercise and being super saintly – then, bam! You fell off the wagon, and before you knew it you’d scoffed a whole tub of ice cream, two bars of Aero and a multipack of crisps. Damn.

The odd cheat meal (or day) is perfectly normal and healthy, but if you’ve let a day off turn into a week or more of unhealthy eating, it can be majorly tough to get back on track. But help is at hand: here’s how to restart your healthy eating plan in five easy steps…

1. Embrace your humanity

Okay, it happened. Now it’s time to stop and re-access your diet. Were you being too hard on yourself before? If you were, “aim to stick with the 80/20 rule instead,” recommends nutritional coach Lyda Borgesteijn. “So 80% of the time you keep on track with your diet and the other 20% is your ‘room for error’ zone.”

That means, if you eat 35 meals a week, you can cheat on seven of those meals. “Obviously less error is better,” says Lyda, “so don’t take this to be the ultimate free pass but this breakdown shows the reality that being healthy is not as rigid as you might think.”

2. Start now

Still telling yourself you’ll start on Monday? “Do it now!” instructs Lyda. “Not tomorrow or next week. It can be so difficult to break the negative cycle, but deep down we all know that the best time to start is now. Even if you’ve already slipped up today and it seems pointless, focus on getting plenty of water for the rest of the day and maybe a healthy veggie stir fry for dinner with some chicken and fish.” The sooner you get back on track, the sooner you’ll start to feel better.

You have to realise that while eating healthy and moving your body is all crucial, the real winning formula is all about consistency in the long term.

3. Focus on the basics

“Don’t start trying to figure out macros, or specific meals or calories. Keep it simple and go back to basics,” instructs Lyda. That means making 50% of your plate a variety of colourful vegetables and aiming to include a large portion of protein at every meal. A protein-based snack every three to four hours, like nuts, yoghurt or seeds will also help to keep you on track, too. While you’re at it, toss all packaged and convenience foods including anything with over 10 ingredients.

4. Think about change

“What are you working towards right now?” asks Lyda. “How can you change what happened so that it doesn’t happen again next time? A good question to ask yourself is, am I doing too much too soon?” If you are, you’ll want to start small and simple instead. “A good week one goal may be to add a cup of vegetables to each meal,” suggests Lyda. “Week two might be to drink an additional litre of water per day. Yes, they’re small adjustments, but these small changes over time can add up to big improvements.” Baby steps, you guys.

5. Keep accountable

“The best way to keep on track is to actually write down what you’re doing,” Lyda explains. “That way you can look back over previous weeks and see how far you’ve come, as well as identify what situations may cause you to stray.”

Not one for writing things down? Buddy up with another dieter for emotional support. Having someone to share your achievements (and your, er, failures) with can go a long way to keeping you on track.

Lastly, remember that this is a long term process. “Forget fad diets,” says Lyda. “You have to realise that while eating healthy and moving your body is all crucial, the real winning formula is all about consistency in the long term.”