After a Vacation: How to Get Back to Eating Healthy Again

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Whether you kept up with your healthy routine during your travels or you took a vacation from your fitness habits entirely, getting back into your ritual can be a major challenge. If you’re struggling to stick to your old routine, here are three steps to re-establishing (or maybe even just starting) some healthy workout habits, based on strategies outlined in Charles Duhigg’s bestselling book The Power of Habit.

1. Use cues

In order to begin forming habits, you can’t rely on sheer motivation and willpower alone. When it comes to actually getting yourself to begin a habit, these traits will unfortunately fail you more often than not. Instead, establish a cue or trigger that will remind you to begin the new desired action. If you want to get back to running every morning before work, lay out your workout clothes and sneakers next to your bed the night before. Then when you wake up in the morning, you’ll see these cues, and remember it’s time to go for a run.

If you’re worried you might even forget something like putting out clothes, use an easier cue. Select an action you know for sure you’ll do during the day (checking your phone in the morning, making coffee, turning on a light, etc.) Then, attach a desired behavior to this cue. For example, you could use a trigger as simple as your alarm clock. The alarm already tells you it’s time to wake up, but you could also use it as a reminder to work out. When the alarm goes off, it’s time to head to the gym, plain and simple.

2. Establish a routine

running

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The next step in forming habits is the act itself. Whether it’s running a 5K course, going to yoga class, or completing an hour of weight-training at the gym, establish a routine. When it comes to selecting your new habitual act, try to pick something manageable. If you go too extreme too fast — like opting for a 10-mile run or immediately choosing the heaviest weights you’ve ever lifted — chances are you’ll drop this new habit very quickly. Instead, start small, with the plan to slowly work your way up once the behavior becomes consistent. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t start with a super intense workout, give yourself some time to acclimate to the new routine. Soon enough, you’ll be surpassing the workouts you used to do, and effectively sticking to your goals each step of the way.

3. Reap the rewards

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When you’re just getting back into shape, it can be difficult to remember the euphoric feeling of a healthy body. It’s easy to get distracted by your aching muscles, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat. Since it takes a while for your body to give back as much as it feels like you’re taking away, reward yourself along the way. This could be something as simple as telling yourself “good job!” at the end of each successful workout. Or you could opt to treat yourself for a bigger achievement — like going out for drinks with the guys after a full week of diligent exercise work. These reinforcements will help keep you dedicated to your new habit. Before you know it, the action itself will become its own reward and a fully integrated part of your lifestyle.

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