(This is a post I wrote a while ago for my old blog, long since deleted. Rereading it made me chuckle. I hope you enjoy I too).
You've had a really bad day. You somehow avoided the urge to punch your boss in the teeth and can barely repress the desire to scream as you walk out of the office door. You get into your car and instead of driving to the gym, you drop the car off at home and walk straight into the nearest pub. When you arrive at the bar you tell yourself that you'll go to the gym on your rest day to make up and you still plan to cook a healthy meal when you get home.
Two or three drinks later you've busted your calorie allowance for the day wide open and realise that if you try to cook anything you'll probably burn the house down. Your significant other had a bad day too and joined you in the pub just as you were working up the willpower to leave. You're drunk, in a bad mood, and although you're no longer dealing with whatever stressed you out in the first place you are now fuelling the fires from within.
You think, "I've already messed up my diet today, might as well go the whole hog." so now you and your partner are planning to order a takeaway but because you're impaired by alcohol you order enough to feed five people and you only manage to eat half of it. The rest goes into the fridge for tomorrow. You go to bed late, drunk and stuffed with junk food without having done any exercise. Today was a write off, you tell yourself, but tomorrow you can start again fresh...
...Except that next day you have a worse day because you have a hangover. You rush out of the house without eating breakfast, you eat leftover takeaway for lunch, you have another rubbish day and by home time going to the gym is the last thing on your mind. By the time you actually get home you feel like you might as well just go to the pub again.
Before you know it one bad day has spiralled into a bad week and you're already planning putting off restarting the diet and exercise until the following Monday by which time you'll probably have found even more excuses to slack off...
This is what I call the "Sod it!" effect. The perverse, self-destructive urge to make things even worse for yourself after a setback, manufacturing excuses to give in to your vices and sinking deeper as you go until what you do on one "bad day" becomes what you do every day and your worst habits are now your daily routine.
I think it's something we've all done to one degree or another. Unhealthy eating and drinking habits can rapidly become commonplace in our lives.
Here are some thoughts on how to avoid this.
Find better ways to cope with stress!
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. If you went to the gym instead of the pub chances are you'd feel better about your day by the time you'd finished. If you're really struggling to make yourself go on a particular day then plan to do an easier or shorter workout so that at least you'll do something. We all know the hardest part of a training session is turning up. Once you're on the gym floor and ready to work out you might find you're more enthusiastic about finishing your routine...
Martial arts based classes are good for blowing off steam. Body Combat or boxercise allow you to punch and kick to your heart's content without actually doing anyone any harm but if you'd prefer something a bit more hands on them Maybe you'd enjoy taking up an actual martial art. Traditional martial arts like karate include lots of form training and kata with a relatively small amount of sparring so if you want to do a lot of fighting then kickboxing might be more to your liking.
Try buddy training.
If your friend is waiting in the gym to train with you then you'll be less likely to stand them up to go on an impromptu binge. It's often harder for us to let down others than it is to let ourselves down.
When you buddy train you and your partner can encourage and motivate each other and while you might expect a session for two to take longer, you can keep each other on track. If you take it in turns so that one person does reps while the other rests no extra time is required. You might even get done quicker. Most gyms have plenty enough cardio machines that you can do your cardio at the same time even if not necessarily on neighbouring machines.
Limit your opportunities to fall off the wagon.
Don't carry cash or cards with you. It's harder to give in to temptation when you can't buy anything. If you don't have any money when the snack wagon pulls up then you can't follow through on your cravings. If you need to go home to get your wallet to go to the pub then you'll be less likely to go out again once you've made it through the door. It's low tech but very effective...
Plan ahead and record your progress.
If you record your achievements and know you haven't missed a training session for six weeks you'll want to continue to add to your streak.
Set SMART goals, enter competitions and events, hire a personal trainer, if you do some or all of these things you will have that much more investment in your health and fitness and be less likely to be able to justify calling off a training session on a whim.
Remember, your continued health and fitness are more important than what happens on one bad day so try to keep things in perspective.