October 25·6 min read

Fallen Off the Wagon with Exercise and Healthy Eating? Here’s how to Get Back on Track

Slipups and setbacks are inevitable, but these six steps can help you move on and regain momentum.

It’s Monday morning. Your alarm goes off, but you have no desire to drag yourself out of bed. Spending the weekend downing beers, wings, and nachos with your best friends seemed like a fun way to blow off steam at the time, but you’re paying for it now. There’s no time to dwell on that, though, because your first meeting of the day is in 15 minutes, and the only thing you can process right now is that you need coffee and ibuprofen. 

You manage to hold it together for the workday, but now you’re faced with a new challenge: it’s time to work out — or is it? You’re still not feeling 100% physically or mentally, and the last thing you want to do is work up a sweat. In that situation, it’s all too easy to agonize over the decision to exercise until eventually too much time has passed and the choice is essentially made for you. 

We’ve all experienced days that feel like this at one point or another. Those kinds of decadent weekends happen in certain stages of life for any number of reasons. Even if you’re generally pretty mindful of your eating or drinking through most months, certain times of year like the holiday season or even just a long weekend can sweep us up in the excitement. After all, it’s no coincidence that so many New Year’s resolutions focus on eating healthier and exercising. 

When those short-term choices get in the way of your longer-term goals and ambitions, there can be a lot of guilt, frustration, and anxiety. It’s totally normal and valid to feel that way, but the key thing to remember is you’re far from the first person to go through this. Nobody’s perfect, which means that nobody’s path to self-improvement is a smooth, straight line. No matter the cause, each and every one of us has days where we’re just not feeling it. 

Those sorts of rough moments and occasional mistakes don’t define us. But what can define us is the work we put in to bounce back. And even if that guilt and anxiety can feel lonely, you don’t have to figure out how to get back on the right track all by yourself. With that in mind, here are six of the best things you can do to rise above your short-term mistakes and get back on the path to long-term progress. 

Six steps for moving on from your fitness setback. 

  1. Accept it and let it go.

Guilt is only really constructive if it’s used to guide you towards better choices in the future. Endlessly beating yourself up in the present for a mistake you’ve already made won’t magically undo the past. And holding onto that negativity too tightly can cause more harm than any hangover or excess calories from the “bad” food you ate. 

It’s important to accept what you can’t change, figure out how to improve for next time, and move onto the next one. The sooner you start taking positive steps and getting back to habits that are rooted in your long-term goals, the easier it is to put those regrets behind you. Let go of the bad memories by making good ones. 

  1. Go from celebration to hydration.

No matter what you got up to over the weekend, drinking a good amount of water is definitely the right idea. If you’ve overindulged in salty foods and/or alcoholic beverages, hydrating can help flush out your system. Water also offers some pretty clutch mental benefits, too, as multiple studies have shown that drinking water can help improve mood and decrease anxiety. So whether you’re feeling the hangxiety or you’re grumpy about what’s on your to-do list, chugging some high quality H2O will put your mind and body in a better position to seize (or at least survive) the day. 

  1. Hit the Gym! 

After you’ve had your fill of water, it’s time to sweat it out. The physical act of exercising generates the endorphins that make you feel good, and there’s no better way to shake off a past mistake than taking a step to restart that progress towards your goals. 

In this situation, it can be tempting to orient your workout around burning whatever excess calories you may have consumed. Don’t deviate from your long-term plan to address a short-term situation. If your personal trainer’s plan says it’s time to hit the weights, then trust their process — especially since weight training plays a role in weight loss.

If it’s been a little bit longer than usual since you last exercised, it’s important to ease yourself in with a good warmup and not try to do everything all at once. It may take a little extra mental effort to prepare for this particular workout, and you might not feel like you’re capable of pushing yourself in the ways you’re used to. But once you power through that first session, you’ll gain momentum from knowing that the next time you exercise will probably feel a whole lot easier. 

  1. Skip the trip to the scale

This is a hard one, since it’s natural to want to assess the “damage” after making some unhealthy choices. But much like staring at the clock in the middle of a sleepless night, it’ll only add stress to your current situation and distract you from the constructive steps you can take to make things better. It’s also important to avoid worrying about your weight at this particular moment, because that number won’t always paint the most accurate picture. While alcohol and additional carbs can contribute to weight fluctuations, they’re far from the only factor in play. If you’ve been zealous about rehydrating, for example, you’ll likely be carrying around more water weight than usual.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) live in denial about how your past actions may not fit with your future goals, but there’s no need to attach a specific number to the guilt or shame that you’re already feeling. Focus on returning to the regular eating and exercise habits you’ve already started to consistently establish, and the number on the scale will sort itself out in due time.


Remember: you’re not the first person to face these sorts of struggles before. In fact, there’s a better chance that your coach knows exactly how you’re feeling than you might realize — because they’re human too. They’ve made mistakes just like you, and they’ve sorted through the shame and regret of shortsighted choices they wish they could take back. Most importantly, your coach knows what it takes to leave the past behind and get back on the road to progress.

Part of the beauty of working with a personal trainer is that you don’t have to face these difficult moments alone. If you’re accountable when you make mistakes and honest about what’s going on, you’ll find the support you need right there waiting for you. It may feel like you’re letting your coach down by admitting to a self-inflicted setback, but they aren’t there to judge or punish you. If anything, they’ll be glad to have a better idea of what may be affecting your performance so they can start to right the ship. That’s because they’re focused on helping you succeed in your fitness journey, no matter how many roadblocks or detours you might encounter along the way. 

So if you ever find yourself struggling, check in with your coach and let them know. Together, you can adjust your existing plan or come up with a new strategy to help you break down any physical or mental barriers that you feel are in your way. Once you have a clear idea of how you can move forward from wherever you are, letting go of the past gets a whole lot easier. 

  1. Recognize that consistency ≠ perfection. 

If you’ve internalized the notion that consistent action is the engine of progress, it can feel like one mistake means it’s game over for your goals. In reality, that’s not how consistency works. Think of it this way: you have to do the right things more than once or twice in order to establish the consistent habits that take you where you want to be, right? Well, the opposite is also true. A few weekends off track won’t derail your progress if you’ve otherwise put in the effort to cultivate good habits. Once you reframe your thinking that way, it’s a whole lot easier to forgive yourself for the occasional mistake and get back to believing that the best is yet to come. 

Don’t let lifting keep you from living. 

Yes, consistently putting in the effort to exercise and eat a well-balanced diet is essential for reaching your long-term goals and leading a happy, healthy life. But any health and wellness routine will only work if it’s realistic. We’re all human beings with wants and needs beyond lifting weights and eating grilled chicken with a side of steamed broccoli. If following a diet and exercise plan means you can’t enjoy any pizza, pasta, or wine during an Italian vacation, for example, you’ll only have more reason to wonder if the sacrifices are really worth it.

So keep an eye on your long-term goals, but never forget that life is short, and you only live it once. Enjoy that quality time spent with friends and family, because those are the memories that will last forever. As long as you recognize that pursuing your goals is about what you do most of the time, you’ll find yourself heading in the right direction. 

Get support that gets you back on track with Future.

If you’ve been working out alone and could use some help recovering from your setbacks, the accountability, encouragement, and empathy that a Future coach provides can help cultivate the consistent habits that can move you for the better. Your coach will take the time to know who you are, where you want to go, and what you feel might be holding you back, whether you’re starting from scratch or hitting a wall. They’ll guide you toward your goals by creating a customized plan that’s tailored to your circumstances and flexible enough to take all of life’s ups and downs in stride. If you’re looking for support through all the highs and lows of a fitness journey, putting a Future coach in your corner can work wonders. 

Ready to get back in the saddle? Start fresh for less with big savings on your first month of Future coaching. Get things moving in the right direction here.

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