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Actually, it’s OK if you Already Messed up Your New Year’s Resolution

Workout plan for cardio

Did you resolve to start Paleo or keto on January 1? If you’re still going strong – fantastic! But if you’ve been struggling lately or if you’ve already taken a fall off the proverbial wagon, this post is for you.

Here’s some perspective on “failure” when it comes to resolutions, plus a practical problem-solving guide with simple, actionable steps to help you address whatever tripped you up in the first place. It’s fine to slip up sometimes; the trick is not to let one setback throw you totally off track. So if you’re feeling guilty about messing up already, put on your problem-solving hat and get ready to recommit like a pro.

Everyone slips up and it’s not a big deal at all.

This study tracked people making New Year’s resolutions (most commonly related to food and smoking). They divided people into “successful” and “unsuccessful” groups based on whether they were still following their resolutions 2 years later. Here’s what they found:

Fifty-three percent of the successful group experienced at least one slip, and the mean number of slips over the 2-year interval was 14. Slips were typically precipitated by a lack of personal control, excessive stress, and negative emotion.

In other words, even people who end up successfully keeping their New Year’s Resolutions tend to slip up once every 2 months, on average. This is what resolution success stories look like: sticking with it most of the time, with unavoidable occasional slips. If you’re experiencing your very first slip up right now, then buckle in for the ride because statistically you’ve got a bunch more to go and that’s totally fine.

What time is it? Perspective time!Meal plan

Let’s say you’ve been off the Paleo straight and narrow for a week at this point. That week is probably looming pretty large in your mind because it’s so recent and the memories are all fresh. That’s normal! But zoom out for a second and imagine what would happen if you get back on track right now – by January 1, 2019, that one week will just be a tiny blip on the horizon.

1 week out of 52 is about 2% of the year. So if you get back into Paleo after a 1-week detour, you can still have a 98% Paleo year. Even if you took 2 weeks of pizza and beer, you can still have a 96% Paleo year – which, overachievers take note, is still a solid A. So let go of self-recrimination, give yourself a pat on the back for doing something really hard, and focus on what specific things you can do to take a better shot at it, starting now.

If you think all this gushy self-compassion stuff is nonsense and you really just want to be harder on yourself, think of it like this: have the guts and discipline to do the un-glamorous, un-Instagrammable thing that really works in the long term. Real self-discipline isn’t about impulsively careening from unrealistically “perfect” diet/exercise plans to wild guilt/shame spirals when life happens and your commitment to eat 100% Paleo and spend an hour at the gym every day runs headfirst into the real world. There’s an addictive motivational “high” that comes in the first flush of absolute and extreme commitment to a new plan: if you really want to be hard on yourself, give that up and get down to the grown-up work of making realistic plans, including plans for the inevitable times when you’ll get thrown off course. Instead of letting yourself just descend into a shame spiral, have the discipline and impulse control to get a handle on your own emotions and get back to work at your goals.

The trick isn’t to never stumble. It’s to learn from your stumbles and adapt so you don’t keep hitting the same roadblock again and again.

New Year’s resolution stumbles: a Paleo get-back-on-track guide

Look down to find your problem and see a couple of simple actions you can take immediately to address it so you can get back on the Paleo train right away.

Hunger & Cravings

Problem: I started craving something really badly and just couldn’t resist.

Problem: I was so hungry all the time and it was too miserable to keep up with, so I quit/caved and grabbed a bunch of junk.

Problem: I got really hungry and the only food around was junk food, so I had to eat it.

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Problem: I was having an exhausting/stressful day, so I cracked and reached for the comfort food.

Problem: I felt too tired/depressed/low to put in all the effort of shopping and cooking, so I just ordered pizza.

More useful links:


Problem: Shopping/cooking/cleaning took too long – who has time for that?

Problem: Paleo food was way too expensive so I went back to pasta and rice.

Problem: I didn’t know what to cook.

Problem: I didn’t really understand what I was allowed to eat and what I wasn’t.

Problem: I was expected to eat cake/cookies/brownies for a social event (e.g. coworker’s birthday, catering for the office)

More useful links:

How’s your New Year’s Resolution going?

Did you even make one? What did you resolve to do? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!