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How to Overcome Setbacks in Your Nutrition Journey

Here’s a story that might sound familiar to you. You’ve been on track with your nutrition for a while. You’re making healthy choices and fueling your body with nutritious foods. You’re feeling good!

But then inevitably it happens. Maybe it’s a rough day at work. Or maybe it’s one of those days when you’re so busy you feel like you just can’t catch up. No matter how much we plan and prep, days like that can happen. And those are the days we’re most likely to rush through the drive-through on the way home from work, or eat a bowl of ice cream for dinner.

Reframing the Setback

Most of us would refer to a day like that as a “bad” day. We’d call it a setback or a slip-up. We fell off the wagon, we screwed up—we were doing great but then we lost it.

But framing it in this way can be problematic. The reality is we’re all human, and none of us is ever going to be perfect. Thus, setting our expectations at perfection, and deeming any less-than-perfect action as a setback, is really setting ourselves up for disappointment.

With that in mind, what can you do instead when you find yourself making choices that aren’t in line with your health goals? Here are some ideas.

4 Ways to Reframe “Setbacks” in Your Nutrition Journey

  1. Be curious. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know this one by now. Get curious about why you made a choice and what was going on for you in that moment. Asking yourself those questions can help you grow in awareness, so you’re more conscious of it the next time you’re in a similar situation.

  2. Ask yourself: what have I learned from this? If your instinct is to beat yourself up, try swapping the self-judgment for an opportunity to learn. Does a stressful day lead you to eating to numb your emotions? Then maybe this is an opportunity to learn how you can reduce stressors in your life.

  3. Stop thinking of nutrition as all-or-nothing. If perfection is your expectation, you’re putting yourself on the fast-track to burnout and disappointment. Remind yourself that just because you made one decision that wasn’t aligned with your goals, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you’re human.

  4. Make it about the choice. Remind yourself that the foods you put in your body are a choice. You’re choosing to fuel your body with highly nutritious foods. You’re making the choice to give your body what it needs to function optimally and feel good throughout the day. And sometimes, you’re making a choice to enjoy something fun, like a cookie or a cheeseburger. And that’s fine too! Viewing these things as individual choices that we are consciously making, instead of good or bad things that happened to us, puts us in the driver’s seat. It empowers us to make the choices that are best for us.

I know it can be hard to reframe the idea of the setback. Most of us have become used to this language, and it’s now second nature for us to refer to our eating choices as either good or bad. But if we can unlearn this habit and train ourselves to view food in a different way, we can change our relationship with food, become more gentle on ourselves, and create nutritional habits that actually last.

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The content found on Integrative Counseling and Nutrition Consulting platform is not intended to be a substitute for professional therapeutic advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your psychiatrist, therapist or other qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition.


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