Don't beat yourself up. Try one of these gentle mantras instead.

Sarah Klein
March 19, 2018

There’s no way around it: You will stumble (you’re human!) on the path to achieving your health and wellness goals. But berating yourself for skipping the gym, or eating that extra slice of cake will only set you back farther.

“It’s okay to slip once in a while,” says sports psychologist Alexander T. Latinjak, PhD. Just remind yourself: “When I slip, I get up again, and get back on track.” 

Try three four tricks to dodge self-flagellation and move on.

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You finished all the cookies

Tell yourself: “I accept that I’m not perfect—but I choose to refocus on healthy eating.”

Don’t make it a big thing, says Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts; use it as a chance to recommit.

You skipped a morning workout to sleep in

Ask: “What can I do so I don’t skip next time?"

The key is to not get discouraged, and give up on your a.m. workouts entirely, says Judy Van Raalte, PhD, professor of psychology at Springfield College. Maybe tomorrow you set an extra alarm, or tonight you hit the hay a little earlier.

Keep in mind there’s a good chance you needed the sleep, Rossman points out. And one missed workout doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Find another time to fit in your exercise that day, or resume your regular routine the next day, he says.

You overdid it on alcohol

Remember: “It’s not who you are, it’s who you want to become.”

If you’re not happy with yourself or your behavior, remind yourself you’re making strides, Latinjak suggests. 

Rossman offers a similar mantra to spotlight the fact that you can't rewire old habits overnight: “I am a work in progress. What can I learn from this?" He recommends using slip-ups with alcohol as a moment for reflection. Think about what triggers contributed to your desire to drink, he says. For example, if you were out with a friend who is a big drinker, meet up for dinner or a walk next time, instead of drinks. Or if you drank a little too much wine while binge-watching a favorite show, tell yourself you're no longer going to drink alone.

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You’re not seeing results from your new exercise routine

Think: “I’m not exercising because I’ll lose weight. I'm exercising because [insert other benefits, both physical and mental]."

One workout–or even a handful–isn’t likely to result in much more than the loss of water weight. So stop trying to motivate yourself with the promise of changes on the scale, Latinjak says. Instead, list the benefits of exercise beyond weight loss. So if you run, you might say, "I’m running today because it makes me feel fast, because I like spending time in the park, because I get to do it with my friends.”