What’s the deal with falling off the wagon? Why does it really happen, how do we prevent it from happening, and what do we do when it’s happened?

Easter weekend is typically a time when we gather with loved ones. Like most holiday gatherings, changes in diet and lifestyle may tip the scales in the opposite direction of our goals. Overeating, over-drinking, and sedentary behaviour are typical culprits. Sprinkle in some stress, and you’ve got a perfect storm for holiday weight gain. But the fluctuations in weight seen over a 3-4 day period are typically transient – meaning, due to fluid retention. Yes, some of that weight might be fat, but it’s hard to gain 5 pounds of fat over such a short period of time. The real culprit here is the psychological piece. The switch in our brain that is flipped when we see the hard-earned progress vanish in a matter of days. What gives!? No Fair! The real, underlying root core problem with this scenario is what follows after the holidays.

Falling off the wagon is an expression typically associated with drinking alcohol again after having stopped. In this context, it refers to getting derailed after the holidays and returning to old habits and choices that were replaced or modified for healthier ones in the pursuit of a goal.

Remember, this is a normal experience that we all go through. We all get side-tracked and lose sight of our goals from time to time. But there is a way to get back on the wagon. Knowing why you want to lose weight.

It’s important to consider why you’re doing something. Anything, really. The 5 Whys is a powerful thought exercise. It can help you understand why you want to lose weight.

Why is knowing why so important? When the going gets tough, humans need a reason to persevere. It’s too easy to fall back into old habits and ways of being when we’re tired, discouraged, or uncertain. Not doing that is tough. Our brains are hard-wired for efficiency, ease and comfort. When we actively choose to do something against our programming, it uses up our energetic resources. That’s why we feel a resistance to it. After-all, why would you exert so much effort unless it was meaningful? The answer is that you wouldn’t. It’s been shown over and over again that weight loss alone is not a powerful motivator for change.

The 5 Whys

Of course, you won’t always know why you’re doing something. That’s ok! Here’s a little thought exercise to guide you. Here’s how it works.

The idea is that you ask a “why” question, like: Why do you want to lose weight?

You answer that question as best you can. For instance, you might answer: I want to fit in my favourite jeans again.

Then, you ask “why” again. Like this: Why is fitting into my jeans important to me?

You answer that question as best you can. Maybe you might say: I believe that it will help restore my confidence.

Then, you ask “why” again, like this: But why is confidence an essential value for me?

And you answer that question. Well, because…

And so on, five times in total. Or, as many times you as want.

Each “why” builds on the previous answer.

By the time they’ve gotten to the fifth “why”, you will have a pretty good idea of some of your core priorities, values and motivators. Give it a try and let us know yours.

The “why” behind your goals are powerful. When you’re feeling lost, uncertain, or discouraged, reconnect to your why. In doing so, you will find it easier to stay engaged in the actions that move you closer to your goals.

Photo by Aiden Craver on Unsplash