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falling off the wagon — and getting back on


Help; I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.  The elderly woman lying on the floor, from the various versions of this TV commercial that have been playing since the 1980’s.

Q: I was wondering how do you get back on the wagon once you’ve fallen off?   A:  I see people say things like this all the time… and I’m often confused. What wagon? The diet wagon? The bandwagon? Because if that’s the case, then I’m glad you fell off of it.  Listen. I think questions like these – and statements like these, period – are problematic. It’s not a matter of “getting back on the wagon,” because that’s not how you approach something that is a substantial change to your lifestyle. It’s not “Oh, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” It’s “Wow, successfully changing how I live and adjusting my habits is hard work, and I’ve got to treat it as such.”   – Excerpted from Erika Nicole Kendall’s October 7, 2013 column on A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss (Q&A Wednesday: “Falling Off” (And “Getting Back On”) The Wagon)

I think that Erika is mostly correct in her quote above.  The lifestyle changes that have the potential to turn your health, your weight, and your life around 180 degrees are not easy — especially at first.  But like I have repeatedly told you, the longer you do the right things, the easier and more habitual they get.  So, with props to Erika’s quote from above; when I speak of “The Wagon“, I am speaking metaphorically.

No matter how good our intentions and how hard we work, sooner or later we all fall off “The Wagon“.  It’s life.  Get over it — literally.  If you don’t get over it and climb back on, you get discouraged, start to feel sorry for yourself, and start to get down on yourself.  The next thing you know, you’re telling yourself that you ‘deserve’ those things that you essentially gave up (or at least cut way back on) when you radically changed your lifestyle. 

Let me get into the meat of today’s post by saying that if you are constantly / routinely falling off the wagon, you probably have a problem with addiction.  And when it comes to food, most of these could be classified as some sort of CARB / SUGAR ADDICTION.  Don’t feel like you are the only one.  Carb addictions are so common that they could probably be considered ‘epidemic’ here in America.  If I am describing you, take a moment and click the link before reading any further.

I have previously said that for most of us hardcore sugar / carb addicts, there is no such thing as having “just a taste“.  That might work for some people, but for many of us it simply lights the fuse that is our cravings, which typically leads to epic binging.  What are you going to do when this happens, because no matter how strong you are at this very moment, something will prove to be your kryptonite and weaken you.  So; again I ask you — what are you going to do?

  • HAVE A PLAN:  Don’t think that falling off the wagon is something you are incapable of.  If you have already created a (written) plan, you will already know what you are going to do in any given situation.  Always be thinking one step ahead and trying to head problems off while they are “potential” problems.  It’s an old cliche, but failure to plan is planning to fail.


  • HAVE AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER:   Without exception, every program that is successful at helping people break addictions (including food addictions) puts a huge emphasis on accountability. HERE is one that a buddy and I used a couple of years ago.


  • GET BACK ON THE WAGON IMMEDIATELY:  The following scenario is not something you want to be associated with (but unfortunately, far too many Americans are).  You’ve been pretty good about what you’ve been eating for most of the year.  You’ve been focused on eating your WHOLE FOODS, and have not slipped up for quite some time.  Then you go to a couple of Halloween parties and mess up.  After a few days of being “off the wagon” you tell yourself that since Thanksgiving really isn’t too far away, you may as well climb back on the first of December.  Yeah right; you already knew that wasn’t happening.  So after spending the entire month of December on a binge of biblical proportions, you make your New Year’s Resolutions.  But by this time, you are so DEPRESSED about the 25 lbs you’ve gained in the past two months that you just shank the whole thing.  Bypass this whole scene by getting right back on the wagon after you’ve fallen off.   When you fall off, treat the next day like Monday morning — the first day of a New Year.


  • FIGURE OUT AHEAD OF TIME HOW YOU PLAN TO DEAL WITH CHEAT DAYS:  Know your weaknesses.  A “Cheat Meal” or “Cheat Day” now and then, is not going to ruin everything you’ve already done.  However, you cannot simply do CHEAT DAYS flying by the seat of your pants.  You had better know ahead of time how you are going to deal with this issue or it could end up running your life.  In other words, you end up living for your Cheat Days.


  • GO TO THE PARTY FULL:   This is particularly for this season.  You have a holiday get together with your friends.  You know there will be tables piled high with exactly the stuff you have been working on staying away from.  Fine.  Go to the party.   But eat immediately beforehand.  A chef’s salad might not be as “sexy” as multi-flavored cheesecake, Christmas cookies, and rum punch right now, but trust me when I tell you that it will be later (HERE).


  • MOTIVATE YOURSELF:  These are different for everyone, but are usually quite simple.   It may be nothing more than looking at some “Before and After” weight loss photos (yours or online).  Or it may just take you telling yourself that you’ve come too far to give up now.  Sometimes, just the fact that you feel like utter crap after falling off the wagon can be extremely motivational.  Or it may be just a matter of forcing yourself back into your daily routine.  I don’t care what it takes, but don’t wallow in the mud, thinking about climbing back on the wagon — just do it!   The longer you are looking at the wagon while it rolls down the trail without you, the more effort it will take to run after it, catch it, and climb back on.


  • UNDERSTAND YOUR ADDICTION (AND YOUR EXCUSES):  While this might not pertain to many of you, my guess is that it pertains to more of you than most would care to admit.  If you know you have a problem with certain foods or food groups (carbs, for instance), for Pete’s sake, stay away from them.  It’s really not much different than the “dry” alcoholic.  That person might not have had a drink for 20 years, but they stay away from it because they know that it they don’t, they’ll wind up in the same ditch they drug themselves out of previously.  You also have to realize that your excuses are identical to those of people hooked on drugs, alcohol, porn, or whatever else people get addicted to.

Again, falling off the wagon doesn’t mean the dark horse of the apocalypse is knocking at your door.  It does mean you have to get up, dust yourself off, bandage your bruises, and get back on.


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