Whether your cancer prevention goal is to lose weight, eat healthier or be more active, one thing is almost certain: Things will not always go as planned.
Slips are times when you don’t follow your goals for eating healthy or being active. They are a normal part of the process when you make changes in your lifestyle. Slips do not hurt your progress, but the way you react to them is important. You can learn a new way to react to slips that will get you back on track again.
Why do slips happen?
Establishing new habits takes consistent effort over time. There are many factors that can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle change:
• A weight plateau: It can be frustrating to go weeks without seeing the scale budge. You may wonder why you are working so hard.
• Boredom: If you are in a rut with diet or exercise, you may find it hard to stay motivated.
• Time: Finding time to exercise or prep healthy food – and making it a priority – can be a challenge.
• Temptation: Resisting the urge to fall back into unhealthy habits can sometimes seem overwhelming.
• Fear: New foods or unfamiliar exercise routines can be intimidating.
“Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a long-term effort, and temporary slips can be discouraging. But, slips and setbacks don’t have to derail your efforts,” says Mekhala Garvin, health education specialist in the Cancer Prevention Center.
If you have a slip, or just haven’t reached your goal, keep going.
What to do when you have a slip
A slip provides an opportunity to discover what may be preventing you from making healthy choices, Garvin says. They are useful learning experiences that can help you to make progress toward your goal.
“If you’ve gotten off track, there are steps you can take to reset and get back to making healthy choices,” she says. “Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just start over.”
Garvin offers some tips for turning around a setback:
- Learn from it. Keeping a food and exercise journal is a great way to learn why you strayed from your goal. You can do this using a simple notebook. There are also online tools that can help you track your eating and activity. You can then plan how to handle the situation better next time.
- Revisit your motivation. Motivation is critical to maintaining long-term changes to your eating and exercise habits. Take a closer look at your reasons for pursuing a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise. Do these reasons outweigh the reasons to eat unhealthy and not exercise?
- Evaluate your goal. Stay aware of the goals you’ve already reached and the goals you plan to achieve. It’s OK to adjust your goal, especially if it isn’t realistic. If you find that you don’t enjoy running, try walking or cycling. If you find it a challenge to eat vegetables, explore different healthy vegetable dishes or recipes.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Negative thoughts can undermine your ability to handle the slip. Eating unhealthy foods or not being active does not make you a failure or a bad person. Focus on balance and moderation over the long term. Remember that one lapse will not undo all your hard work or keep you from achieving your goal. Don’t get stuck on what you did and lose sight of what you can do.
- Get back on track right away. Once you’ve had a slip, immediately regain control of the situation. Get back on schedule with your activity or make the next meal healthy. Discuss your new strategy for handling slips with a friend and commit yourself to a renewed effort.
“If you have a slip, or just haven’t reached your goal, keep going,” Garvin says. “Even small changes in diet and exercise can help reduce your cancer risk.”
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.