Most who begin their journey towards healthy eating feel pressure around this concept of “falling off track”.
They feel like if they don’t perfectly complete their meal plans that they’ve failed.
Which leaves them trying to change their eating habits from a place of desperation.
In today’s episode, I change your perspective on what it really means to fail when it comes to healthy eating.
And how failure is actually necessary to make the changes you want with food.
Hello, there. Welcome back to the podcast. I want to start by saying this week how happy I am that you are all loving this podcast so much. I love hearing how these episodes are helping you in different ways. And it just makes my heart so full and makes me grateful that I get the opportunity to share this work with you. And this week is a very special week. Because I get to talk to you all about what’s actually happening when you fall off track. So, the truth behind everything that comes with failure in healthy eating. I’m so happy to bring up this topic because there’s so much noise around this concept. Around the idea of not sticking to what you say you’re going to eat. It’s filled with a lot of heaviness, shame, and regret. And this isn’t necessary at all. The idea of missing the mark or having a setback in healthy eating doesn’t have to be negative whatsoever. And I’m really grateful that I get to change your perspective around that here. Last week we talked about how you can plan for healthy eating success by intentionally planning your meals. While also remembering to meet yourself where you are. In today’s episode, I want to touch upon the process of what should happen when you don’t follow that plan. And thing’s don’t turn out like you expected when it comes to following your food plan.
First, I really want to talk about this concept we’ve created of “falling off track” or “falling off the wagon”. I used to say things like this all the time. Almost every other week I was saying something like, “Oh, I just need to get back on track with my food plan. I just need to be good next week and eat what I’m supposed to”. So, basically, I was treating my food plan like a rigid assignment that I was supposed to turn in. Like I was going to receive a pass or fail grade depending on how successfully I stuck to that meal plan. And it makes me cringe a little today knowing how drastically I really believed this back then. Especially now that I’m a professional in this space and I teach other women this work, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come and how much work I had to do on myself back then. But in my past, whenever I set goals to eat healthier, I went about it with a pass or fail, perfectionist mentality. For me, it was always black and white. Either I completed a meal plan perfectly or I didn’t follow through at all. I know this will resonate with so many of you listening. Because there’s a specific reason why we do this with our eating habits. We’ll think we want to eat perfectly because we have the best intentions for our bodies and ourselves. But the real reason we want to eat perfectly is because we’re terrified of the concept of failure. We will do anything to prevent ourselves from falling off track and having those setbacks. Because we’ve attached all of this heaviness and negativity to the concept of failure. And here’s the absolute truth. You don’t fear failure when it comes to healthy eating. You fear the feeling you will experience when you fail. And remember, think back to past episodes where we talked all about this. Anything we do, or don’t do, is based on how we feel, right? The same goes for eating healthy. We will do anything to prevent failure because we’re afraid of how failure will make us feel. And this usually means for most people that they won’t take action at all. Because they’re scared of what will happen when they don’t follow through. And the reality is there’s nothing scary about falling off track with your food plan. The scariest thing about it is a negative emotion. That’s the worst that can happen. And I want to offer to you that you have the ability to experience any negative emotion that comes your way. Even those really uncomfortable emotions like self-doubt, shame, or guilt. You have everything it takes to experience those emotions head on. Because at the end of the day, a negative emotion doesn’t have to have power over you. It can’t actually hurt you.
Now, moving even further, I want you to know that the reason why you experience negative emotion when you fail, isn’t because failure is negative. There’s nothing negative about failure. The concept of failure is entirely neutral. It’s not good or bad. What makes failure negative to you is simply your thoughts about it. Or what you make failure mean about yourself. Here are common examples of thoughts that might come up for you when you fail to eat healthy. “This shouldn’t have happened”. “I should know better”. “What’s the point of trying?”. “I can’t trust myself to eat healthy”. If the concept of failing to eat healthy brings up negative emotion for you, it’s important that you identify the thought that is causing that negative emotion. Because that’s all that’s happening here. This is why failing a meal plan or healthy eating protocol is terrifying to you. It’s because of your thoughts about it. And what you make that mean about yourself.
Now, the great news is that you can totally change your relationship around failure. And your relationship to failure is simply your thoughts and feelings about it. So, let’s say you have a setback in your meal plan for the week. And you didn’t follow through on something you planned for. You get to decide what you make that mean. You have control over your reaction to that failure. And I recommend choosing to create thoughts about failure that actually serve you. And the results that you want to create with food. So, some thoughts to borrow when you fail are, “I wonder what compelled me to go off plan”, “I can figure this out”, “This is my assignment for the week”, “I always have my own back”, “Of course this happened. It makes so much sense”, “I will use this as an opportunity to learn and grow”. So, the theme of new thoughts that I want you to create are thoughts that will give you feelings of curiosity and compassion for yourself. So, I want you to be genuinely curious when you have a setback in your meal plan. Think of yourself as the most fascinating science experiment ever. And get in there and evaluate what’s not working from a place of pure curiosity. I know you will have something in your life that makes you super curious about it. And you’re always wondering how it works and what makes it tick. Access this same energy when it comes to you changing your eating habits. I also want you to generate thoughts that create feelings of compassion for yourself. So, choose to be your own protector, best friend, and supporter when you don’t eat as planned. Really have your own back. Show yourself some understanding for why you had that setback. Imagine what you would say to a dear friend or loved one if they had the same type of setback. Or for you mothers out there, imagine what you would tell your child if they didn’t succeed at their goal. You would be kind and supportive, right? Access this same energy for yourself when you fail to follow through with your healthy eating plans. It’s so entirely necessary that you do this, always.
The key is to constantly remember that failure is neutral. Even if that means you completely just fail your meal plan and go on a binge eating episode where you self-sabotage like crazy. That failure is still neutral. It’s not good or bad. Google actually defines failure as “the omission of expected or required action”. And I absolutely love that. Because it’s very true. Failure is simply the omission of expected or required action. There’s no negativity or heaviness attached to it.
And that’s why failure is so scary to us, right? It’s that negative emotion that we’re anticipating when we fail. But it also scares us for another very important reason. It’s because many of us tend to think that over there is better than over here. Meaning we think that on the other side of eating perfectly healthy is happiness, joy, fulfillment, bliss – all of those really heightened emotions that we strive for. And I’ve talked about this a bit on past episodes, but it really applies here. You need to fully understand that on the other side of healthy eating habits isn’t happiness of fulfillment. Because the feelings of happiness and fulfillment come from your thoughts. You can decide to create those blissed-out feelings right now. By doing the necessary thought work. If you truly think that healthy eating or the result of weight loss will make you happier, this is you giving up responsibility for your own emotions. Because you truly believe that outside circumstances are what cause you to feel a certain way. And if this is your mindset, and you truly believe this, then you will always be looking outside of your for happiness and fulfillment. And you will always be terrified of failure. Because you’ll believe that when you fail to eat healthy, that you’re even further away from that happiness and fulfillment you so desire. You’ll be in a rush to fix your eating habits. You’ll feel like the quote unquote “real version of yourself” is on the other side of healthy eating. And I feel really strongly about this, because I was so afraid to fall off track or fail with my eating habits. Because I believed that when I failed I was even further away from feeling better about myself. Failing, to me, felt like 100 steps backwards. Because the truth is, I saw the concept of eating healthy as a finish line. And it’s likely that many of you listening will feel this way as well. When I would say things like “falling off track” or “falling off the wagon”, it’s because I subconsciously thought that I would reach this point in healthy eating where I finally felt like I’d won the game of life. Like, at this point I would finally be supremely healthy with perfect eating habits. And I could finally give myself permission to feel happy, healthy, and fulfilled. And this just wasn’t the case whatsoever. It wasn’t until I gave myself unconditional permission to fail that I experienced massive growth.
What I want you to take away from this time here with me today, is that failure isn’t only beneficial to you, but it is necessary. Every setback you have, when you’re on this journey to changing your eating habits, is a clue as to where your work truly is. Failures are the waypoints to our long-term success. They are the breadcrumbs. Those answers for healthy eating that you have desperately wanted for so long? Those answers are in your failures. So, instead of reacting negatively towards your failures, change your relationship with it so you can find the answers in your failures instead. I wholeheartedly promise you. This is the secret.
To begin dealing with your failures in a way that serves you, you’re going to want to do a few things. First, you’ll need to separate the facts from the drama. So, the facts are “Instead of action X. I completed action Y”. Or something along those lines, right? It’s the neutral facts of what happened. It’s very dry and boring. And it’s something you could prove in a court of law. Just the facts. The drama, on the other hand, will be all of your brain’s thoughts about that failure. Which will produce certain emotions for you. So, a thought might be “I didn’t eat what I was supposed to” or “That shouldn’t have happened”. And it will seem like those are facts at first, but they are not. These thoughts are very sneaky from your brain. They will feel useful but they’re actually just thoughts that you’re choosing to think. Having a thought like “I didn’t eat what I was supposed to” is an opinion about a neutral circumstance. And this thought will create feelings of shame or self-doubt for you. The facts, on the other hand, are just simply what you did. They’re neutral and have no emotional meaning tied to it. The facts of your failure should feel as boring as telling someone where you live or what color your hair is. It’s just a fact. When you can separate the drama from the facts when you fail, it allows you to look objectively at your setbacks. And the only way that failure will be productive is if you can learn from your setbacks and move forward from them. So, always gather the facts from your failures and leave the drama out of it. And keep in mind, your brain will always want to indulge in the drama at first. This is normal. But practice talking back to your brain a bit. I still do this. If something doesn’t go as planned, my brain immediately wants to indulge in those self-pitying thought patterns. And I’ll just kind of say to my brain, “No thank you. We’re good here today. We don’t need that kind of negativity”. And I’ll just go on about my business. I will continue making my failures neutral and leaving the drama out of it. So, always remember that failure is neutral. Nothing about failure has to be an emotional event.
To deal with failures productively, you’ll also need to always be evaluating what went wrong. So, from this neutral place you’ll need to objectively evaluate what happened that caused you to go off your food plan. And there’s a specific way to do this. I don’t want you to evaluate what went wrong by asking someone else for the answers. Many of you will feel tempted to reach out to a health expert, or you’ll want to reach out to me right away, and ask what you’re doing wrong. And I don’t want you to do this. I want you to trust yourself to find the answers within. What happens when you immediately look for the answers outside of yourself is your giving up responsibility for your results. And that’s not what I teach. I want you to be responsible for your own growth. Where you’re evaluating your progress and moving forward based on what you think is best for you. This is actually a boundary I set with all of my students and clients from the beginning. I don’t allow them to ask me outright what they’re doing wrong. Or why something didn’t work for them. What I have them do is evaluate their progress and come up with those answers for themselves. Then, after they’ve come up with that answer, they can come to me and have me share my opinions and expertise. Because if I’m the one responsible for your healthy eating habits, they won’t last. My job is to teach you how to be responsible for your own eating habits. So, you can create those healthy eating habits for the rest of your life. So, when you have a setback always take responsibility and evaluate what went wrong for you. You don’t need to have a perfect answer right away. You just need to take initiative and commit to figuring it out for yourself.
Then, after you’ve evaluated what went wrong, you’re going to decide on the next step to take. You’re going to decide what you’re going to try next so you can move forward from that failure. Based on what you’ve now learned about yourself. And this is something I also do with my students. I always encourage them to ask themselves what they should do next. And by doing this work, where they’re practicing being responsible for their own results with food, they become a person who can find the answers within themselves. It’s so fascinating as their coach. So, you’re going to intentionally decide what step you’re going to take next. And when your brain tries to convince you that it doesn’t know the answer, because it will, you’re simply going to ask yourself “If I was someone who did know the answer, what would I try next?”. Doing this will allow you to uncover answers within yourself that you didn’t even know you had. It’s amazing.
So, with all of that being said, know that you should never fear failure. Never avoid the setbacks that come with any healthy eating journey. Never avoid those moments when you don’t perfectly follow your meal plan, even though you hoped for the best. Never avoid those times when you unconsciously eat more than you intended. And never avoid those inevitable moments when you eat in a way that doesn’t bring you towards your goals. These are defining moments that will lead you on the path to true success. And the truth is, if you’re not failing at all, you’re paying it too safe. That means you’re not making the changes necessary to grow. Because failure and setbacks show you where your work is. When you fail to eat healthy in any way, this is a huge indicator as to where you need to place your focus. Failing in a healthy eating journey is inevitable. Whether or not you make it negative is completely optional. You can decide to fail forward. So you’re continuously taking healthy eating action, learning from your mistakes, and growing.
And I also want to mention a huge truth to this: you cannot fall off the wagon or fall off track. Because there is no wagon. The track that we’ve made up in our minds does not exist. I know you might want to believe that once you eat perfectly that everything will be sunshine and rainbows for the rest of your life. But the reality is, your eating habits aren’t a test that you pass or fail. We, as the humans, are eaters for life. You will always be an eater. And your eating habits will naturally evolve throughout your life based on your needs, preferences, and goals. Healthy eating is a life-long journey. And I know to you this might not feel like good news. You may believe that you want the problem to just be fixed so you can move along with your life. But I promise you that’s not what you want. Because your life-long healthy eating journey will teach you so many lessons about yourself and what you’re capable of. And guess how you learn those lessons? By failing and evaluating progress along the way. Doing this for yourself, and just getting really good at failing with healthy eating, will do so much for you if you learn from it. Commit to learning new lessons each time a setback occurs. This is what allows you to grow into a completely different version of yourself. Where you’re eating healthy and gaining the results you want with your body effortlessly. Alright, my friend. I’ll talk with you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.