Why the Wagon Mentality is Wrong

We’ve all done it. We’ve decided that we are gonna eat healthier and lose some weight. We create a new diet plan for ourselves and we get super pumped up and motivated.

We go strong for a few weeks planning our meals, bringing lunch from home, trying new healthier recipes, and feeling really good about ourselves.

Then, after a few weeks we have a birthday party or a holiday comes up, or just a moment where our better judgement goes out the window.

We see a sugary or processed and yet oh so delicious item and we eat it.

When we start a new eating plan we often have this mentality that once we slip up, all is lost. This is simply not the case.

The problem is not eating the thing. An unhealthy thing every once in a while won’t kill us. The problem is our mindset related to that thing.

Many times when we eat something that doesn’t fit in with our healthy eating plan, we beat ourselves up. We view ourselves as a failure, like we failed our diet. We think all is lost and that now our diet is ruined.

But that’s just silly.

If someone was eating only soda and processed foods and sugary treats and then one day they ate one salad, would you consider them now healthy? Of course not. One healthy food item on one day and then continuing to eat junk won’t make someone healthy.

In the same way, eating one unhealthy item when the majority of your diet is healthy won’t make you unhealthy.

When we have this wagon mentality that once we eat one unhealthy thing our healthy eating is ruined, we are setting ourselves up for failure. That one occasional indulgence leads us to rationalize that we already fell off the wagon so we might as well continue to eat unhealthy foods.

We then continue to eat unhealthy foods, until we come across a new diet that promises to help us lose weight and become healthy. Then we dive all in on that one until we inevitably fall off the wagon again.

Does this cycle seem familiar? I know, I’ve been on that on the wagon off the wagon cycle before.


But here’s why it doesn’t make sense.

Do you remember the game Oregon Trail? Let’s say that you’re on your wagon traveling the Oregon Trail. If you hit a bump and fall off your wagon, would you just sit there on the ground until another wagon happened along?

Of course not. You’d never get where you are going. One bump in the road doesn’t make the whole journey a failure. You would get right back on your wagon and keep on going.

This same idea should apply to healthy eating. We should definitely choose to live a healthy lifestyle, eating real foods and exercising. And, there are a lot of things that we can stack in our favor to make this easier. We can only keep healthy foods at home, we can pack our own lunch, we can meal plan.

Inevitably though, we will be in situations where we may want to indulge. If you don’t, that’s great. If you do, that’s great too. As long as you continue back on track afterwards.

Being healthy is not about being tortured. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. So indulge once in a while, just remember that it doesn’t make you a failure or unhealthy. It makes you a person who can consciously choose when its OK to indulge and when you shouldn’t.

Be happy and enjoy that birthday cupcake! You can be healthy again at your next meal.