If there is one fact that everyone knows in theory but not in practice, it’s this: You’re not perfect.
You’re going to struggle. You’re going to have bad days. You’re going to eat more than you planned on eating, and you’re going to feel like doing nothing sometimes. It’s not a matter of “if.” It’s “when.” And, after helping more than 1,000 people lose weight, I can tell you more than likely that “when” is Friday.
Friday is the most common day I see people get a case of the “screw its.” When perfect is no longer an option, they just throw the playbook completely out the window. But these swings in consistency are death to long-term weight loss because they rob us of momentum.
So I started trying to come up with a better plan, and, luckily for all my clients, I’m a huge history nerd. In battle, great generals do not just tell their troops “charge” and, if things go badly, yell, “Run away!” Before troops ever go into battle, they pick a spot on the map to retreat to in case things go badly. This is their “Fallback Plan.” After reading a bunch of books about the history of tactics in land battles, I developed “Fallback Plan Friday.”
Your fallback plan is your line in the sand. Something you are 100% confident you can do, no matter what. It can be a nutrition habit like eating protein at every meal or an easy 15–20 minute workout that moves you toward your goal but requires as much thought as brushing your teeth.
A good fallback plan needs to be simple and easy, and it has to be bang for your buck. Start by writing down your favorite way to train or eat. Do you like barbell complexes? Salads? Kettlebell swings and goblet squats? Tae Bo? Anything is fine. Let me repeat that: Any exercise or nutrition habit you love is fine.
Now write down the bare minimum that you can do of that exercise or nutrition habit and still feel like you’re making progress. Is it one salad at lunch? Is it drinking one less (sugary or alcoholic) drink? Doing 20 push-ups? And yes, I want you to underestimate here. I mean, really lowball it. The whole goal is to do something that’s possible and enjoyable, so you feel more ready to get back at it tomorrow. Don’t think, “I’ve done 1,200 swings in a workout before” and then think you can do 1,000 every day. Ask yourself, “When the sun comes up on Saturday morning, and I’ve got a slight hangover from too much red wine the night before, what’s the workout that’s going to make me feel better?” That’s your fallback plan.
- 100 kettlebell swings
- Eating a vegetable at every meal
- A 20-minute jog or bike ride
- Replacing one caloric drink with water
- A long walk
- Splitting your dinner into two meals
- 3–5 Turkish get-ups per side
- 3–5 sun salutations
- Or even just the warm-up from your regular workout
The key to this fallback plan is that you aren’t retreating. You are still in enemy territory, regrouping for your next attack. If you feel like you can do more, do a little more. If you feel like you can do a lot more, do a lot more! But if, after going hard for a few workouts earlier in the week, you get to the weekend and don’t feel like you can do anything, remember: You can still do something. Be a great general, and make your fallback plan.