How to Save a Diet Fail: What to Do When You Fall Off Your Chosen Meal Plan

Have you ever committed to a meal plan, but fell off track because of habits, temptation or victim mentality, then didn’t know what to do next?

Join the club. Here’s how to SAVE your healthy lifestyle efforts.

Many of us have been here:

  • We find a meal plan, diet book or nutrition program.
  • Start on a Monday.
  • Commit to last anywhere from 3 to 12 weeks on it.
  • Then we’re over it by Day 4.

Guess what? Not only is this blazingly common, but it’s also NOT YOUR FAULT! Our brains simply cannot handle a complete overhaul of removing 8 food groups in an instant. Our brains like safety, comfort, routine. NOT drastic, unprepared-for changes.

How Do I Know?

In my health & wellness coaching trainings at Duke Integrative Medicine, my Functional Nutrition education, my 1:1 work with clients, and my personal experiences, I’ve learned that we need to connect to our INDIVIDUAL triggers, thoughts, emotions, feelings, cravings, reactions and results BEFORE we can start making big healthy changes in our lives, like following meal plans or elimination diets.

We need to understand the fundamentals of WHY & HOW we’re eating before we can even consider giving up certain foods.  

How This Lesson Will Help You

In this post and in this video, you’ll learn the most effective way to quickly recoup from going “off plan” AND whether you should even jump back on your plan! Whether you committed yourself to a Whole30, Keto Plan, Paleo Lifestyle, BeachBody Program, Tone It Up Nutrition Plan, you name it, this method will transform how you think about your food choices.

stress eating emotional eating mindless eating mindfulness nutrition healthy habits
Fries, cookies, ice cream, chips, wine … which food most often takes you off your meal plan? Learn how to partner with your triggers & cravings in the free 7-Day Manage Mindless Eating Program!


The acronym we’re using for this “Meal Plan Dropout” or “Diet Fail Recoup” is S.A.V.E. Essentially, how to SAVE yourself from the vicious cycle of overeating, starting a meal plan, eating “off plan”, feeling like a failure, eating junk again, starting over, stopping, etc.

S.A.V.E stands for:





Let’s dig into each one…

To get clear on your personal vision of health & what’s blocking you from getting it, grab your free 5 Step Blueprint to Crushing Your Health Goals HERE.


  • STEP 1: Remember Your Vision & Values
    • Before you even open that tub of ice cream, close your eyes and remember your VISION and your WHY. Learn yours HERE.
  • STEP 2: Make It ONE Item
    • If you’re still committed to de-committing from your chosen diet, try to choose only ONE food item to “slip” on.
    • If you’re about to dig into the pizza, cake AND ice cream, choose ONE!
    • That way, you’re most clear on WHICH food drove you into temptation the strongest AND you’ll avoid downward spiraling the rest of the week.
    • You can even feel PROUD of yourself for only slipping on 1 item off of your plan instead of shaming yourself for eating 4.
People Taking Mobile Phone And  Top Table Working By Writing On
To become more aware of your eating habits, sign up for the free 7-Day Manage Mindless Eating Program HERE


  • If you moved forward with eating the thing, here’s what to do next.
  • STEP 1: Write it down
    • Jot down in your planner or journal what you ate/ why you felt you needed it/ what day was it/ what time was it/ what situation were you in/ what thoughts & feelings were you having.
    • Don’t obsess! This exercise is simply to become more self aware of your food choices.
  • STEP 2: Acknowledge What You Wanted From the Food
    • What did you want that food or drink to DO for you?
    • Were you really hungry? Anxious? Needed an emotional hug? Fill a void? Make you happier? 
    • What feeling were you lacking that you hoped the food would fill?
  • STEP 3: Why THAT Food
    • Was it just there in the moment? Is that your go-to off-plan food?
    • What do you want that particular food to bring you?
    • What emotion are you avoiding? What emotion to you WANT to feel?
  • STEP 4: Learn more about YOU


  • You have a choice.
  • By definition, virtue has several meanings. My personal favorites in this particular situation are “a thing’s power” and “the capacity to act.
  • OPTION 1: One decision may be to get right back on the plan you chose for yourself the very next meal.
    • This would be for anyone who is truly committed to committing to (get that?) their chosen plan. If you truly want to keep trying to see if you really can follow it & stick to it & benefit from it.
  • OPTION 2: Or, another decision may be to realize that the plan you chose may not be the most suitable for you, either at all or at that time.
    • Sub Option 1: You can choose to modify your plan, perhaps omitting fewer foods and simply consuming less of the foods you’re keeping on the plan (eg, still keep dairy in your Whole30 but only have it 3x per week)
    • Sub Option 2: You can choose to follow your plan for only certain days of the week (eg, eat Paleo Sunday through Thursday, but modify your Paleo plan on Friday and Saturday).
  • OPTION 3: Schedule a free 30-minute coaching call to start creating a plan for how you’d like to move forward with your eating habits with more accountability.
integrative health coach vision values dreams goals
To create a plan to accomplish your personal health & wellness goals, schedule a free 30-minutes call with me HERE.


  • Certainly one of the most important considerations here: How do you feel?
  • CRITICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Think these through or write them down
    • How do you feel after eating the off-plan food?
    • Did that food serve its purpose? 
    • How do you feel about the choice you made to move forward?
    • If you don’t too bad about it, are you ok to have that food occasionally?
    • If you do feel bad about it, what feels worse: your body’s reaction to the “off plan” food, or your mind’s reaction to choosing to eat it?

In the end, the choice is yours. 

  • Whether you choose to slip or not.
  • Whether you choose to acknowledge it or ignore it.
  • Whether you choose to get back on the plan or modify it.
  • Whether you choose to notice your feelings or push them aside

However you choose to handle the situation, the key is to connect back to what you want for your overall health & well-being, why you want it, why you may not have it right now, and how to get it without feeling like you’re constantly going to battle.

To get clear on your personal vision of health & what’s blocking you from getting it, grab your free 5 Step Blueprint to Crushing Your Health Goals HERE.

To become more aware of your eating habits, sign up for the free 7-Day Manage Mindless Eating Program HERE.

To create a plan to accomplish your personal health & wellness goals, schedule a free 30-minute call with me HERE.

It’s never too late to take control of your actions and become healthiest version of yourself that you can be. And trust me, you CAN get there.

I Wholeheartedly Believe In You,
Coach Hardy

WholeHardy Integrative Health Coaching include: Nutrition, Mindset, Fitness, Personal Development, Sleep, Stress Management, Spirituality.
Katie Hardy is the owner of WholeHardy Health, LLC. As a Duke-trained professional Integrative Health & Wellness Coach, Hardy teaches women how to succeed with consistent, maintainable healthy habits to reach their health goals without feeling restricted, deprived, or like a failure. Start moving from diet slave to confident babe with a Free Coaching Call.

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