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How not to fall off the wagon after Dry July

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

We are in the middle of the year already and if June was all about re-assessing our midyear goals (or not), July is all about the newly popular concept of Dry July. I always wanted to follow Dry July, not only because of the noble cause behind the non for profit organisation, which is to support people affected by cancer, but mostly to truly quit drinking.

I’m going to go ahead and admit that I never did Dry July. I tried many times and I remember vividly when one year I said I’m going to do Dry July, and my friends just looked at me and said: ‘But it’s already the 5th and you’ve been drinking. You can’t do Dry July!’.


Now, a few years later, I battled the overwhelming need for drinking (if you missed it, here is the blog post Why quitting drinking alcohol is not the real problem? To truly understand what’s behind the need to quit drinking) and I can easily say, that you absolutely can start Dry July on the 5th!

The underlying message here is that you are trying to change a habit. If, as it goes with Dry July theme, you want to stop drinking alcohol, or exercise more, quit smoking, stop working so much, eat better or stop the negative self-talk, you are embarking on a way of changing a habit. And although you mastered the motivation to go a month without drinking, you also managed to fall off the wagon after it ended.

But there are ways to stay on.

The ultimatum

Our way of thinking can be very black and white. Since you were a kid, you were told what is allowed (good) and what is not allowed (bad), what is socially acceptable and what is not, what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing. This of course helped you to shape your belief system and became your compass. But it also pushed you to a more rigid way of thinking.

Some form of rigid thinking can be good, like the Christian fifth commandment: Thou shalt not kill. But when it comes to our health and wellbeing, the white or black way of thinking may not always be the fastest way forward.

This goes well with my friends telling me that I can’t start Dry July on the 5th of the month. The black and white line was on the 1st, I crossed it and that was it. How often do you do the same when it comes to your health and wellbeing? You didn’t start something because you thought you missed the start. You didn’t apply for that job because you said you would do it before Friday and you didn’t. You didn’t go to the gym, because you were meant to do it in the morning, and you slept in.

The beauty is in the detail as they say and I want to tell you that you can make any diet changes in your life at any given time. There is no deadline, no start date, it’s just now. And it doesn’t matter that you tried to start today, and you didn’t make it, because you know what? You can start tomorrow. There is no need to wait for the next big bang to take meaningful steps to build your health and wellbeing.

You just need to start.

Go slow

I’m not a very patient person. I would love to say that I am, but I usually want it, and I want it now. And although I’m learning to be more compassionate with myself (that’s right: lack of patience is recognised as lack of compassion towards our own progress), I’m human and I need to learn to go slow.

So, if you started a diet and you can’t see those kilos shaving off, go slow; if you started building your self-efficacy, but you are lacking the confidence to ask that boy out, go slow; if you applied for a job and didn’t get it, that doesn’t mean you are not a good employee, maybe you need to upskill, go slow.

We often want to see instant results, and if we don’t, we are more willing to give up. But you need to keep on it, to build consistency in what you’re doing so you can move forward, stick to the diet change you need to make to not fall off the wagon. It’s OK to start, maybe reassess if you’re off track and start again.

Don’t forget that when you were a baby and were learning how to walk, one day you got up and took the first step. You weren’t a runner the next day, but you managed to make another baby step. And then another, and another and another. All those small, baby steps, with a slow pace, moved you consistently forward.

Overnight success is a myth

You most likely heard stories of well-known, what we would call, successful leaders. It doesn’t matter what industry they are leaders of, they all have the same common thread to become successful, and that is that overnight success doesn’t exist.

You may personally agree or disagree with that statement, but if you ever went on a diet, you know this to be true. To make any meaningful changes in your diet and lifestyle you need to show up every day and do ‘something’. A one-off event will not tip the needle. It may get you started but to keep going and not to fall off the wagon, you need to keep making steps. And small steps are much easier to make. So, if you decided to follow Dry July and quit drinking for good, be consistent and start small and keep on going. You will see that gradually you are shifting the needle and you are getting some traction.


As you recall from the start of the post, you are changing a habit. And for any habit to change you need to start with shifting your thoughts about, well starting. You can start making any meaningful changes in your diet and lifestyle at any time you want. It’s probably even better if you start when you want to start, rather than outside circumstances force you to make that change.

And when you start, go slow. Be patient with yourself, because you are learning something new. It took you some time to learn to walk when you were a baby, didn’t it? So, embrace any change you want to make with some compassion. But go slow and at the pace that fits you best. It would be those small, baby steps which will make the big difference.

Remember, overnight success doesn’t exist, so going slow is better than not going at all. As long as you keep moving forward, you’re moving, you’re changing your habit and you’re building your optimal health and wellbeing. And you’re not falling off the wagon.

So, what diet or lifestyle change are you going to start today?

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