It’s a situation familiar to many a hardened dieter. You’ve had a “bad day”. Maybe it was that unplanned cookie mid-morning, that bag of chips you shared with a colleague at lunch time, or that mid-afternoon candy bar … whatever it was, you feel like you’ve “failed”. You’ve broken your diet, and you might as well give up.
This line of thinking is why many of us are constantly on and off diets, yo-yo-ing up and down and feeling increasingly frustrated with our eating patterns, and with ourselves.
It doesn’t need to be that way, though – you can stop a dieting slip-up from becoming a dieting disaster. Here’s what you need to remind yourself (write these out and stick them to your fridge, if necessary):
I call this the “one cookie” principle, but it applies to all sorts of other foods – so substitute your own weakness (bar of chocolate, slice of cake, etc.) where I’ve put “cookie”!
A single cookie has around 80 – 120 calories. One of those isn’t going to ruin your day. It takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound. That’s about 30 – 40 cookies, give or take a few. If you eat an unplanned cookie, give yourself permission to shrug it off. It’s a cookie; big deal.
What you must not do is give yourself permission to write off the whole day. “That’s it, I ate a cookie, I might as well give up.” Come on – can you imagine doing this in any other area of life? “That’s it, I overslept by 15 minutes, I might as well not go to work at all now.” Of course not … when you have a minor slip-up, you just get on with things as best as you can. That’s exactly how it should be with your diet.
Maybe you’re okay when it comes to recovering from food-related mishaps. Perhaps your problem is exercise. It goes something like this: you end up working late on Monday, and missing your step aerobics class. And since you’ve now “failed” at your self-imposed exercise regime, you may as well not go to the gym at all this week…
Again, this is a silly way to think. You’re unlikely to see any dramatic loss of fitness based on skipping a single workout. Why not go for a late-evening jog or walk, so that you still get some exercise? Or try out the Tuesday class instead?
Don’t get hung up on being perfect. Again, in other areas of your life, you wouldn’t think in such “all or nothing” terms: if you missed a small project deadline on Monday, you wouldn’t give up hitting all your deadlines for the rest of the week.
Here’s the biggie, the one that trips up most dieters. It’s the day from hell. It’s the day where you ate a cookie for breakfast, a chocolate bar mid-morning, and gave up completely by lunchtime. You scoffed a double-cheeseburger ready-meal for lunch, and numbed your feelings of guilt and failure with chocolate all afternoon. Now it’s evening, you’ve just polished off a pizza and a tub of ice-cream, and you’re giving up on your diet for good.
That’s your big mistake. Not eating the cookie, or the chocolate, or the ice-cream … but giving up. One day, however badly it goes, won’t be at all significant if you stick (more or less) to your diet for the next few weeks. Draw a mental line under the day (or a real line in your diary, if it helps), and start afresh.
Once you’ve realized that one cookie doesn’t ruin your day, though, you’re much less likely to have these day-long disasters. You might occasionally eat something you’d not planned, but you’ll shrug it off; maybe you’ll have a bit less lunch or dinner, or you’ll do an extra ten minutes in the gym, to get yourself back on track.
How do you stop your diet slip-ups from becoming diet disasters? Let us know in the comments…