Sunday, May 6, 2012

Oops, I did it again...

That's right, you've done it again - succumbed to temptation, fallen off the wagon, cheated on your diet. Now what? Do you starve yourself the entire next day? Run 20 miles? Or just give up entirely? No, no, and NO!

Oops! One chocolate turned into...20?
Here is the deal - everyone cheats on their diet at some point, even models (although their version of 'cheating' might be significantly different than yours). The important thing is not to beat yourself up over it, but rather focus your energy on preventing future unplanned slips! Self-loathing is a waste of time because you cannot take all that deliciousness back. Running until you faint the next day and/or surviving on nothing but lettuce leaves is not going to make a difference either - the damage has been done that day. This means that your body has already 'banked' the calories, and will do what it wants with them. The next day is a new day, and you start with a caloric clean-slate, so no amount of self-inflicted punishment is going to erase those damn cakalicious calories from the day before.

Yea, even bikini models cheat on their diet.
So then the question becomes - what now? 

1) First and foremost, recognize that you've cheated and don't make excuses ("Oh well, I guess it wasn't THAT bad"). Rather, own up to the fact that you are trying to achieve something (weight loss, a healthier lifestyle, lower cholesterol - whatever your goal may be), and you have just given yourself a set-back. The size of the set-back is not what is important - the more we justify it or sugar-coat it (pun intended), the more often it is likely to occur. That said, don't dwell on it! Negative reactions will most likely cause you to develop some other unhealthy tendencies, which are completely counter-productive to your goals.

2) DON'T develop this mentality: "Oh well, I've already 'ruined' today, so I might as well eat another 3 pieces of cake/giant bowl of ice cream/bag of chips/half of my kitchen..." This mentality is actually more common that some may think - the idea that because the damage is done, you might as well indulge further and start again tomorrow. The truth: You WILL make it worse. One giant bowl of ice cream is an indulgence, a 'cheat' meal in your diet - but three bowls + whatever else you can get your hands on is binging. And is just as unhealthy mentally as it is physically.

Yea, we've all been there, but it shouldn't be that often!
3) Think about how you feel - disappointed? sad? happy? like quitting? like binging? Really think about it - it will help you remember for the next time you think about cheating. If indulging is a common problem, write it down somewhere you can keep and read again the next time you are tempted. If you are logging your food in a journal, make sure you not only write down your 'cheat', but also your feelings after. It is important to have it there to look at as a reminder for the next time.

4) One of the most important points: Recognize the triggers. For me, it's late-night eating. I tend to feel more like 'cheating' on my diet in the evenings, when I'm watching TV or working. And in perfect line with the female cliché, when I'm sad I am tempted to sit on my couch with a carton of ice cream and a spoon. But being able to recognize what makes you indulge gives you the ability to avoid doing so! 

Are you making this decision because
you are emotional?
For example, if you tend to over-indulge at parties - where there are chips, nuts, and all sorts of snacks to go with your drinks - then make sure you position yourself far from the snack table, or don't go at all. Wait, don't go to the party? That's right. What is wrong with having no social life for a month in order to drop a few pounds? When I want to lose weight, I focus on more sleep, more exercise, more ME time - and less about making an appearance around town. And when I'm sad, I do not let myself in the kitchen until I feel better. It may not always work, but it works more times than it doesn't. Eventually, these triggers will not be triggers anymore (e.g. food will not be your first thought when you are sad). After two weeks of not letting myself eat after 8 in the evening, I didn't think about it anymore.

5) PLAN your 'cheat' meals. That's right - give yourself something to look forward to once or twice a week but not more. For example, if I know that I am going to brunch with a friend in the weekend, I let myself eat what I want to. So until then, I'm more likely to stick to my diet with something to look forward to. If I don't have something on the calendar, I put it there - for example, I will decide that on Friday after a good workout, I will make some pasta (a bowl, not a bucket!).

Do the calories count if nobody sees you? um, YES. 
Also, a good tip is to plan your cheat meals when you are WITH someone - e.g. I cheat when I go for burgers with a friend or share ice cream with my boyfriend. Doing this keeps the amount of splurging in check - you may be more likely to not only cheat, but do it in large quantities when nobody is there to budget you!

6) Make your own indulgences! That's right - if it is pizza you crave, it will be much more healthy if you make it yourself versus ordering out. Home-made stuff is almost always more healthy. And if you are going to buy it, don't buy it until you want it. That is, if you don't buy ice cream at the store, it will not be there to 'cheat' with at home. So when you want ice cream, go out and get it then.

7) Finally, when you want to splurge on something that is not a part of your diet, take a moment to think about it. Why do you want pizza/chips/chocolate/cake/etc? Is it because you are hungry? Eat something healthy first, wait 20 minutes, and see if you are still having cravings. Is it because you are tired? Go to bed, you will thank yourself in the morning. Is it because you are angry at your boyfriend/mom/boss? Wait until things have been resolved and you feel better before deciding to cheat (you probably won't feel like it once the storm has passed). Have a big glass of water (a big one), think about how you will feel when you have finished an entire pizza, and look at whatever notes you have from the last time you cheated (if you have them).

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