What should you do if you have ‘cheated’ on your diet?
It is the most common statement that clients make on their way into the dietitian’s office – ‘Í have been bad’ aka I have not stuck to my diet plan. So is this really the end of the world? Do you have to stick to a diet perfectly to get results? And if you have overindulged a little and cheated on your diet, should you throw in the towel altogether? Well, the answer to all of these diet conundrums may surprise you……..
When it comes to cheating on your diet, the most important thing to know is that any diet does not have to be perfect to get results. You do not gain weight after a single meal or food, rather we gain weight over time when our calorie intake is consistently more than the number of calories we are burning. It is for this reason that a single large meal or drinking binge will not necessarily completely disrupt weight loss progress. Rather if you follow up this drinking binge with a high fat meal the next day, along with extra treats for several days after, you are highly likely to undo any potential weight loss.
When clients expect diet perfection they set themselves up for failure in two ways. Firstly, no one can be perfect all the time, in fact there is no perfect diet. There are simply foods that contain more calories than others and as such the more of these we eat, the more likely it is that we will consume too many calories over all. When we live by the belief that there is a perfect diet, any diversion from this is more likely to result in feelings of guilt and/ or deprivation which in turn does little to motivate us to eat well, rather fuels the desire for foods we believe are off limits. The next issue with holding a perfect diet belief is that once we think we have not been perfect we give ourselves permission to not return to our regular diet, but to binge eat everything in sight – which in turn is the behavioural eating pattern that supports weight gain.
So if you have gone off track with your diet what should you do? The first thing is to get back on track. Don’t waste another day, week or month, simply make sure your next meal is a healthy choice. Next if you have been overeating, simply wait until you are actually hungry gain to eat rather than simply eating because it is a meal time. Excessive calorie consumption should keep you fuller for longer which means you will be fine to occasionally skip a meal if you have eaten plenty in the meals beforehand. After a period of overeating, say a weekend, commit to a couple of days of light eating with soups and salads to help buffer your calorie overload. And finally, if you have eaten a lot, just walk a lot. Weight gain only results when you have not burnt off the calories you have eaten. At the end of any day or any week, if you have a lot more healthy, calorie controlled food choices than ‘cheats’, you will be well on your way to long term weight control.