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I have cheated on my diet.
There it is, I admit it. No lie.
And if we’re all going to be honest, few of us can say we never have. Whether it’s a full-blown bender of eating everything in the refrigerator at one sitting, or taking a bite here and there as you’re cooking, it’s cheating off the plan you set out for yourself. And it’s terrible and awful and it can ruin all the hard work that came before it.
Unless we stop, turn off all the negative voices in our heads, and really think about what we did, tally up the damage and decide what it means to the big picture.
Because there is a big picture. And it needs to be right there in front of your mind every time you hit an obstacle. The why you are doing this is much more important that a momentary stumble.
Did you eat two pieces of the leftover lasagna (maybe 600 calories) and three slices of the garlic bread (up to 900 calories)? Assuming you were full after that, you ate roughly 1500 calories at once sitting.
No, you’re not a horrible person. Shut up, inside voice! You ate 1500 calories. Forget the lasagna, the garlic bread, the guilt. Focus on the number.
A pound, lost or gained, is about 3500 calories. So you ate what might translate to around a half pound gain on your scale tomorrow morning.
I say might because there are other factors in play. If you worked out hard earlier that day and burned 2000 calories or more, that’s going to offset your binge. On the other hand, you also have the actual weight of 2 servings of lasagna and 3 pieces of garlic bread making their way through your intestines.
Whatever you see on the scale when you weigh in after cheating on your diet is not necessarily going to be a direct correlation to the food you (over)ate in one day.
Our body is not interested in the sprint or the rest periods on this marathon towards health. It sees the fluctuations and, other than maybe an upset stomach, it just waits to see if you’re going to keep going down that path or get back on track. If you get up the next day and go back to healthy eating, the blip on the scale will be momentary and you’ll keep losing.
The single most important thing about cheating is accepting responsibility for it and taking the time to analyze why you did it and how you will handle the situation in the future.
Were you bored? Tired? Feeling unappreciated? Angry? How would the person you are becoming handle those feelings?
All the behavior modification books and speakers will tell you the same thing. Respond to food triggers with non-food behaviors. Drink a big glass of water. Go for a walk or a run. Go see a movie. Call a friend. Reward yourself for the great choices you’ve made up till this moment.
And track what you ate. It’s easy enough to look up the calorie count to the foods you eat. Take a deep breath and write down the foods you ate that are not on your plan. Accept the calories and remember them when you are next tempted. Then go do something else for awhile.
Don’t let an occasional cheat derail all you’ve done so far. Cheating does not mean you’ve failed. It’s an opportunity to learn another lesson, to add knowledge that will help you in the long term.
I had Ritz crackers. You know those little salty vegan snacks that are usually piled with cheeses or dipped into hummus? But plain. Just 3 or 4, a couple of times a day.
Want to know how many calories there are in a Ritz cracker? 80 calories. EIGHTY DAMN CALORIES! Did I know that before I cheated? Of course not. I didn’t look it up because Ritz crackers are not on my diet plan and because I thought I knew better. I mean, I eat 960 calories a day. 3 or 4 crackers a couple of times a day? That’s over 600 calories!
Is my choice of Ritz crackers better than 2 servings of lasagna and 3 slices of garlic bread?
Not one little bit. Because my eating was mindless, not tracked, and not understood. When I decided to see how many calories I’d taken in and found out how appallingly out of touch I was with the food I’d eaten, I immediately remembered our facilitator telling us about why tracking our food was so important.
She has worked with many people who want to lose weight and who were convinced they ate a healthy diet. When she asked them to track every single thing they ate in the course of a week, they unfailingly came back shocked by how little they knew about their food intake and the hidden calories in seemingly healthy dishes.If we're going to be successful in losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we have to turn off all the negative voices in our heads, and really think about what we did, tally up the damage and decide what it means to the big picture. Tweet & Share! 😉Click To Tweet
So I’m owning it. And, in doing so, I know I won’t be able to bring myself to eat even one of those little crackers again. 80 calories? I work out hard every day, and I certainly don’t want the calories I’ve earned through exercise to go to food that doesn’t fill me up or nourish me.
See, internal voice? We can work these things out calmly. Now let’s go get a glass of water and take the dog for a walk.
Update: I have not eaten a single Ritz cracker since writing this post. Evil crack bombs!