Weight Loss – One Bad Meal Won’t Ruin Your Progress
Whilst in a group session last week, I asked one of my clients how her week had gone to which she responded –
“It was going great until I ruined it and had a Domino’s last night.”
This is a mentality that I hear about a lot from clients and people who seek advice from me when it comes to weight loss and so I thought it’d be an important topic to share some longer form content on.
Thinking this way about your diet and your weight loss is a sure fire way to create negative feelings around food, your relationship with it and your relationship with your diet. It’s often known as the ‘all or nothing’ mentality – the thought that things must always be perfect and if they’re not perfect then everything is wrong and you’ve failed. It’s a very damaging psychological mindset and is something that I work on with my clients when they begin working with me.
When it comes to dieting for weight loss the vast majority of people fail because they think it has to be this way. Typically they over restrict Monday to Thursday eating only meat, salads, fruits & vegetables and saying no to absolutely everything that they want. This causes a deep craving or desire for those things because we all want what we ‘can’t’ have right?
By Friday the weekend fever sets in and things start to relax a bit, but due to the over restriction during the week it causes a desire to binge – a ‘once you start, you can’t stop’ kind of thing, I know that we can all relate to that. It becomes not just one biscuit but the whole packet – you get the idea. Then the guilt sets in and come Monday we are back in restriction mode meaning that typically we hate Monday to Thursday and look forward to the weekend.
Going back to the example with my client about the pizza and the need to be perfect we need to learn to understand that if we constantly make ourselves feel guilty for making certain choices it’s going to cause negative emotion of which long-term can contribute to things like emotional eating patterns or binge eating.
Maintaining Balance with Weight Loss
The ideal outcome is to remain fairly balanced in our emotions about our eating choices/decisions or in another term, to be neutral about it. The problem with my clients mindset is that she thought she had failed by having the pizza, she thought that the entire week was now a write-off – which is totally irrational. Had she responded in a way that then led to several more takeaways or calorie dense meals then that may have ‘un-done’ some of the hard work she’d done that week and so the key thing here is to just slip back into your chosen eating habits straight after.
The reality is that one meal that isn’t completely in line with your goals won’t make too much impact however if you then begin to think, “What’s the point now?” and proceed to binge on lots of other things, this will almost certainly impact your results in the short-term and more importantly ruin your belief in yourself that you can make the right choices consistently.
Feeling Like a Failure
Most people are absolutely convinced that they’ll fail with dieting which is why they rarely start. They use previous history of slipping up the odd time as evidence that they are destined to ‘fail’ again. We have to consider what we define as failure because one pizza isn’t failure – it’s normal family life. To never have pizza or takeaways is far from normal and so we shouldn’t be aiming for that and we shouldn’t be framing having one as failure.
When we think back to the usual binge restrict cycle of salads Monday to Thursday and anything and everything on the weekend we can clearly see (if we zoom out) that this isn’t healthy nor is it contributing to our goals.
Flipping the Script
My opinion on this is that we need to flip the script because what if that pizza actually led to more success with dieting?
This is multi-faceted so stay with me…
I think that allowing yourself to still have the things you love and enjoy is a pre-requisite for success when it comes to weight loss and enjoying your diet. When you really think about it, taking out everything that you enjoy is a terrible strategy, I mean when has it ever worked in the long-term?
A really good point to consider when it comes to weight loss is…
You can eat & drink anything you want you just probably shouldn’t eat & drink everything you want.
By giving yourself ultimate freedom to have anything you want you get to bring it back to choice and the question for that is something like…
Will this choice bring me closer to my goal or further away?
The answer to this question is kind of nuanced because I believe that we can choose to have that pizza on a weekend and as a result it can have a net positive effect on our outcomes for weight loss. I think that by allowing ourselves to have that pizza or that piece of chocolate everyday we can see it as part of our diet and not something that shouldn’t be in there of which means failure – maybe it means success?
It means success because we’ve chosen it positively without negative emotions attached. It means success because it will probably make us more adherent to our diet structure overall which I think is the single most important part of this blog.
Choosing the pizza or the chocolate every day could be the very thing that allows you to be successful with your weight loss diet.
If it satisfies cravings, reduces binge episodes and increases enjoyment then maybe we’d be failing ourselves by not including it with our ‘diet’.
I think success with dieting comes from seeing the bigger picture, playing the long-game and finding a way to see that our choices can positively impact our progress. It’s not failure to have a pizza on a weekend nor is it failure to eat chocolate every day.
Failure would be to continue the same binge-restrict cycle time after time with negative associations made with dieting and weight loss. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose to see the pizza as a good thing and maybe, just maybe it’ll lead to more success long-term.
Of course there has to be some level of discipline involved, as we said above it’s not a good idea to respond to every craving you have. Furthermore, remembering to still include some of what you love in your diet isn’t just useful, it’s a pre-requisite for being successful and having a positive relationship with food and with dieting for weight loss.
One last thing to remember here is that one ‘bad’ meal doesn’t ruin your diet and equally one ‘good’ meal doesn’t make it either. Maintaining neutrality is critical when trying to create adherence and consistency.
My final message for you here is to remember that nothing will ever be perfect and so we shouldn’t be striving for that, we should be striving for imperfect action. When we make the choice that takes us towards our goals more often than we don’t then you’ll be moving in an upwards trajectory and that’s far better than going around in circles.
If you’d like to know more about how you can work with me and reach more of my content, you can follow me on social media @thedotheworkcoach
Dale Wallace – The DoTheWork Coach
Personal Trainer & Weight Loss Specialist
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