It happens to everyone--the dreaded moment when you're going strong and then make that one poor eating decision, and your diet goes off the rails. These moments typically happen in situations you didn't see coming, such as running late for work (cue the vending machine cinnamon bun), or eating out with friends (why did the waiter have to bring by that dessert cart?). However it happens, the aftermath is generally the same--lots of guilt, lots of frustration, lots of negative self-talk, and sometimes even just giving up altogether. Below are some practical steps you can take to minimize the negative fallout from a diet misstep.
1. Refuse to succumb to guilt. If there's anything that can sap your energy and completely kill your will to persevere, it would be sitting around feeling guilty and beating yourself up for the dieting mistakes you've made. Bear in mind that changing any habit--especially food-related habits--requires a lot of time, patience and persistence, and there are bound to be some roadblocks and mess-ups along the way. Making mistakes simply means that you're a human being, so be quick to forgive yourself and move on.
2. Make an honest assessment of the damage. Many times when diet plans go out the window, we can feel like we're ruined forever. Truth be told, nobody has ever gained 10 pounds from eating one cookie. In fact, you have to consume 3,500 calories just to gain one pound, so unless you have downed about three full family-size packages of Oreos, the damage is probably nowhere near as bad as you think.
This is an important mental adjustment to make, because many times we can feel like our entire day or even diet is ruined from one small mistake, so we pig out for the rest of the day and promise ourselves that we'll start over on our diet tomorrow. Not a winning plan. Instead, put your diet cheat into perspective and realize that you don't have to call the whole thing off just because you added an extra 300 calories to your total intake for the day.
3. Avoid the "pendulum syndrome," which is when you swing from one extreme to another. Instead, adjust your diet choices with balance and moderation. For example, if you messed up and took a week off your diet, you might try starving yourself all next week in order to "punish" yourself or compensate for the weight you might have gained.
The problem is, eating too little will have a counter-productive effect on your metabolism--your body will actually hold on to any fat it gets, because a low calorie intake causes your metabolism to slow down and shift into survival mode! The takeaway: Make small adjustments and adopt a balanced approach in order to get back into the swing of things.
4. After going on a junk food detour, it will definitely be time for a detox, especially if your cheat foods were high in refined sugars, sodium and fat. Start by increasing your water intake, which will help your body flush out all of those toxins and "re-set" your digestive system. Most experts recommend drinking about 64 ounces of water a day. In addition, increase your intake of high-fiber fruits and vegetables over the next few days, incorporating natural goodies such as apples, pears, grapes, broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots and cabbage into your meals and snacks.
5. Resolve to take it one day at a time. Avoid ultimatum statements such as "I'm never eating ______ again," because they almost always come back to bite you later. Realize that your diet is a journey and a process, and that one thoughtless mistake does not a ruined diet make. If you slip up and make a bad decision, remember to keep a cool head and don't blow things out of proportion; just make quick adjustments and get back on track as soon as possible. As you learn to leave the guilt behind and apply a healthy dose of persistence, you'll be well on your way to overcoming dieting mistakes and achieving your weight loss goals, no matter what life throws at you.