It’s happened again — you “cheated” on your diet.
You’re overworked, under-rested, and way too stressed, and (inevitably), you ate something, not on your nutrition plan and completely blew your diet for the day.
Relax, it happens to all of us. Even the most diligent dieters and the “cleanest” of the clean eaters have slip-ups on occasion.
Why Are You Cheating on Your Diet?
Food is comforting, and it certainly can help us to feel better. However, when we become stressed, food shouldn’t be the thing we turn to for the solution to our problems.
Avoiding future cheats and food binges we first must identify what causes us to feel stressed and seek out high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods.
Is it work that leads us to feeling stressed? Perhaps a taxing relationship? Or could it be that we’re just not getting enough rest at night?
Or, might it be that the current diet you’re on is just a bit too restrictive, leading you to feel malnourished and deprived?
Any and all of these things can cause us to go off of our diet plan and cheat.
Identifying your triggers is the first step to avoiding future cheats. Once you’ve identified the stressor, you can take steps to correct the underlying cause.
Having such a black-and-white view of foods as “good” or “bad” can frequently lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and lead to binges followed by days of deprivation (starvation) as you must punish yourself for doing something “wrong.”
However, instead of taking such a jaded view of food, realize that no single food is unilaterally good or bad.
Furthermore, we need to remove the concept of “cheating” from dieting. When you say that you “cheat” on your diet, it implies that you’re doing something wrong or bad and that eventually you must account for it.
When you eat something off of your plan, perhaps you should consider it a “reward meal” for a week’s worth of hard work in the gym and in the kitchen. After all, you’re putting in the work day in and day out to exercise hard and eat right, so why not reward yourself with a delicious meal at the end of the week.
How to Bounce Back After Cheating on Your Diet
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
You ate something not on your nutrition plan for one meal.
Yes, you read that right.
It’s ok that you deviated from your nutrition plan.
There’s no need to beat yourself up, go into downward spiral of doom and gloom, or starve yourself the rest of the day or the next day.
Remember nobody ever became overweight from a single meal, just like no one built a stunning physique in a single workout.
The fastest way to get back on track with your healthy eating plan is to leave the binge in the past and just move on.
Resume Normal Habits at the Next Meal
Do not deprive yourself and restrict yourself for the next few days in order to compensate for the cheat meal you had.
By taking this broader view of calorie intake (weekly versus daily), you help shift the focus of weight loss (and weight gain) from a micro (daily) to macro (weekly) view.
When you adopt this mindset, you realize that one cheat meal won’t automatically put 10 pounds of fat on your body just as one workout won’t put 10 pounds of muscle on your body.
It’s not a sprint! It’s a marathon and takes months to change your physique and habits!
Cheat meals are often high in carbohydrates, which the body uses to fill up glycogen stores.
What better way to put that cheat meal to good use than by going extra hard in your workout?!
For high-intensity exercise like resistance-training or sprinting, the body primarily relies on glycogen.
Since your glycogen stores are topped off, you have ample energy stores to have a phenomenal workout.
Consume Enough Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that supplies our body with the building blocks (amino acids) it needs to build and repair tissues.
Protein is also delicious and it’s the most satiating macronutrient of the lot, which means that it helps keep us feeling fuller for longer periods of time. Every meal you eat should contain a complete source of protein (such as whey protein, chicken, fish, eggs, etc.).
Consuming enough dietary protein helps build and protect muscle tissue when dieting, and helps keep us from getting overly hungry in between meals.
Consume Enough Fiber
Fiber is the indigestible portion of carbohydrates naturally occurring in plants that serve as “food” for our gut bacteria. Besides that, fiber also helps keep us full after a meal.
Research has shown that consuming fiber-rich foods like beans, whole grains, fruits, and veggies helps increase satiety and reduces the urge to overeat.
Take Your Time Eating
It takes between 20-30 minutes after eating for your brain to register that you’re full and have had enough to eat.
If you’re someone who likes to shovel down their food as quickly as possible and be on with the rest of your day, it’s very likely that you will end up overeating.
By taking your time, practicing a bit of mindfulness, and savoring every bite of food, you’ll help prevent overeating and most likely derive greater pleasure and satisfaction from your meal.
Know Your Limits
When you decide to have a cheat or reward meal, set some boundaries. Keep your “cheating” to a single meal, not a cheat day or a cheat weekend. One meal, that’s it.
Many dieters assume that because they dieting hard all week, they can eat whatever they want on the weekends and still lose weight. Unfortunately, it is entirely possible to derail a whole week’s worth of dieting by a single weekend of horrible eating.
If you want to be able to “have your cake and eat it too” (meaning enjoy some “cheat” foods and still lose weight), keep your indulgences within reason — one meal.