One of the hardest things about sticking to any diet or lifestyle is straying and getting off course. Once you’ve strayed off the path, what do you do? Do you say “the heck with it” and go hog-wild, or do you feel incredibly guilty and hate yourself, and vow to do penance like running an extra hour, lifting more weights or starving yourself the next day.
Perfection is hard in anything you are doing. And perfection makes the attainable, seem UN-attainable. And when other things--like life--interfere, perfection becomes impossible. And for many of us with busy careers, kids, activities, travel, etc., life gets in the way on a regular basis.
And then there’s the guilt…
Unfortunately, guilt can work against you and your resolve. In other words, the more guilty you feel about some particular transgression, the more you think about it. Beating yourself up over that bowl of ice cream you had, only makes you think about your transgression all the more, which then makes you think about ice cream, and the next thing you know, you’re back to eating ice cream.
What then, to do?
The key here is to ‘forget about it’. Forgive yourself. And reward yourself by going back to your healthy ways. There really isn’t anything you can do about a slip in your diet. What’s done is done, and the only thing you can do is to go forward. Feeling guilty will not burn off those extra calories, or undo the damage.
For those of us who have been relatively successful in changing our dietary habits, it's not that we are guilt free, nor are we perfect. But rather, we have found ways of dealing with the guilt and strategies to get us back on track that works.
So how do you deal with those situations when life gets in the way, and you can’t or don’t eat how you think you should?
Yes, there’s a little bit of guilt involved, but more importantly, it’s what you do next that determines whether you recover, or blow your diet and give up.
The key here is to put that guilt to use in a positive way. Use it to help you focus even more on those healthy foods you want to eat and use it to firm up your resolve to stay the course.
I’ll tell you a little secret--I demolished a small package of chocolate gluten-free cookies the other day. I was craving carbs, and I really just wanted something sweet and crunchy. I don’t do it often, but I occasionally indulge as well. But here is what I did after that.
I looked the guilt in the eye, and I said, “Yep, I ate 10 deliciously crunchy and choclately cookies. And now I’m done.” And then I made up for it by eating extra healthy the next few days.
Guilt? Yes maybe a little, but it actually motivates me to get it right after that.
There is no giving up, no going back to bad habits, and no week-long cookie/carb binging.
Boom! Done. Over.
Healthy diets fail because people get too wrapped in being perfect, and being overly restrictive. Often the best diets allow for a little ‘wiggle room’ that allows for a little straying now and then. And not feeling guilty about it. (Ok maybe just a little bit.)
One thing that works for many is to allow for ‘percentages’. What do I mean by that?
Take out the perfection and let in a little percentage. Now you don’t need to be a math major to figure this out; the idea is to work on sticking to your diet around 90% of the time, and deviate from it about 10% of the time, you’re golden. What does that 10% equate to?
Since I’m not a big ‘math’ person, I figure that 10% is equivalent to one or two less than ideal meals or a couple of bad snacks a week. A ‘cheat’ meal, or having dessert once a week. Or allowing yourself that mocha chocolate cappuccino one day a week. It’s a once in a while thing. Doing it this way, you don’t have to admit defeat and give up the next time you eat a few Girl Scout cookies, help yourself to a piece of pie or eat a pancake. It’s all good.
And then, use it to motivate yourself to get back on track. And let this help you to strengthen your resolve to eat extra healthy the next few days.
You see, life isn’t really about being ‘Perfect’. It’s about day-in and day-out consistency. And even when you take into account those times when you falter and get off track, it’s the consistency of sticking to something over the long haul that gives you the results you desire. Don’t worry about being perfect. Nobody is. And don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty.
Your takeaways from today's post...
- NO one is perfect. It’s ok to feel a little guilty if you stray off your diet.
- Use your guilt to motivate you to have better resolve and make up for it by eating extra healthy the next couple days.
- Allow for the 90/10 rule. Stay on track 90% of the time and allow yourself that 10% of indulging.
- It’s consistency over the long run that brings you success. So stick with it. It’s worth it.
Leave perfection out of it. Stay consistent. And use your guilt to help you have better willpower and better habits.
That, my friends, is what leads you to success!