by Joshua Danker-Dake
For most of us, the journey toward improved health and fitness—toward weight loss—is slow, the path rocky, winding, and steep. What happens when we mess up, when we get off course?
We all have bad food days. I can scarcely detail all the times and ways I’ve blown up my eating plan, but for the sake of illustration, I’m going to try to give a representative sample. The screw-ups fall into three main categories.
I tend to be extremely disciplined on weekdays, both because of the structure of the day and because these are the days I work out. In contrast, the weekends tend to be tougher, both because there’s less structure and because that’s when most social outings happen.
Always tough. If you know a trip to a restaurant is coming, you can go light on your other meals beforehand. But sometimes the wife comes home and says, “Hey, we have to go out to meet so-and-so for his birthday.” Well, I didn’t budget for that. And I’m not going to go to no steakhouse and eat no salad.
The Lord knows I’ve had plenty of these. Cereal, chips, fried cheese, ice cream, Nutella: late at night, anything with sugar, anything salty and oily, is infinitely more appealing than it is in the day.
So let’s say you’ve gone and eaten all the things you didn’t want to eat. Now what?
First of all, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. These things happen. Remind yourself that nobody of consequence but you cares if you have love handles. Forgive yourself and resolve to do better tomorrow.
(One of the reasons I like about keeping a food journal is that it makes it easy to take the journey one day at a time. No matter how deep into the red my calories might go, a clean slate awaits in the morning. I’m not worried about making up a deficit or starving myself to compensate; I’m just looking to press forward and put together a smart day of eating.)
Once you’ve forgiven yourself, analyze the problem. Try to find ways to avoid a repeat. For example, I mitigate damage at restaurants when I can muster up the willpower to order vegetables as my side instead of fries. I’ve found that I can avoid late-night binging by not keeping tempting food in the house, by eating that sort of “junk” food once in a while in moderation to take the edge off the cravings, by making sure I had enough carbs with dinner that my cravings don’t get out of hand, or by just going to bed. Weekends I’m still figuring out.
Above all, be gracious with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, continue to work to build better habits. Refocus on your long-term health and fitness goals, and keep going.
Read more from Josh and the sustainable struggle series here.
Joshua Danker-Dake is the author of the acclaimed comic novel The Retail. A writer and editor by trade, he also serves as the Strategy and Tactics Editor for Diplomacy World, the flagship publication of the Diplomacy hobby. Beyond health and fitness, other things he gets rather excited about include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, bombastic European power metal, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.