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Recovering from Catastrophe

2009-01-20 3 min read marco

Ok, you’ve been good about your diet, have been following every step of the way, have seen your weight drop, have bought new clothes, and then – boom! – you’ve had a bad day. Suddenly, you find yourself eating 5000 calories, gorging on cookies and chips and chocolate and prime ribs. What do you do?

First of all: breathe slowly. It’s not a tragedy. Even if on one day you bust your diet, you don’t have to fear the worst. You may get set back for a while, but you are going to be fine if you just stick with the original diet. And don’t even think about “making up for it.” You shouldn’t, or things are going to get a lot worse for you.

Next thing: analyze what led you to overindulge. Ask yourself how you got into a state where you overate, and what you can do to mitigate. This wondering is not easy, because you have to figure out two distinct possibilities:

  1. your diet is too hard for you
  2. you got lured into habit

If your diet is too hard, then you’ll just find the way to fall for it. You will figure out circumstances that allow you to overindulge and go back to them every time your body wants and needs more. For instance, for me it was evening calories: I would be fine all day with my allotted calories, and most of the time I could handle an evening workout just fine. Once in a while, though, I would come home after a spinning class or a football game and just eat everything in sight.

My body learned the trick. It would keep quiet all day, waiting for the late day workout. When I’d come home, it knew it could get whatever it wanted, and it just started throwing me into fits of hunger and craving. I learned the hard way that the only way to stop the overindulging was to combine an empty pantry with a substantial snack on the way home.

The other option is that you fell into an old habit. Such old habits can come in the strangest forms, sometimes as simple as a celebration. You might be invited to a birthday, say, and just eat what you’ve always eaten at a birthday. How could you not?

It takes a ton of work to get over these habits, and the less frequent the event, the more likely you are going to fall back. Things are not made any better by the fact that other people fall into their habits, too. They will stack your plate with cake even when you ask them not to. They will offer seconds even if they know you shouldn’t get any.

The only way to counteract habits is to create new ones. For instance, you could make a habit of bringing something nutritious to a birthday party – an apple, for instance. Eventually, people will get used to your weird new habit and will get over it.

Remember: the only effective way to get rid of a habit is to replace it with a different one!

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