If you’re like most would-be healthy eaters, you’ve probably approached nutrient-dense diets in fits and starts. Maybe for a few days you thrive on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds. Everything is going great until you have a bad day at work or your ex posts pics with her new body-builder beau. Then it’s back to the burger, fries, and coke.
The Surest Way to Failure
When you find yourself slipping (or diving head first) into bad eating habits, what do you do? Perhaps you chastise yourself with, “You’ve got to stop doing this!” as you finish off the last chocolate chip cookie.
Maybe you assuage the guilt by pledging to eat only watermelon tomorrow. Or perchance you’re like my ex-boyfriend who rationalizes away bad eating behavior with an I-don’t-care attitude.
If your default reaction to falling off the healthy-eating wagon is similar to any of the above, you’re doomed to fail over and over again.
Instead, I advocate a learn-from-your-mistakes approach. When you take a close look at the variables surrounding bad food choices, you’ll usually find a few over which you have some control. With some strategic conniving, you can greatly increase the likelihood of sticking to your veggie guns!
Every Night for Six Weeks
I propose a 6-week experiment, which I have deemed reflection and revision. But heed this: your brain will attempt to convince you that reviewing your dietary missteps is futile. Why waste time on that exercisewhen all you really need to do isstick to your food plan, it will proffer innocently.
Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t yet know how to “just follow the food plan” consistently. So in the wake of off-track eating, employ a sort of bedtime routine to reflect on the day, making note of instances in which you did not follow your food plan. Then ask the following questions:
What went wrong?
What could I have done differently? (Or, what can I do differently in the future to help me stick to my food plan?)
Here’s how reflection and revision might look in practice. Let’s say you’d planned to have fruit salad with ground flaxseed for breakfast but had toast instead.
What went wrong? I didn’t have any fruit in the house.
What can I do differently in the future? Keep better track of what food I have on hand. I’ll start now by putting “food shopping” on my schedule for today.
Let’s try another. Suppose I made a date to dine at my favorite restaurant down the road with the intention of eating only a black bean soft-shell taco loaded with salad greens (but no specific plan as to how I might accomplish this). Upon being seated, my dining companion procures a heaping bowl of fresh-fried flour tortilla chips from the salsa bar. I make a feeble attempt to resist, but having failed to plan a chip-resisting strategy, I eventually succumb. After the meal, my friend orders the World’s Largest Piece of Carrot Cake with two forks.
Hey, I already blew it, so what the hell?
That night, before bed, the temptation is to shrug off the painful reflection and just “start fresh” the next day. But I remind myself that if I don’t learn from my mistakes, I’ll just keep repeating them. Thus:
What went wrong? Too many temptations for which I wasn’t prepared.
What can I do differently next time I go to Taco Temple? Strategize for each possible temptation I might encounter. Discuss my food plan with my dining partner. I could also request that he not bring chips to the table or that the chips be moved out of my reach. I could let him know beforehand that I don’t want dessert.
This process of reviewing where you messed up food-wise and generating solutions is crucial to maintaining a long term healthy diet . If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll continue to surrender to temptation too frequently to make any real progress on your health and weight loss goals. And if you rely on only your mind to rescue you from cravings and eating urges, you’ll continue to succumb to the cravings you encounter every day.
Start Right This Minute!
As soon as you finish reading this, set up a reminder that will cue you to reflect and revise your food choices of the day before hopping into bed. If you do this nightly for six weeks, you will start to see a change in the direction of your healthy eating.
Want to know more about Caroline’s strategies for sticking with a healthy diet? Schedule a call with her today and learn how to build willpower!