I know, it’s hard. Especially after a long day or a long week, and even more so when working out. We feel that we have earned the ‘small cheats’ here and there. A few chips, some ice cream, a couple drinks. Goal achievement is very similar to periodization in the way that there will always be variables to manipulate, and finding the combination that you:
Will ultimately be the best ‘program’ or plan for you.
One of the biggest issues currently; specifically with people seeking weight loss, and really anybody, is the idea that certain things are ‘ok’ or that there is somehow an easier way into achieving your goals. I am here to tell you that there is not. There are idealistic methods out there such as intuitive eating that many people come across and decide that, because it seems to be the path of least resistance, it will yield the best result in terms of Effort In/Result Out. The fact of the matter is that in most cases, it is our intuition that has gotten us into the spot we are in, so how do we change?
Change occurs in the body mentally and physically through the imposition of external and internal stressors-plain and simple, that’s how it works! We refer to this as the S.A.I.D. Principle (Specific Adaptations to the Imposed Demands)- meaning, as we introduce new stress or new levels of stress, we force change in our body to either meet the demand or break down. We need stress, we thrive on it; but we have a specific capacity for the amount of stress we can handle whether positive or negative.
There are two main types of stressors- Eustress (positive) and Distress (negative), and our body cannot physically determine the difference in the two the way our mind can. We physically react in a very similar way to the death of a loved one as we do getting an exciting new job.
ANYWAY, the point is, when we are over-loaded in total, we will breakdown. This is when we cheat.
When we take a look at the reasons we are not making progress, it generally is not because we are not doing enough to create eustress, but because we have failed to manage the amount of distress in our lives. Learn to control what you can, before introducing a new stimulus. Over-working and under-sleeping while trying to start a new diet and new workout regimen is often the fastest way to burn out. In this situation, while the intent for healthier habits was good, we have now created much more distress for ourselves instead of feeling inspired now feel defeated. When we feel defeated, we look for comfort- and much of the time we do this too often.
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
We cut out the mini-cheats, and we go for the big one. We stop with a few chips or some ice cream or a couple drinks every day, and we go for one meal that we can splurge on, once or twice a week or every other week. This should be somewhat planned, and not too far from the norm in terms of portion size.
Now, this cheat can be chips, or ice cream, or some drinks with friends! That is totally okay. The part where many get lost is that in our description of things as few, some, or a couple we do not consider that what we just took in far exceeded the standard portion of that food or drink.
Average Chip Serving: 4-7 Chips (depending on brand)
Average Ice Cream Serving: 1/2c (about the size of a clementine)
Average 12oz Beer: 95-150cal
Average 4oz Wine: 95-140cal
Average 1.5oz Whiskey: 105-150cal
This adds up! To a lot. Especially considering that we hardly EVER track these things, and still end up taking a FULL cheat day at a later point anyway.
We refer to this as the Aggregation of Marginal Gains or Losses. Over time we can expect to see either a linear or exponential growth or decline in any data field. In this case, being 2% more consistent on your diet over a year will yield far greater results than being less than committed.
Cut out the mini-cheats. Today. Do it. Plan a big one. Plan something to look forward to push yourself and keep yourself on track with your goals. Avoid exclusionary diets and work towards adding in some new healthier food groups at a higher frequency. Avoid stressing yourself out about not eating certain foods and banning them from your diet, just increase the lean protein and veggies to the point that those foods become less tempting, and more of an infrequent indulgence.
This does not just apply to diet and exercise either! Cut out the mini-cheats in other parts of your life. Stop going on Instagram for 5min blocks at work and turning a 2 hour job into a 5 hour job. Stop taking breaks to text at the gym. Stop taking extra rest days because you woke up a little sore this morning (rest days are necessary just not excessively). Set a goal, get it done.