How to Bounce Back from a Bad Diet DayArticle posted in: Lifestyle
Fell off the diet wagon after eating unhealthy or bad food? Here are five ways to bounce back from a bad diet day and get back on the right path to healthy diet plan success.
DON’T #1: DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP
Why: It just doesn’t help to beat yourself up after eating bad food. To succeed in weight loss, you need support—and that starts with supporting yourself. Negativity will only increase your unhappiness and stress you out even more. And that stress can hurt your progress: Stress is associated with an increase in cortisol—a hormone that causes your body to retain. And in multiple studies, stress has been associated with weight gain. In one paper from Ohio State, dieters who were stressed burned 104 fewer calories in the seven hours following a meal than did those who self-identified as stress-free.
DO THIS INSTEAD: CONGRATULATE YOURSELF
Congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made and the discipline you’ve had when you are adhering to the program. Many weight loss experts recommend a rule of 90-10 or 80-20—that is, if you’re sticking to your meal plan 80 to 90 percent of the time, you’re doing well and will see results.
DON’T #2: DON’T TRY TO STARVE YOURSELF TO MAKE UP FOR YESTERDAY
Why: Starving yourself does just what it says—it puts your body into starvation mode, which activates your stress hormones—which makes you store fat. Starvation mode also makes your body slow down your metabolism to conserve fuel—meaning you’ll burn fewer calories. And according to researchers at Boston College, any diet with fewer than 1,500 calories can make it difficult to get the nutrients you need.
DO THIS INSTEAD: GO BACK TO YOUR DIET PLAN.
Eat healthy foods to get lean. A healthy weight loss food plan creates a healthy calorie deficit. That is, you burn more calories than you take in, but not at a deficit that puts your body on starvation alert. Experts recommend a deficit of around 500 calories per day, which should yield one-two pounds of weight loss after a little more than a week.
DON’T #3: DON’T OVER-EXERCISE TO BURN OFF YESTERDAY’S BONUS CALORIES
Why: You might make yourself hungrier, and worse, you could get hurt. In a 2007 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, exercise among overweight teens was associated with an increase in ghrelin, a hormone associated with appetite. And in another study from 2012, researchers found that obese people were adversely affected in mood, anxiety and hunger by an intense bout of exercise—all three of which are associated with eating. An overzealous exercise session also just isn’t that effective—exercise burns calories, but far fewer than most dieters imagine. And overdoing it means compromising form and moving outside your comfort zone—which could backfire and result in injury, during which you won’t be able to exercise at all.
DO THIS INSTEAD: EXERCISE NORMALLY
By all means, you should continue your exercise plan after your cheat day of eating. But the key, as with diet, is moderation—do exercises, intensities, and workouts that are within your skill range and in accordance with your fat loss exercise plan. You’ll burn some calories, reduce stress levels—which reduce fat-packing cortisol—and get back to the business of your plan.
DON’T #4: DON’T LET A BAD DAY TURN INTO A BAD WEEK
Why: Because it often does! And with good reason: “Cheat” foods like pizza, French fries and chocolate are physiologically addictive. In a study, published in February 2015 by PLoS One, foods with the highest glycemic load—that is, many foods with refined carbs that are quickly absorbed into the body—were the most addictive to dieters. So once you’ve got a taste of these addictive foods, you want to go back for more. This could explain why many dieters who have a bad day get discouraged, throw up their hands, and go into a progress-wrecking downward spiral.
DO THIS INSTEAD: CHANGE YOUR FOCUS
Instead of blindly adhering to the short-term pleasures of addictive foods, remember why you were moderate with them for so long—return to the motivation and emotional sources that created the discipline you had before your off-day. Re-affirm your goals so that your next diet meal is associated with the pleasure of success instead of the pleasures of excess. And when you sit for that next meal, concentrate on the actual food you’re eating. In multiple studies, “mindful eating” techniques, in which dieters focus on the food they’re eating and the act of eating it, has helped people lose as much weight as plans that drilled lessons on nutrition and calories.
DON’T #5: DON’T SLAVISHLY TRACK CHANGES IN YOUR WEIGHT
Why: While stepping on the scale daily has been associated with great weight loss results in scientific studies, jumping on when you expect to weigh less is just asking for stress. Your weight may be up, but it’s not because of extra fat—things don’t happen that fast. You’re probably just carrying extra water from the extra food. In fact, the scale can be misleading at other times. In a Canadian study, women weighed in heavier on the first day of their menstrual cycle due to water retention. As one study put it, your weight is subject to “normal cyclic fluctuations” that can be frustrating.
DO THIS INSTEAD: TRACK WHAT YOU EAT
The day after a big cheat is a great time to reset and keep a food log. This can help you keep from falling into addictive, habitual overeating and can create a reference point you can flip back to the next time you falter—you’ll see that bouncing back is possible, because you’ve done it before. This can also be an opportunity to track other, non-weight related measures of progress. Buy a cloth measuring tape and measure your thighs, waist, chest, calves, and arms. When one of these measurements decreases, you’ll have something to celebrate—even if the scale’s not budging. And if you haven’t already measured, check a piece of clothing. If something that used to be tight is loosening up, you’re making progress. Use that progress to motivate yourself to return to what’s working.