When you’re learning something new, very rarely are you good at it.
Maybe it’s learning a new computer program or app, or taking up a new hobby like painting, baking, or fishing. When you first start out, you’re pretty terrible at it. But if you stick with it and learn from some experts, you get better.
So, why is it that when you mess up once with your diet, you’re a total failure?
Recently, I had a conversation with a client about her diet.
She looked at me and told me, “I messed up this weekend, I lost all my progress and am starting back at baseline.”
I asked her what happened
“We went out to eat, I had a few cocktails. Man, was I bad.”
So, I asked her what she had.
“Filet mignon, but just half of it [4 oz.], steamed broccoli, and a plain baked potato. No sour cream or butter on it, just plain.”
I asked her “So, the only ‘bad’ thing you had was cocktails?”
Let’s pause the story for a second. The filet mignon has 185 calories, the broccoli has about 30 calories, and the baked potato has about 160 calories. Let’s add an additional 100 calories for oil used in cooking and the total is: 475 calories.
That’s pretty awesome for a meal. Now the two cocktails were about 200 calories each. Bringing the total to 875 calories but that’s still well under the 1,000+ that most people eat when out.
This client adhered to their diet plan for the entire week and had one meal out with friends.
One out of 21 meals in a week (3 meals a day x7 days a week).
That means she adhered to her diet by 95%.
If I got a test back in high school on a subject I’m not great at (looking at you pre-calc) with a 95%, I’d be pretty stoked!
However, generally we feel like a total failure if we’re not 100% perfect with our diet and exercise program.
Now, before I get emails about being a you being a ‘straight A student,’ biologically we are hardwired to fail at diets nowadays.
Our brains want to get the most calories for the least amount of work.
The bag of chips in the pantry or ice cream in the freezer are loaded with calories and it takes no effort to eat them. You know what else is easy, going out to eat where you don’t have to do the work to cook the food.
To finish the story, I told her she actually did really well that week and she shouldn’t be hard on herself and you shouldn’t either. It’s not an excuse to eat a plate of nachos and an entire pizza in one night, but perfection isn’t realistic.
If you’re struggling to stay on track, don’t be all or nothing. Make one small improvement today. Then do one small thing tomorrow. Try to get a little better each day instead of chasing perfection right now.