Why a “Bad” Diet Day is Actually a Good Thing
Totally blew your diet yesterday, didja? Epically fell off the wagon? Ate your weight in chips and queso last night? Ended your evening next to a mountain of empty Halloween candy wrappers?
GOOD! I’ll get to why that’s good in just a minute. But first, here are my credentials:
I have been at this whole fitness thing for 2.5 years now, almost to the day. I can’t tell you how many times since May 2018 I’ve half-assed workouts or eaten until I’ve felt sick. Seriously, I can’t even give you a ballpark. In the past 30 months there have been 2 entire holiday seasons (ramping into #3 now!), countless birthday parties, numerous camping and ski trips, a couple mini-vacations, lots of road trips and hosting company, and plenty of special occasions. Not to mention God knows how many random, snacky days and good, old-fashioned eating and drinking of feelings!
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2.5 years is a long time. Lots of shit happens in 2.5 years, especially when your kids are 3 months old and 3 years old when you start, like mine were when I started – I have endured every infuriating, impossible stage of childhood and parenting that occurs between 3 months old and 6 years old since I began my fitness journey. Ipso facto, I’ve drank a lot of wine and eaten a lot of chocolate in the last 2.5 years. I’m fine being your normal, run-of-the-mill, middle-class, basic, suburban stay-at-home mom stereotype. Pass the Starbucks and the wine, but you can keep the mini-van.
Despite “falling off the wagon” more times than I can count (or like to admit!), I’ve managed to create and sustain an active, healthy overall lifestyle that brings me joy. The number of times I’ve gained and dropped the same few “fun” pounds here and there notwithstanding, I have consistently been in the best shape of my life at just about any given time in the last 2.5 years. That’s saying something!
You can “screw up” and reach your goals. You can overindulge and be fit. You can be imperfect and become your healthiest self.
Now, let me tell you why screwing up, overindulging, and imperfection are GOOD things when it comes to your health and fitness.
- It gives you the damn break we all need sometimes
Life has a way of beating you into submission. It’s hard. Maybe your hard isn’t as hard as their hard, or maybe your hard is the hardest of all the hards – I don’t know. But I do know it’s hard no matter what. Everyone has shit they’re dealing with, no ifs, ands, or buts. Watching what you eat and prioritizing workouts takes work. There is definite effort and planning involved. Conscious self-awareness when it comes to creating and practicing healthy habits is key, and it’s just one more thing to pile on top of family life, career demands, social obligations, and every other appointment, to-do, and stressor that’s sprinkled (okay, poured) into your day.
Sometimes saying fuck it and eating the bag of Doritos is just what the doctor ordered. Okay, I doubt any actual doctor would order that, but you can pretend I’m one (wait, that sounds a little creepy…). All I’m saying is you work hard day after day, doing all the things, pleasing all the people, living up to all the expectations, exercising all the willpower…it’s okay to give yourself a damn break and eat the damn chips. Or cheese fries, or ice cream, or whatever! Accept that that’s what makes you happy in the moment, give yourself grace, and allow yourself to enjoy it, knowing one meal, snack, and day isn’t gonna make or break you or your goals. Just don’t let your one meal, snack, or day turn into days and weeks on end.
- It reminds you how good it is to feel good
Recently I had a 5,000+ calorie day (it wasn’t my first rodeo either), half of which occurred between 10 pm and midnight. Sure, I wasn’t pleased with myself – in fact, I might even say I was disappointed in myself for having a great day then mindlessly blowing it for no good reason. BUT! I came out of that day with a fire lit under my ass. It was like a reboot for my motivation. The next day I did an ab workout and walked the treadmill. I stuck to my calorie goals the next day and each day since (so far!).
This might sound like I’m back at it out of guilt or shame, but it truly comes down to the fact that I just feel better when I’m proud of my choices. I feel healthier and more energetic when I fuel my body properly. It’s not that I’m running from my high-calorie day, it’s that I’m chasing the positive feelings I know are on the other side of discipline, movement, and nutritious foods.
Sometimes a day that doesn’t go at all how you planned it or wanted it to go can be the catalyst for many healthier days ahead. Maybe you skipped your workout or ate half a take-out pizza yesterday, maybe both. And maybe the sluggishness and bloat you’re feeling this morning is every reason you need to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Having a “bad” day will remind you how good you feel when you’re on top of your game and bring you back to why you started in the first place. It can motivate you to get back to work.
- It teaches you to evaluate your emotions against your actions
Why did you go ham on the bacon? Why did you gobble up the pumpkin pie? Why did you trick-or-treat yo’ self? Why did you succumb to the Hershey’s Kiss of death? Why did you go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? Why did you pop knowing damn well you can’t stop? (Shall I continue?)
Recognizing how you felt when you made your possibly over-the-top food choices is important. Were you sad, stressed, mad, happy, tired, bored, hangry, disappointed, overwhelmed? Were you alone or socializing? Did you happen to you focus on your food or was it a mindless grab-and-go? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you understand what drives your unhealthy choices. Understanding what drives your unhealthy choices can help you avoid them, or at least minimize the damage, in the future.
A little self-reflection can go a long way when it comes to how you allow yourself to react to certain things in life. Instead of running for the pantry after a stressful day at work, like the last time, maybe you go for walk. I guarantee that’ll clear your head way more than the bottom of a bag of cookies will. Instead of eating an appetizer, entree, and dessert when you’re out with friends, maybe you box up half your dinner or pick a low-cal option and split a dessert. I guarantee your good time doesn’t increase with calorie content.
My recent “indiscretion,” if you will, could have been easily avoided had I PUT THE DAMN CANDY AND SNACK MIXES BACK IN THE DAMN CABINET rather than having them staring me in my piggy little eyes and within hooves reach. I would’ve had just as much fun – probably more fun, actually, had I not been so distracted by stuffing my face. I regretted it as I was doing it, but kept going because it was there. Next time I’ll put that shit away and remind myself how much better I’ll feel at the end of the night.
- It shows you for every down there is an up
Life is not constant, it’s not linear, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. And neither is weight loss or a fitness journey. Some days you’re killing it, and feeling like a lean, mean, weight loss machine. Others you feel like a worthless tub of actual lard. And I suppose there’s also the in-betweens, however, those aren’t as noteworthy or memorable.
I love feeling strong and lean. It makes me feel invincible. In reality, however, I’m very “vincible” because I also feel fat and tired sometimes. Whether it’s because it’s that time of the month, I ate too much junk, didn’t get enough sleep, injured myself, going through something, or just feel blah in general, it happens. And it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It doesn’t mean I won’t feel good again. It’s not that this is my lot in life. It just means I’m not operating as smoothly and efficiently as normal. But I am still operating. 70%, 60%, or even 40% is my 100% some days. And that’s okay.
Just like the weather, we go through seasons in life. Some seasons are harder than others, which, in turn, means some are easier than others. Just because you’re in a slump now, it doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there. I bet there’s been plenty of times you’ve felt down on yourself or your situation in the past, but eventually things turned around. Good things are coming. Just stay the course. Ups and downs are as inevitable as they are temporary.
You may think you’ve blown your diet and progress out of the water, but you haven’t. Weight loss might be delayed a bit, or you might lose a little muscle definition, but it’s temporary and honestly not a big deal. I can’t believe I’m actually saying that…but it’s true. In a relatively short amount of time you’ll be back to where you were, or maybe closer to your goals than you were before your perceived setbacks.
It’s only a matter of time and determination. Perfection is not defined by being perfect. Perfection is defined by your dedication. As long as you don’t quit, your “bad” diet days don’t mean shit.
Follow me and my imperfect, non-linear, up and down, yet successful journey on Instagram and know you aren’t alone when it comes to making sub-par nutrition choices, randomly binging, or YO-ing to the MF-ing LO. If anything, this makes you normal. And that’s a good thing.
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