What To Do After A "F**k It" Day
Setting the Scene
I originally wrote this article in February 2017 and have been referring people to it ever since. After discussing the basics of body composition and some of the key concepts so far this year - which can seem a bit general in the early stages - here I wanted to focus on the specific actions you can take when you make a mistake. This will happen to you at some stage, so instead of hoping that it does not, let’s have a plan for when it does.
Picture this: after four weeks of sticking to your energy intake/macro goals and your training program, everything goes awry. You head away for the weekend or go out to a big dinner which you attend with the game plan to enjoy yourself by not restricting food, but without going overboard and eating everything in sight.
Three hours later, you leave, having consumed every entree, main, dessert, and cocktail you could get your hands on. You get home and are a bit disappointed that you skewed from the plan, but hey, overall you have done well so far and tomorrow you will be back on the plan.
But the next day you do not feel like getting back on track, so you convince yourself that yesterday’s indulgence have ruined the week, so it is a total write off. You have a big breakfast, eat out for lunch and decide to order pizza for dinner. If this week is a write off, you may as well enjoy it!
Does this sound familiar?
We have all been there. In fact, I was there last weekend. After a weekend away from my normal routine and being more flexible with food intake, I got home and raided all the food I have been minimising or avoiding for the last month or so. Pizza, mint slice, chicken subs, alongside snacking on most things in between. I deviated from the system, said "f**k it", and decided to get back into it tomorrow (Monday).
Whilst this was not ideal, I am very lucky to be in a position where this will just be a minor road bump and I will be back on track next week.
I know that I can get back into my routine today because it is well-defined and I enjoy eating to this structure.
I know that my +3.4kg weight change is mostly water and replenished glycogen that will subside over the next few days once the diet and training return to normal. This means I am not too worried about losing my progress and I know I just need to get back to the normal routine, not try anything different.
I have been here before and gotten out unscathed, by following a few simple steps that I will outline below. When you are comfortable that everything will be OK, it is much easier to focus on getting back into the normal routine.
Not everyone has this knowledge or experience, or the confidence that they can mess up and get back on track. I want to outline the process I use, both with myself and clients, to ensure that a "f**k it" day stays at just that, without morphing into anything longer.
Next time you find yourself waking up after one of these days, try following these three tips.
I will apply these tips to my experience below each one.
Stop it From Becoming A "F**k It" Week
The first priority is getting back into the normal routine as soon as possible. It is very easy to plan to 'start again on Monday' and then overconsume for the rest of the week. However, if this was to happen after a bad day on Thursday, 1 x 2000kcal surplus can quickly become a 4 x 2000kcal surplus, which is only going to make it harder to get back into your routine.
You might feel as though you have wasted all of your progress and decide not to get back into your regime. You then might chalk the diet down as a failure, even though it delivered results in the initial stages, and would continue to do so if you go back to it.
The problem with stopping is that further down the track when you look back on the strategy, you forget about the blowout and stopping early, only recalling that you stuck to a plan that did not yield the results you wanted. This can lead to becoming disillusioned with the right strategy to lose weight, because this one did not work.
I never want someone to become one of those people who says 'dieting does not work for me' because it works for everyone when you get it right. The problem is you might not get it right the first, second, or tenth time, but fortunately you have a long time frame to figure out what suits.
The emphasis needs to be getting back towards your normal regime quickly, ideally the very next day. Process the deviation as a once off and avoid getting caught up in feelings of regret or that there is any need for any restriction to compensate for the intake. Once you get back into your regime, you will soon realise that the blip has no long-term effects. You might not lose weight as planned for that week, but in three weeks you will not even notice this tiny road bump.
Whilst this sounds simple, it requires significant discipline, particularly if you overconsume on a Friday and then have two days until the start of the next week. Most of us see the start of the working week as the ideal time to start anything new, particularly when there is food or exercise involved. This means you can end up with this awkward time period between the “f**k it day” and Monday, the weekly reset point, where you are a little bit more susceptible to deviating from the path than usual.
To help minimise temptation during this time, throw out any high-energy foods that you have remaining from your splurge (ie. left over pizza, chips, lollies, etc) and make your normal regime as simple as possible. If you need to prepare some meals in advance, do that. If you do not have time to prepare meals, stick to options that you have previously used for quick meals.
What happened to me?
I overconsumed on a Sunday which makes it pretty easy to get back into normal routine on Monday. Having also returned back into my normal environment and having a structure for the next day (foods ready to take and cook).
If the deviation was due to an infrequent occurrence, such as being put into a different environment that you did not plan well for, then you can write it off as a glitch in the system. You had been somewhat restricted for a period of time, you gave into temptation, and overconsumption was the outcome. It happens.
In the grand scheme of life, this is OK. The energy surplus will not halt long term fat loss - it might stall this week but in two weeks time things will be back to normal - and maybe you have learned what kinds of food trigger you to overconsume, which is valuable information for the future.
Most importantly, you realise that once glitch will not ruin everything, and that while sticking to program helps get results - by simplifying what to do - there will be times where a lack of good options and decreased discipline leads to overconsumption.
If this is a frequent occurrence - weekly or fortnightly, depending on your program and goals - this could be worth a bit more consideration. You might be overconsuming because your energy intake is too restrictive to be sustainable for you.
Addressing this is not just a matter of increasing energy intake, it can also mean a recalculation of goals. The reality is that body composition goals with shorter timeframes require greater energy deficits to be created and have less margin for error.
Deciding on the right approach requires some careful analysis, ideally in conjunction with your coach. A 15% energy deficit maintained every day will provide better results than a 20% energy deficit maintained four days per week alongside a 10% energy surplus on the other three days.
You also might be overconsuming because you consumed a/several hyper palatable foods. Hyper palatable foods are those that once you start eating, you cannot stop and find moderate intake quite hard to do. I often work with clients to remove foods that we have identified as hyper palatable in the initial stages of a body recomposition program because leaving them in there can stagnate progress.
This can be superior to non-restrictive methods, where a client is encouraged to keep a small amount of such food in their diet to help them get better at controlling intake. If a food has been identified as something a client struggles to control, it seems cruel to ask them to keep it and suddenly expect them to manage it well - that is setting them up for failure. These foods can be reintroduced later on, once the client has a better grasp on managing their intake and can focus more on managing these hyper palatable foods.
Many people have these “F**k it” days when they end up in a place their plan does not facilitate. Maybe you were in an unfamiliar environment with access only to foods you might not usually consume, so it becomes a bit easier to give into them, particularly if there are no other options. This is an indicator you need a plan for such situations, be it in the form of food recommendations or some prior menu analysis.
If you are working with a coach, you can take advantage of this in preparation. For my executive clients who eat out a lot, they can let me know where they will be going so I can find the menu online and then recommend a meal option that suits their needs. It sounds intrusive, but when your work live involves a lot of lunches and dinners - often at fancy restaurants with seemingly endless tabs - it is an important consideration for managing their overall energy intake.
What happened to me?
I would put it down to an unfamiliar environment and less control, making it easier to give in to temptation and justify this with previous adherence.
No Excuses, Just Reasons
There is an element of responsibility that needs to be taken any time you deviate from the plan. Excuses are useless going forward, instead you need to detach and identify why it happened and what can be learned for the future.
It is important to realise that you have not failed unless you give up. If in one month you have a single blow out, whilst the rest of your intake is solid, that is a phenomenal result. As a coach, I am probably happy with 3-5 poor days, 10-15 average days, and 10-15 good days, in the first month of a body recomposition program.
The responsibility for deviating from the plan and overconsuming still lies with you. You overconsumed, for the reasons you have identified above. However, you did not overconsume because you were at the coast/eating out/at a party, you overconsumed because the change in setting made it easier to give in to temptation. You could always go to the coast and not overconsume.
Clients who take responsibility of their deviations are those who make progress long progress. I am lucky to have a client base who understand realise when they make a mistake and are willing to take responsibility for it. This means that when they mess up, they record it, which means we can make adjustments to their plan to improve adherence or better prepare them for a similar situation in the future.
There is do not beat themselves up, nor do I need to get upset with them for deviating. There are obviously things we can both do better, be it in the development of the strategy or the adherence to it, which makes every deviation a great opportunity to tighten up the program.
What happened to me?
I lacked discipline and gave into temptation, which opened the floodgates. It was not the first time, and it will not be the last time I do that. However, the reality is that each and every time it does happen, I need to acknowledge that I made every choice involved - and enjoyed them short-term - and no one or nothing else are to blame. Once you do that, it becomes a lot easier to get back into your regime because you never lost control, you just redirected it in the wrong direction.
There are always insights to be gained from your adherence to the strategy. When things are going well, we begin to understand what suits the individual and can develop a profile of what might also suit them in the future. When things are not going well, we can try a different approach to try and get things moving again.