What To Do After a "F**k It" Day
Setting the Scene
Picture this: after four weeks of sticking to your meal plan/energy intake/macro goals and your training program, everything goes awry. You head away for the weekend/are invited to a degustation lunch/visit the Multicultural festival which you attend with a game plan to enjoy yourself by not restricting food, without going overboard.
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 dissapointed you skewed from the plan, but hey, overall you have done well so far. Anyway, since today is write off, you decide to order pizza for dinner and snack until your heart's content, because you will be back to normal tomorrow.
Does this sound familiar?
We have all been there. In fact, I was there last weekend. After a weekend away and not restricting 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, and most things in between. I deviated from the system, said "f**k it", and decided to get back into it tomorrow (today).
But I am very lucky, for a number of reasons:
- I know that I can get back into my routine today, because I know what it looks like and I enjoy having that structure. This makes it easy not to let one poor day turn into four.
- I know that my +3.4kg weight change is mostly water and replenished glycogen, that will decrease over the next few days (with no other changes). This means I am not too worried about losing my progress. Update (Tuesday): it's back to normal.
- I have been here before and gotten out unscathed, by following a few simple steps (that I will outline below).
Not everyone has this knowledge or experience, and that is who this article is for. I want to outline the process I use myself and with clients to ensure that a "f**k it" day does not ruin their progress. 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
Priority number one is getting back on track ASAP. It's very easy to plan to 'start again on Monday' and then overconsume for the rest of the week. However, 1x2000kcal surplus then quickly becomes a 4x2000kcal surplus, which is only going to make it harder to get back into your routine.
All of a sudden, you feel as though you have wasted all of your progress and decide not to get back into your regime. You 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).
Further down the track, you then look back at spending four weeks sticking to plan for no overall result and decide that dieting doesn't work for you. This is a dangerous decision to make and it can preface significant weight gain.
Don't become someone who says 'dieting does not work for me' because it works for everyone when you get it right. You might not get it right the first, second, or tenth time, but it will work when you do.
The emphasis needs to be getting back towards your normal regime soon, ideally the next day. Package up the deviation as a once off and avoid feelings of regret or any need for any restriction to compensate for it. 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 won't even notice the plateau.
Whilst this sounds simple it requires significant discipline, particularly if you overconsume on a Friday and then have two days until the next week (ie. the Monday Mental Reset). You end up with this awkward time period where you can easily fall into the trap of 'start again on Monday.'
To help minimise temptation, throw any high-energy foods that you have remaining (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 don't have time to prepare, stick to options that you have previosuly 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).
The Integrated Insider
Receive first access to new programs and the exclusive content my clients get every fortnight.
If it is an infrequent occurrence that you were put into a different environment that your system did not plan for (ie. was not programmed) 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 things (life) this is OK. The energy surplus will not stop long term weight loss - it might stall this week but in two weeks time things will be back to normal. You might have learned what kinds of food trigger you to overconsume, which is valuable information for the future.
Most importantly, you realise that once glitch won't ruin everything, and that while sticking to program helps get results (by simplifying what to do) there will be times where restriction of choice leads to overconsumption.
If this is a frequent occurrence (weekly or fortnightly, depending on your program/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. For most people this is OK, but it is something to be aware of.
There is a cost-benefit analysis to consider, 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 three 10% energy surplus'.
You might be overconsuming because you consumed a/several hyper palatable foods. Hyper palatable foods are those that once you start eating you cannot stop, finding it very hard to control intake. I often remove identified hyper palatable foods in the inital stages of a body recomposition program, because leaving them in there can stagnate progress.
I consider this to be superior to non-restrictive methods, where a client is encouraged to keep a small amount of such a 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 expect them to control it. 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.
You might have overconsumed because you had no game plan. You were in an unfamiliar environment with foods you might not usually consume, and it becomes a bit easier to give into them. Maybe you need a plan for such situations, be it food recommendations, 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 plan that suits their needs. It sounds intrusive, but when your work live involves a lot of lunches and dinners - often at fancy restaurants (and they aren't paying the bill) - it is an important consideration for 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 into temptation and justify this with previous adherence.
No Excuses, Just Reasons
There is an element of responsibility that needs to be taken. Excuses are useless here, 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 single blow out, whilst the rest of your intake is on point, that is phenomenal. In reality, I would be happy with 3-5 poor days, 10-15 average days, and 10-15 good days, in the early stages of a program.
The responsibility 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 go to the coast and not consume, just remember that.
Clients who take responsibility of their deviations are the one's who make progress. I can tell you know, I have a client base who understand when they make mistakes and are willing to take responsibility. 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 no need to beat yourself up about it, but this is a great opportunity to acknowledge your responsibility for a decision that went awry.
What happened to me?
I went beyond my program, lacked discipline and gave into temptation. It was not the first time and it won't 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 - and enjoyed them - 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.
You will overconsume from time-to-time and this OK. To minimise the impact on progress, getting back into a normal regime ASAP is the key. By the following the simple steps of stopping it, assessing why it happened, and taking responsibity, you can get back into your regime with minimal disruption and maximal adherence going forward.