My friends and family know that I’m a very conscientious person. When I make a mistake, I tend to feel extremely guilty about it for a long time after, and it acts as a constant reminder that I shouldn’t repeat the mistake again.
As it applies to dieting, this means I often go against one of the cardinal problems a lot of dieters have. Many people complain that when they mess up and go off their diet, it tends to derail them for the rest of the day, the rest of the week, etc. They wait until some predetermined time to “restart” their diet, thinking it will be easier if they do everything perfectly right from that self-appointed start time. Meanwhile, they spend the rest of the day pigging out because they’ve already realized they’re not going to get their metaphorical gold star for the day, so why not indulge?
All the dieting gurus tell you not to fall into that trap. If you fall off the horse, get right back on and keep going. I do understand that tendency to just binge the rest of the day and start fresh in the morning – after all, I’m a total procrastinator and a perfectionist to boot – but in this case, it just doesn’t apply.
One morning last week, I found myself tempted by the cookies someone had brought into the break room of our office. There were boxes and boxes of them, all open, all tempting me. Even though it was only 9am and I had just eaten breakfast, I couldn’t resist – and snagged an 80 calorie macadamia nut cookie.
The funny thing is, 80 calories is really not that big a deal. It’s only a few more than eating an apple, which I regularly snack on at the office (though yes, I realize an apple is a lot healthier than a processed and full of lard cookie). However, something about that indulgence triggered my guilt reflex, and I felt so bad about the poor choice I had made that it spurred me to eat extra healthfully for the rest of the day. Sandwich at lunch? No, I had that cookie earlier – better stick with salad. Cocktails at our team dinner? I really shouldn’t; I already indulged on the cookie.
By the end of the day, I had come to realize that eating that cookie was probably a blessing in disguise – it had encouraged me to make smarter choices the rest of the day because I already felt like I had indulged with my cookie. Otherwise, I might have had lots of little treats all day long that would have added up to much more than that little cookie.
On the other hand, last night I went to bed very early (by 10:30pm), and got up at 6am to work out. I did 30 minutes on “The Wave” (a new cardio machine at my hotel of the week – expect another post on this to come) and worked up a really good sweater. Afterward, I walked to work instead of taking a cab (about a mile), and grabbed a healthy breakfast on the way. Doing so well made me not want to “mess up” and go off course – so there’s some merit to that as well. (Then again, we have a team dinner tonight at which I very well may end up getting derailed by bread, appetizers, drinks, and dessert – fingers crossed!)
So what do you all think – if I can’t get in a morning workout, should I go on a new “cookie diet” and start every day with a big old chocolate chipper, which will then guilt me into making all good choices the rest of the day? 🙂 And which way do you lean – if you indulge in the morning, will you eat better the rest of the day to make up for it, or worse because you’ll consider the day a dieting wash?
P.S. The ironic twist here is that unlike the rest of you whose beautiful holiday baking I’ve seen pictured on your blogs, I was too busy and skipped the cookie baking this year. Drop me a line if you want to mail me some of yours!