In this diet game, there are rules. Now sure, if you break these rules a referee won’t drop out of the sky and blow a whistle all up in your face, but by following them you’ll increase the likelihood of sticking to your caloric deficit, emerging on the other side looking and feeling a lot better.
1. Secure home base
There is a tasty killer lurking in your house, and he is out to desexify your body. The most disturbing part of all is that you’re the one that let him in. A lot of the damage that occurs during a diet happens right at home – late night binging, mindless tv snacking, etc – and often involves all of the comfort foods that are mighty delicious, but pack a ton of calories and are easy to devour with reckless abandon. If that’s the case, it makes sense to avoid this pitfall entirely by getting those foods out of the place where they’re most likely to be eaten.
The first rule of Rogonian Law is that if a food is in your house, it will eventually end up in your stomach. Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang wrote a great op-ed piece for the New York Times discussing how will power is a finite resource and that while demonstrating zen-like will power on one task, you “deplete” your reserves and are therefore less likely to display that same amount of self-control when performing another seemingly unrelated task.
I don’t say this to give you a reason to obliterate the cookie jar when stressed – quite the contrary, because with practice our will power reserves can be bolstered. The best way to avoid eating something is not to have it around at all. If you’re not ready to make this plunge just yet, you can always slowly get these foods out of your house, first by reducing the portion size. Instead of buying the huge carton of ice cream, keep one or two of the single serving cups in the house – think of it as preemptive damage control. If you eat both of them, you’ve done much less harm than if you crushed an entire pint.
2. Don’t roll solo
Once you leave the comfort and safety of home base, that’s when it gets real. Not just real, but realer than real. You’re away from your usual foods and now you’re venturing out into a world where you’re rarely more than 5 minutes away from something you can eat. This is where will power is critical, but it’s best to come prepared regardless. Bag up something non perishable and keep it in your bag or car – think a piece or two of fruit (beef jerky is also an option, but you may lose friends if you eat it in close quarters) or protein powder. In those moments of dietary weakness, the simple act of getting something in your stomach helps you think more clearly and reduces the likelihood of an emotional eating episode.
By employing this strategy, you don’t have to go through the whole mental rigamarole of deciding between a piece of fruit or two ginormous slices of pizza with a piece of chocolate cake in between – you’ve already made a choice that will keep you on track towards your goals.
3. Prepare for battle
When on a diet, one fact that you’re going to have to accept is that you’re going to be hungry. Maybe not all the time, and not ravishingly so, but you and hunger are going to be homies during this process. You’re going to have to interact with other people while in a state of hunger, and this is where it becomes easy to fall off the wagon. If you create a caloric buffer or eat in line with your goals before you head out the house, you can drastically decrease the chances of overeating food at a get together only to feel like crap about it later. A social gathering with food is just that – a gathering where food just happens to be. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to eat a lot.
This rule applies for grocery shopping as well. I’m sure that we’ve all gone grocery shopping while hungry at least once, and the result was madness on a grand scale. That list probably snowballed from 6 simple items into pretty much anything within arms reach that looked like it might make your stomach smile with delight. Once the beast within takes over, everything starts to look like it could taste good and you make purchases that you never would under a more sane state of mind. And lets be honest here, do you really want to get home only to find out that 5 cans of Spam managed to find their way into your cart?
What are you dietary survival tactics? What has worked (or hasn’t) for you in the past? Leave your answers in the comment section below!