6 Tips From The Hulk to Help You Smash Diet Anxiety For Good

Dietary debauchery.

Accidental calorie overload.

Hand-to-mouth malfunction.

These all fall under the umbrella of Hulking Out, that moment where you throw your metaphorical papers into the air, say to hell with it and go on an unexpected roaring rampage of food.

That time when you ate half the birthday cake (and it wasn’t even your birthday)? That’s Hulking Out.

When you intend to eat just one serving of ice cream, but before you know it your head is stuck in the container because you tried to lick the last drop out of the corner? The Hulk strikes again.

You didn’t mean to, he just came out.

Instead of throwing in the towel and resigning yourself to a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and constant setbacks, it’s time to fight fire with fire and learn what Earth’s mightiest hero himself can teach you about overcoming diet anxiety once and for all.

1. Use A Less Severe Deficit

Let’s face it: when we’re hungry, our proclivity for making food related blunders increases by a bajillion percent. Dieting isn’t something that our bodies necessarily enjoy – we’re tapping into fat stores that it has grown accustomed to having – so the bigger the energy deficit we create, and the longer we do so, the more inclined our bodies are to sound the “FEED ME!” alarm.

This is why crash diets don’t work in the long run. They impose severe calorie restrictions in an all-out blitz on the fluff, with your body using all the tricks in the book to try and get you to eat more. Once the diet is over, the sense of freedom can be overwhelming and the the Hulking Out process begins, often leading right back to where you were (or worse) over the course of uncontrolled weeks or months.

To combat this, more is more.

To start, begin with a conservative deficit of anywhere between 500 and 700 calories, holding this level steady for as long as you can before adjusting variables. When the time comes, think of adding more activity instead of cutting calories further – save that as an option of last resort. When doing so, adjust downward slowly in the neighborhood of 100-150 calories, letting your results dictate when to make this executive decision.

The goal of a diet is to eat as much food as you can while still making sustainable progress, not cutting as many calories as possible in a mad dash for the fat loss finish line. Eating more calories, while still remaining in an overall weekly deficit, leads to more compliance and less Hulking Out, allowing you to enjoy the process as much as possible along the way.

2. Hug It Out

You’re human. You’re going to slip up at some point – let’s just hope your mistake don’t involve busting out of your shirt and causing millions of dollars of damage to an unsuspecting city. It’s not what happens that will define you, but how you respond.

A typical Hulking Out scenario looks something like this:

  1. Person eats something they didn’t intend to or a larger quantity of something than planned.
  2. Person beats themselves up mentally about it (I knew better, why am I so stupid, it’s always going to be like this, etc)
  3. Person punishes themselves physically on top of this, restricting food severely or super charging their activity as a way to try and recover.
  4. They can’t sustain this level of restriction and deprivation and the Hulk comes out. The cycle continues, becoming harder to break the more it happens.

So, what’s the answer? Chill out!

I know, it’s hard to do in the moment, especially with so many emotions running through you head at the time. I’ve been there many times myself. Nothing positive comes from wearing yourself out physically and mentally as a form of punishment. In fact, it just increases the likelihood of it occurring again as you constantly reinforce this pattern.

Instead, get in the habit of being more forgiving of yourself. looking to find the lessons in each setback so that you can act differently the next time.

Ok, so you goofed up. You made a minor error on one of the thousands of days that you’ll likely live; a dribble in the bucket of life that won’t mean a thing to your results in the grand scheme of things. This is a lifestyle, baby. Keeping a long term perspective instead of boxing yourself rigid and sometimes unrealistic short-term deadlines will go along way towards keeping the Hulk at bay.

3. Don’t Demonize ANY Food

When we restrict ourselves, putting certain foods onto an untouchable pedestal, it’s only natural for us to want them more than ever before.

Want to ensure that you’ll Hulk Out in a remarkably horrible fashion? Tell yourself that a food you love is completely off or restrict it severely. The naughtier you make the food, the higher the chances of you losing your damn mind when you actually decide to indulge because you’ve hyped it up so much.

The apple pie that was an occasional thought before might as well sprout legs and embark on the epic journey directly for your mouth.

The only foods that are “bad” are those that you can’t tolerate, can’t control once you start, or hate the taste of. Approach your diet with the mindset that there are no off-limit foods and that everything is on the table. Once you know that you can have anything you want, the desire to actually have it diminishes.

Yeah, it’s pretty Zen.

4. Don’t Eat Horrible Food

This belief is deeply embedded in my soul, more a part of me than Wolverine’s Adamantium.

Have you ever wanted to have something but thought it was too unhealthy, fattening or whatever reason you used to justify not smashing it into your face, only to get upset when the lame substitute you settled on left you feeling cold and unsatisfied?

On top of wasting calories on something that sucked, a common response is to end up getting your hand on what you originally wanted in the first place and devouring it with reckless abandon, almost as if to spite your sub par treat. This is called Reverse Hulking Out and it happens to the best of us.

Don’t settle for mediocre food. If you want some chips, then portion them out (the epitome of strength) and have some. Make sure they’re the kind that you really want and enjoy every last bite of it. Don’t try to compromise and choke down some veggie chips because it sounds like a good idea.

As an example, if I’m going to eat a cinnamon roll, you can bet all your money that it’ll be a Cinnabon. I’ve been burned far too many times with other copycats and know that they just won’t compare, so why bother?

Friends don’t let friends waste calories.

5. Have A Release Valve

I call these the “break glass in case of emergency” foods. For some, it’s a single doughnut, a little Skinny Cow ice cream, or a nice glass of wine before bed. Whatever your thing is, the goal is to incorporate it into your diet often enough so that it doesn’t interfere with your results yet helps keep you sane and compliance.

When you feel the Hulk pressure building, have your emergency food. You’ll likely find that this alone takes the edge off to the point where you’re ready to jump back into the game again, often for days or weeks on end without need anything release. You decide the frequency that works best for you.

6. Own It

Owning your decisions fully is empowering and brings a certain sense of calm to you life, fitness or not. Instead of things happening to you, you’re in the driver’s seat. You control how you act and respond to the reality of things, no longer being a victim of your circumstances. The optimal choice may not be available in every scenario, but believing that you’re capable of making the best decision given your situating and trusting yourself to do so is key.

“That’s my secret, Captain, I’m always angry.” – Dr. Banner

The more in control you feel, the less anxiety you’ll potentially have about any situation because you know you have it under control. As you prove this to yourself through your actions, small and Hulk-sized, it will feel less like a cheesy Hallmark feel-good statement and more of an ingrained belief that makes you feel unstoppable.

What are some ways that you keep yourself from Hulking out or help keep diet anxiety to a minimum? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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  1. says

    You win my favorite post of the week, my friend! Well done. Well done.

    It’s so important to give yourself an effing break every now and then. Sure, beast mode should be on a fair amount of the time, but if it’s on all the freaking time, you may just out-beast yourself.

    I’d like to add another recommendation if I may: I know that for me personally, planning out my Hulk rages if I’m prepping for an event or something is EXTREMELY helpful and smash-reducing. If I know that I am allowed X off-plan meals per week, I don’t get that stress-guilt over “falling off the wagon.” My wagon keeps going because it’s actually a good thing to shake up your caloric intake once in a while!

    Again, thank you for this entertaining and thoughtful-fu-manchu-stroke-inducing post. I shall proceed to splatter it across the interwebs.

    • says

      Winning the ACPOTW award is no joke!

      Such a great point. I mean, if beast mode is on all the time, doesn’t it cease to be beast mode? *strokes chin*

      Thanks for sharing your awesome tip with us. I’m thinking about adding these to the actual post if we get enough of them.

      May your Fu Manchu stroke meet my Pai Mei beard flick soon!

  2. says

    What really works for me is allowing Friday night to be “non tracking” and I can eat whatever I want. Knowing that I have this cheat meal to look forward to allows me to maintain the tracking throughout the week. By Thursday night, Hulk is ready to be released, but I hold him back because I know its just 24 more hours. Might not work for some but it works for me.

    • says

      Good tip, Sir. Musumeche. Knowing yourself well enough to know what you can and can’t tolerate while still moving closer to where you wanna be is what it’s all about. Experience FTMFW.

  3. says

    What about emotional needs? So many people use foods to fulfill unmet needs, like comfort from loved ones, or to stuff down bad feelings. Not addressing that means that they’ll never successfully maintain the weight. Looking deeper is also important I think.

    • says

      GREAT point, Natcha. I know that we can all relate to this on some level, definitely myself included as this is something I’ve struggled with and still do occasionally depending on the situation. This point deserves its own article which I plan to write in the future thanks to you – much appreciated!

  4. Marianne says

    I felt drawn to mention something:

    “Gollum Goes to Buy Apple Pie”

    He was after the Hulking hahaha!!

    Great post, my friend 🙂

  5. Apollos says

    I’ve found that saving my carby + fatty macro unfriendly food till just before bed helps a lot. Put the beast to sleep. If I’ve worked in a whole roll of low fat cinnabons into my macros (yes I’ve done this more than once) 30 minutes before lights out time when I’m already tired and yawning I get too A) Eat my desired junk food B) Use the extreme drowsiness I get from carbs I experience to my advantage C) Avoid a binge trigger as nothing resets hunger like 8hrs sleep D) Invoke dreams of Jamie Eason feeding me Cinnabons. Nothing but nothing but right.

  6. Gunnar Tveiten says

    Your advice is sensible — but the #1 advice assumes that people can and do sustain semi-accurate calorie-counting over the long run. Most people are unable to do that, including most of the people who succeed at dieting.

    So how do you know if you’re restricting calories by a suitable amount, in the absence of calorie-counting ? My answer has been to look at the rate of weight-loss. My target rate is 1lbs/week — and I use that for guidance: if I’m on (or under) target, I can have that extra glass of wine or handful of peanuts in the weekend, but if I’m not, I can’t.

    This has served me well over the last year (-40 lbs), and seems much simpler than counting calories. If you’re dropping weight at around 1lbs/week, then you are eating 3500kcal/week under sustenance, or in other words you’re 500kcal/day short.

    • says

      Yo Gunnar,

      I’m glad you picked up on this and brought it to my attention. For a lot of people I recommend calorie counting as a tool to give them something objective to focus on until they get a sense of how much they’re eating. Once they can abandon it and still progress, I always recommend that they do so, and your suggestion is a good example of the art of “tracking without tracking”.

      As long as you have some system of measuring your progress that works for you, that’s what it’s all about. Use whatever of combination of tools that help you make it happen in a sustainable way. Congrats on your success and keep it up! Let me know if I can be of any help.

  7. says

    Dude, hulking and food…that’s me. Love this post. It is a very holistic view of the mind, body, emotional issues with food.

    • says

      You just hit on the Triad of WTF. I plan on doing a big article on the issues surrounding emotional eating, my struggles with it and how I overcame it (for the most part). Is that something you’d be interested in reading?

  8. says

    Seriously I usually loathe reading about fitness and dieting, but you make conscious calorie counting fun!

    I have kicked myself too many time for the “poor substitute” mistake…for me, it’s a delicious scone, and when I’m craving it, nothing else will do.

    So I cut out the carbs the rest of the day and eat it mindfully all day long – seriously good times in my mouth without going hulk insane.

    • says

      Yo Sabrina,

      I’m glad to help bring you to the fun side of fitness =)

      A good friend of mine described communication as a dance, and I would say that fitness, and nutrition more specifically, is exactly like one as well. There’s a natural give and take, ebb and flow, to it all and as long as you’re aware of it (aka mindful like you said) and willing to adjust accordingly, you can use it to your advantage a majority of the time.


  9. says

    I love how you used the hulk, as many commenters also enjoyed.

    I reserve my hulking out for cheat days.

    I’m also compelled to mention I hate calorie counters. If you’re eating healthy, the number of calories don’t matter. Often times over weight individuals lose weight from consuming as much as they desire as long as it’s healthy. It’s usually dieting and counting calories that got them into trouble in the first place.

    • says

      Who doesn’t love a good Hulk reference every now and then?

      Just so I don’t give readers the wrong impression, overall calories relative to the goal always matter, but how you go about keeping track of those calories is highly individual. If you’re in a deficit and don’t have to track a thing, that’s the best position to be in. Tracking calories is just another tool for people, with the goal being to abandon it as soon as they outgrow the need for it.

      I do wish Cinnabons had as many calories as chicken breast, though. That’d be swell.

  10. says

    You did a good job bringing the link between Hulk and dieting. The argument about demonizing food is the best. I have seen plenty of posts and comments about dieters wanting one certain food. This is the best advice and I will pass it on to my fellow dieters.

  11. says

    Awesome article Rog. THIS is my biggest weakness. I have a binge eating problem. This article made me re-examine some of it’s causes. Great one (and good timing for me, since I’m going to have to have ‘only’ 1 or 2 Texas Road House rolls later today). 😉


  12. says

    #2 is awesome. Not freaking out and having a short memory is huge. You’re not doing yourself any favors by dwelling on a lapse.
    These things happen, relax, learn, and move on.
    Well done!

  13. says

    Can’t agree more with this post. You have a great balance of taking a less stressful approach yet still respecting the need for some personal responsibility. What’s your personal food release valve?

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