Accidental calorie overload.
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:
- Person eats something they didn’t intend to or a larger quantity of something than planned.
- Person beats themselves up mentally about it (I knew better, why am I so stupid, it’s always going to be like this, etc)
- Person punishes themselves physically on top of this, restricting food severely or super charging their activity as a way to try and recover.
- 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.