Ask Keri: Help! How do I get back on track with my diet after I have fallen “off” the diet wagon?
This is something that I hear often from readers, friends, family, and almost everyone once they learn that I’m a dietitian.
Tell me if this sounds familiar to you?
You make a declaration to “eat more veggies”, or “stop eating bagels”, or “cut out all added sugar” or “quit booze”. You’re 100 percent in and for the first week you crush it. Then, Friday comes and you decide, “Hey, I did great. I’m going to celebrate with a glass of wine (or two).” The next morning you feel a little sluggish, and your carb cravings are colossal. So, you think to yourself, “Well I’ll eat pancakes and then skip lunch.” Then, dinner hits and you think, “I’ve already ruined this day, so I may as well eat the bacon cheeseburger.” Then, it’s Monday and the new declaration cycle continues, only this time more extreme.
I’m not going to tell you that eating healthy all the time is easy, nor is it realistic, nor is it even necessary. I’ll even argue that eating unhealthy (or at least consciously indulging) from time to time is actually healthy! I love a great chocolate chip cookie. But, the start-and-stop or on-and-off cycle isn’t healthy, and I’ve got tips to help you to break it.
The next time you go overboard on fries and rose on vacation or eat the icing off a dozen cupcakes, here’s how to get back on track with your healthy diet:
Do: Go back to “normal” healthy eating patterns. Stat.
If you decide to indulge in those pancakes, remember, that doesn’t mean the day is “ruined”. One of my favorite things to tell clients is, “Every meal is a Monday morning, an opportunity to make the best food choice possible.” It’s a mindset. If you have those pancakes (and maybe even hash browns too) at brunch and go on to choose a healthy dinner such as grilled halibut and broccoli rabe instead of the bacon cheeseburger, I can promise you that you’ll wake up feeling great and planning out your morning run. Those pancakes will be forgotten history and you’ll be right back on track and making yourself an egg and veggie scramble.
Don’t: Deprive yourself and go on an intense liquid “cleanse”.
This one is sure to backfire on you. I’m not anti cleanse, but I am anti hard core liquid cleanse that sets you up for the yo-yo cycle mentioned above. What many people don’t realize is that our bodies are natural cleansing systems built to detox all the time. Instead of starving your body through a liquid diet to combat toxins, I believe in feeding it with nutritious, naturally cleansing foods that help heal it. If you really want to give it a try, read this.
Do: Eat consistently through the day.
If you want to avoid those intense carb cravings and afternoons where you just want to put your head down on your desk, then you need to eat a balance of high fiber carbs, quality protein and healthy fats consistently through the day. When you skip meals, not only are you setting yourself up for failure later in the day, but you could also be doing damage to your metabolism. Stock up on grab-and-go snacks such as nuts, fruit or a healthy jerky to keep your energy levels steady throughout the day.
Don’t: Skip breakfast.
While research has never confirmed that whole “most important meal of the day” reputation, there are many reasons to prioritize eating a healthy breakfast. First of all, when you eat a well-balanced meal with protein, healthy fat, and fiber, you can think of it as laying a good foundation and setting yourself up for a day of balanced blood sugar and steady energy. You’re less likely to have intense cravings later in the day and to overeat if you’ve filled upon on nutrient dense foods from the get-go. Plus, if you start your day with a healthy meal, you set yourself up psychologically for a day filled with more healthy choices. So, don’t skimp on breakfast just because you overdid it the day before.
Do: Eat lots of green veggies.
Green veggies offer a powerful dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, many of which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants, which may help prevent heart disease, reduce the risk of cancer and prevent neuronal degeneration. There is also ongoing research on the link between obesity and antioxidant levels. Plus, green veggies are high in water and fiber volume. Water volume of food contributes to our hydration needs for the day and plays a role in metabolism. Fiber, we know, is critical for a healthy gut and for keeping us full longer and maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Eating lots of greens is something you should be in the habit of doing daily, so the day after overindulging is a perfect time to change your behavior and make it a habit.
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