Why You Mess Up Your Diet (& How to Stop Doing It) [2019 Edition]

When it comes to changing your body it’s diet, not training that makes the biggest difference.

Well, I guess technically it’s the combination of the two.

Particularly, if you’re want to build or maintain muscle, then you need to pay attention to both diet and training.

However, the biggest difference between the two is that a perfect diet with a crap training plan can still yield results, albeit not amazing results.

But a perfect training plan with a horrible diet always ends in disappointment.

You see;

Your diet is one of, if not the biggest, determining factor when it comes to your ability to effectively change your body and then maintain it.

If you can get it right, you’ll stop struggling to see progress, but get it wrong and you’ll be stuck firmly back at square one whilst everyone else move on to squares 2, 3, 4 and beyond.

Now, I wish at this point I could tell you that there was one single factor that made you mess up your diet.

That it was only one thing you needed to identify, focus on and change.

Sadly, this isn’t the case.

9 times out of 10 it’s actually a combination of factors that lead you to screw up your diet.

The trick is to know what these factors are.

That’s why this article is going to explore the top reasons you mess up your diet and how to stop doing it.

After all we’ve all been there.

A small unintended calorie surplus throws you off track and it soon becomes a frenzied free for all.

The causes can be seemingly endless;

  • A last-minute dinner arrangement

  • The ‘just one more biscuit’ fallacy *

  • A miscalculation of your calories

  • About 100 million other reasons

* you know, saying “I’ll just have one more” and referring to the packet not the individual biscuit

Next thing you know you’re 5 episodes deep into the latest Netflix series, wearing your comfy clothes with a slice of pizza in one hand and the TV remote in the other.

Turning up the sound of your latest binge series to drown out the sounds of your stomach complaining.

All the while thinking “what the fuck happened?”

You’re tempted to think it doesn’t matter.

After all, it always the same end result…

You eat way over your calories, feel like crap and are left in an unwanted calorie surplus not just for the day but for the whole damn week.

You’d be wrong though.

Why it happens does matter.

It matters a lot.

Why it happens is the difference between staying in control and the aforementioned shit show.

What follows are the main reasons you veer so wildly off track in the first place.


Why You Mess Up Your Diet

As we’ve been talking about there are numerous reasons you might mess up your diet.

But you know this already because you’ve been listening right?

I sure hope you have.

These reasons or factors often combine to create a perfect storm of not giving a shit where you stop caring long enough to mess it all up.

The idea here is to make you aware of these factors so you can begin to recognise why you mess up your diet.

Often just being aware of what’s happening and why can make a big difference.

Let’s begin.




Hands up if a lack of sleep makes you feel great.

Hm, I thought as much.

Look I know you know sleep is important, but do you realise tiredness can make you hungrier?

Don’t tell me you were thinking that a lack of sleep only makes you moody and unable to make decisions like a normal human being.

Rookie error my friend.

I mean a lack of sleep does do those things but it’s also a huge reason why you might say “fuck the police diet” and proceed to eat everything is sight.

At the very least it’s a contributing factor.


Well the answer lies with Leptin and Ghrelin, two hormones found in the body that work to regulate hunger;

  • Leptin makes you feel full after meals (1)

  • Ghrelin makes you feel hungry when you haven’t eaten

You see, a lack of sleep has been shown to reduce Leptin and increase Ghrelin.

This means not only will you feel hungrier, but you may also feel less satisfied after you have eaten. (2)

Here’s what happens…

You stay up late mindlessly scrolling on your phone, getting sucked in by the Netflix algorithm or any other kind of stupidness that is less important than sleep.

You then get up the next day feeling lethargic and half asleep, this continues most of the day much like your moodiness and inability to make a decision. (3)

Then it’s time to eat.

But what’s this?

Intense hunger as well as the inability or energy to make rational decisions.

You know what happens now right?

Hello, junk food!

Hi, takeaways!

Oh hey, ready meals!

Then BAM.

Your diet is screwed up and you’re acting like a jerk, all because you did something seemingly harmless like stay up late.

The moral of the story?


Tiredness is real, get your shit together and get enough sleep.

It’s important for life, health and for changing your body.



Shopping When You’re Hungry

I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of food shopping.

Eating it, sure I can get onboard with that.

But the whole having to go to the busy supermarket where other people get in your way and slow you down is a real drag.

It’s enough to drive you crazy.

Crazy enough to buy a whole load of shit you don’t even want or need?

Well, yes, it is.

Particularly if you decide to run this gauntlet when you’re hungry.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to buy food when hungry only to leave with a load of stuff not on my list.

I know you’ve done it too.

It seems to be part of the human experience.

Why does it happen?

Well, you remember Leptin and Ghrelin, the 2 hormones that regulate hunger?

Basically, it’s their fault, particularly Ghrelin the dude responsible for stimulating hunger. (4)

This is because Ghrelin has this funny effect of making you more interested in and more willing to buy food items.

This effect was documented in a 2011 study that split participants into 2 groups;

  • One group was injected with ghrelin to simulate a hunger state

  • The other group was injected with a saline solution which had no effect on hunger

Both groups were then let loose to bid (eBay style) on edible and non-edible items.

Whilst the participants were doing this the research observed their brains using a fancy fMRI machine.

Researchers found that participants given the ghrelin were not only willing to pay more for food items that the other group but were also less interested in the non-edible items.

What does this mean?

It means that when you’re hungry you have a tendency to make poor food decisions and overeat.

It means that if you go shopping when you’re hungry you’ll buy crap you shouldn’t, eat crap you shouldn’t and mess up your diet.

This can happen either directly (you buy it and eat it) or indirectly (you stock your house with high-calorie foods you can’t resist when tired, bored, stress or drunk), but it will happen.

Speaking of being drunk…

Hold my bee tjre ;rpldwp m fk lksjsgksg kjlkn…

I’m just kidding.

I’m not actually drunk.




How often do you drink?

A few times a week, a few times a month or a few times a year?

Or is it every night?

Maybe it’s once a week but a lot, you know out with the friends getting white gurl wasted.

Hitting the clubs, the bars…the floor.

Whilst you’re lying down there, head spinning what are you thinking?

It’s probably “shots, shot, shots” but sometimes it must be “fuck I’ve ruined my diet”

But how true is this?

How much does alcohol actually mess up your diet?

The truth is that alcohol can cause you to mess up your diet but not always for the reason you think.

Yes, alcohol has calories, 7 of them. Which means if you drink a lot or often then the calories will add up…especially if you’re partial to sugary cocktails.

Long island iced tea anyone?

However, this also means that if you account for these calories and stick to a couple of low(ish) calorie drinks you’ll be fine. It really is totally possible to drink without going over your calories and messing up your diet.

Pretty reassuring don’t you think?

“But wait Theo didn’t you say there were 2 reasons…?”

Well remembered my friend.

As we’ve just discussed the first reason is calorie content, but this can be avoided if you account for these calories in your daily intake and don’t go overboard.

The second reason can be a real diet wrecker.

Can you guess what it is?

If you said food, then you’re correct. Specifically, the food you eat when you’re drunk.

You see researchers looking at the effect of alcohol and weight change found that it was your tendency to eat more when under the influence of alcohol that lead to weight gain.

Not necessarily the alcohol itself, although drink choice did play a role. (5, 6)

Where does this leave you?

If you drink low-calorie drinks in moderation and account for it in your daily calorie intake, then alcohol won’t cause weight gain.

What will cause weight gain is drinking high calorie drinks with abandon and the food you eat when under the influence of alcohol. Which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Alcohol isn’t exactly known for its positive effects on decision making and it’s these poor food decisions you make when drunk that leads you to mess up your diet.

Sure, you might only be drinking to relieve a bit of stress but if it one glass turns into five, followed by kebab and pizza on the way home.

Guess what.

It’s causing more stress than it’s relieving, which leads us neatly to the next point.





Slam the phone down, throw the remote across the room, pull your hair out and scream.

Stress is universal.

And so are the 2 most common reactions;

  1. If you’re like me, you double down on the things you can control

  2. If you’re like my wife, you eat everything in sight

You’re probably like my wife…most people are.

I admit I’m probably an outlier. When I get stressed, I control what I can…my diet, my fitness, my routines.

My wife on the other hand becomes an eating machine.

It doesn’t matter what I say or do, if she’s stressed, she will find the food and eat it.

Maybe you can relate?

You can!

You guys will get on great then.

Now, before you and my wife become best buds, we should look at why you eat more when you’re stressed.

The answer lies in the results of a fascinating study that looked at the behaviour of criminal judges. (7)

Not what you were expecting right?

Wait until you see the results.

It’s wild.

This study specifically looked at which factors played a part in determining whether a judge would grant criminals parole at their parole hearings.

Let’s stop here a sec.

What do you think a judge considers when making their decision?

  • Criminal history?

  • Behaviour?

  • Time served?

Bear in mind that the decision they make will have a very real impact on someone’s life.

So, maybe they also consider;

  • Support networks?

  • Living arrangements?

  • Attitude?

Surely, it’s a complex combination of it all…

Well, the researchers who looked at over 1,000 rulings spanning a 10 month period found that one of the biggest influences on a judge’s decision is time of day.

Time of day.

Let that sink it.

Judges were most likely to rule favourably first thing in the morning. The chance of a favourable ruling then steadily declined towards zero as the day passed.

The same thing would then happen after the judge’s lunch break, at first, they were more likely to make favourable rulings but as the hours passed this chance went down until it hit zero, zilch, nada.

Can you imagine being the judge’s last case of the day?

Graph showing the decline in the judge’s decision making

Graph showing the decline in the judge’s decision making

Why did this happen? Why did obviously intelligent and competent people let time of day so heavily influence their decisions?

I’ve got 2 words for you.

Decision fatigue.

This is the reason for the judge’s steady decline across the day.

But what does this mean?

It means the more decisions you must make, the more difficult it becomes to make them.

The more complex the decision, the greater the effect.

For the judge this meant every case he presided over added to the stress and fatigue he was feeling, like a surging current the pressure continued to build until finally it became too much.

A switch was flipped, a fuse burst, and a network shut down.

The judge got to the point where decision fatigue took over and his brain sought the path of least resistance.


*slams little hammer thingy*

Parole denied.

The judge no longer had the energy to engage the necessary brain power to make an informed decision.

Case closed.

What does this mean for you?

Well the same thing happens in your life every day. Sure, you’re not deciding if someone is released from jail or not, but there are still hundreds if not thousands of decisions you need to make every day.

This is made more difficult by the stressors of life and work, until you too shut down and seek the path of least resistance.

Instead of cooking your own food you order in, eating what you want not what you need.

High calorie junk food is in, everything else is out and before you know it your diet is well and truly messed up. (8)

It’s no wonder that after a stressful day everything goes out the window. Worse yet, this is even more likely to happen if you’re following a restrictive diet.



Restrictive Dieting

What haven’t you eaten so far today?

Was it plain, boring and in a Tupperware box?

Did you enjoy it or just force it down?

You forced it down didn’t you…

I can see your face now as you make yourself chew dry chicken and rice, only to wash it down with overcooked broccoli.

Do you know that you’re making a fatal diet mistake? Your diet is meant to work with you…not against you and this mistake is holding you back.

Now, I’m not sure this makes it any better, but you’ll be glad to hear that you’re not the only one.

The idea that if you want to succeed you cannot enjoy your diet suffocates the fitness industry like a toxic cloud.

  • Sauces are out.

  • Condiments are off the menu.

  • Seasoning is a no go.

  • Herbs are left in the garden.

  • Spices…you wish.

Your diet becomes more and more restrictive to the point where no mortal being could stick to it.

“But Theo, I see huge ripped bodybuilders do this all the time.”

I’m glad you brought that up.

Are you a bodybuilder?

Do you want to be a bodybuilder?

...I thought as much.

So, why are you trying to train and eat like one?

You need to be eating in a way that supports your goals, not someone else’s.

Look, let me level with you, restrictive diets are horrible. They’re un-enjoyable, unmanageable and unsustainable.

Add to this, everyday occurrences like tiredness, stress and the effect of alcohol and there’s no way in hell you’ll ever stick to your diet if it’s restrictive.

Oh, you have a question…

Sure, go ahead and ask.

“What counts as a restrictive diet?”

Fantastic question.

A restrictive diet in the context of trying to improve your body composition is;

  • Any diet that you need to take a break from*

  • Any diet that restricts a food item or group without good reason

  • Any diet you don’t enjoy following for the most part (no diet is 100%)

  • Any diet that stops you from eating foods you like

  • Any diet that doesn’t allow you to eat out without messing up your calories or binge eating

*if you need a break from your diet then you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re a regular here, then this shouldn’t be news to you.

I talk a lot about dieting, moderation and why you don’t need to be restrictive in your efforts.

In the end it comes down to 2 main things for me;

  1. If you don’t enjoy the process of changing your body, then what’s the point

  2. There are enough other potential barriers to your success, your diet doesn’t need to be one of them



Estimating Calories


Come here.


I’ve got a secret to tell you.

It’s a big one.

It’s going to change things for you.

Are you ready?

Ok, here it is.

If you try and estimate your calories instead of actually tracking them you will never, ever reach your goals.

I told you it was big.

Look, I don’t care how good you are with numbers, how long you’ve been dieting for or how smart you are.

The bottom line is, everyone is crap at estimating calories. You see, there’s a difference between thinking you know something and then actually knowing it.

One will get you nowhere.

The other will take you all the way.

Don’t believe me? Still think you can guesstimate your way to abs?

Feast your eyes on this.

Research shows that whilst those who are actively trying to change their weight are more successful that those who aren’t, everyone struggles to get it right, often underestimating the calorie content of their meals by up to 25%. (9, 10)

This can result in you eating up to 125 extra calories for every 500 you think you’re eating.

Think about this for a moment.

If you eat a diet of 2,000 calories a day this could easily result in you eating 500 extra calories daily.

That right there is your calorie deficit dead and gone.

And it gets worse.

It’s not just calorie intake that you get so wrong but calorie expenditure too.

Research shows that when estimating the number of calories burnt through exercise individuals overestimate the total by as much as 72%. (11)

Which is absolutely staggering.

It’s insane.


What do you think you’re doing?

This goes to show how out of touch you can be with how hard you think you’re working.

To top this all off research also shows that (12);

“normal weight individuals overestimate EE [energy expenditure] during exercise by 3-4 folds [and], when asked to precisely compensate for exercise EE with food intake, the resulting energy intake is still 2 to 3 folds greater than the measured EE of exercise.”

What does this mean?

It’s simple.

You overestimate calories burnt through exercise by 3-4x.

You then overeat to replace these calories by 2-3x.

For example, if you were to do a 30 min circuit class, this is what typically happens;

  • You burn 200 calories doing your class

  • But you think you’ve burnt 600 – 800 calories

  • In response you eat 400 – 600 calories

  • You end up overeating by 200 – 400 calories

  • But you think you’ve undereaten by 400 – 600 calories

Combine this with the inaccuracy of estimating calories across the board and you can see exactly how you can think you’re in a calorie deficit but be wildly wrong.

Stop guessing.

Start tracking.

See results.



“I’ll be back in a sec” I said to my wife as I got up off the couch, paused the TV and wandered into the kitchen.

I’d only had dinner 20 minutes ago, but here I was searching the kitchen cupboards for something to eat like a hungry badger.

“Hurry up” came the shout from the other room,“carry on without me, I’m not that into it” I replied as I continued searching the cupboards, finally finding the biscuits as I heard the tv start up again.

I grabbed a handful before putting the packet back and heading to the living room.

Halfway there I was already one biscuit down and had convinced myself to turn back for more.

I knew it wasn’t a good idea.

Yet before I knew it, I was back in the kitchen.

The packet of biscuits in one hand and my phone in the other, I desperately looked at MyFitnessPal trying to fit more biscuits into my already maxed out calorie allowance.

As I tried in vain to find a solution that would justify eating more biscuits several thoughts cross my mind;

  • “I wish I’d bought milk chocolate digestives instead of rich teas”

  • “What am I doing?”

  • “Why can’t I just put the biscuits back and walk away?” *

  • “Why am I eating if I’m not even hungry?”

*this is the obvious solution but if life were that simple, I wouldn’t need to write this article.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Maybe all you need to do is replace ‘watching tv’ with ‘doing work’ or ‘biscuits’ with ‘chocolate’…

Does it sound familiar now?

I know, I know, it’s like I’m in your brain.

That’s because we’re not so different you and me.

It’s part of our humanness to feel this way and do these things.

But why?

Why do we put ourselves in these situations?

The simple answer is boredom.

If you’re bored, you’ll eat.

It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry or not, in fact, research shows that eating is merely the solution to your problem, not the problem itself.

This means that boredom doesn’t make you hungry, instead you eat to stop being bored.

The current science suggests 2 reasons for this;

  1. It feels good

  2. To break the monotony

Let’s look a little deeper at both.

First, feeling good.

It feels good because of something called Dopamine.

Dopamine is chemical found in the brain responsible for reward-motivated behaviour and is responsible for the good feeling we get when we accomplish a goal.

You probably know it as ‘the thing that makes you feel great after exercise.’

However, in addition to exercise, it’s been found that eating can stimulate dopamine.

This means that food, particularly foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium are good at making you feel great.

This behaviour is illustrated in current research which shows that feeling bored leads to a greater increase in calories consumed when compared to not being bored. (13)

Researchers from another study also found that boredom “markedly increased food consumption” in bored participants when compared to non-bored participants. (14)

So, boredom makes you eat…but what about breaking the monotony?

Well this is where it gets really freaky.

Another study decided to test the above conclusion. (15)

They asked whether boredom leads to eating, and if it does, is it to experience reward stimulation (i.e. the effects of dopamine) or it is simply to escape the boredom.

They proposed that if the latter is true and people only eat to escape boredom, not to feel good, then people might even be willing to hurt themselves to break the monotony.

They performed 2 experiments;

  • Experiment 1 looked at whether boredom would increase the participants consumption of chocolate

  • Experiment 2 looked at whether boredom would increase the chances participants would self-administer an electric shock

All participants attended 2 sessions.

In one session they watched a documentary for an hour, this was called the ‘neutral condition’.

In the other session they watched a single clip of the documentary on repeat for an hour, this was called the ‘boring condition’.

The study found that not only did participants eat more chocolate when bored but they also “more readily self-administered electrical shocks when bored”.

Pretty crazy right?

People actually electrocuted themselves because they were bored.

Based on these results the researchers concluded that “eating when bored is not driven by an increased desire for satisfying incentive stimulation, but mainly by the drive to escape monotony.”

So, what’s the answer; do we eat to feel good or to feel bad?

Well, science kinda says both.

Annoying isn’t it?!

But consider this…

I don’t have the facility to give myself electric shocks when I’m feeling bored. However, I do have the ability to eat and I don’t know about you but eating generally makes me feel good and messing up my diet generally makes me feel bad.

So perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle.

Being bored definitely makes you eat more, maybe sometimes it makes you feel good, sometimes it makes you feel bad and either way it breaks the monotony.

I’ll tell you now that I don’t have all the answers but given what’s available this makes sense to me, so the question then becomes, “how do you stop yourself eating when you’re bored?”

More on this next.


How to Stop Messing Up Your Diet

The good news is we’ve finished looking at the reasons you mess up your diet. The better news is we’re about to look at how to stop messing up your diet.

The bad news…there is no bad news. I think you’ve had quite enough so far.

Let’s explore the ways you can stick to your diet even on the days your diet, busy, stress and/or just don’t feel like it.



Identify Your Triggers

Do you ever find yourself doing something on autopilot? You hardly notice yourself doing it.

Like a boxer beginning to slip a punch when they see the slightest movement in their opponents’ shoulders. It’s not until the movement has already begun that you see it for what it is.

Cause and effect.

A chain reaction.

Something happens and you react to it. Like how you mindlessly eat when you’re bored, tired or stressed.

Something triggers you and you begin your conditioned response, like the boxer in the ring you begin to react before you fully know the intended outcome.

Usually this is a good thing.

If the boxer were to wait until the punch is being thrown, chances are he’ll get hit in the head. However, there are occasions where this is not so good, times where the trigger and associated response are not positive.

Like a boxer moving into the punch instead of out of the way.


Lights out.

Your diet is done and dusted.

If you don’t start recognising your behaviour as a series of triggers and an associated responses, you’ll be hanging up your diet like a boxer hanging up his gloves.

To change, you need to understand what you do and why you do it. Doing this will help you control it.

Then when your brain tells you to snack, eat more and generally mess up your diet you can recognise it’s because you’re bored, tired, thirsty or stressed.

Then because you can identify the trigger you know that you don’t actually need to eat.

You can control the behaviour.

You can even reprogram the behaviour.

Your trigger could be any number of things, but by becoming aware of your behaviour you can begin to identify them.

For example, maybe you find you eat more and mess up your diet;

  • After dinner when watching Netflix

  • When out with friends or family

  • On the days you do more exercise

  • On the days you do less exercises

  • When you’re procrastinating

  • After a hard day at work

Once you know your triggers you can begin changing your response to them.

It could be something as simple as;

  • Drinking a big glass of water

  • Eating fewer larger meals to keep hunger at bay

  • Taking a walk to stretch your legs and clear your mind

  • Doing a task that engages you

Or it could be that being aware of your behaviour is enough to stop you.

The point is, that without tracking your behaviour you won’t know what your triggers are or how to overcome them.

Get a diary and track how you feel when you eat.

Record your emotions, feelings and experiences then look for the patterns in your behaviour.



Keep Problem Foods Out the House

Sometimes it just boils down to the fact that you can’t eat what you don’t have. You know, the whole out of sight out of mind scenario. You’ll be less likely to crave and eat what you know you can’t have.

Even if you do crave it, 9 times out of 10 the thought of having to go out and actually get it will be enough of a barrier to put you off.

Yes, some people have iron wills. They can have all the good snack foods in their cupboards and not eat them, but if you’re not one of these people why torture yourself.

You know you’ll give in…

Raid the cupboard, stuff your face, feel like shit and ruin your diet. If that’s you, then keep those foods out of the house.

It can be the difference between overindulging and sticking to your diet.

If you can’t bear the thought of making this change, then quite frankly you don’t want it enough and need to seriously ask yourself what you’d prefer…a snack cupboard or flat stomach.

The choice really is yours.

By separating your home from the place where you treat yourself, you’ll also help to remove the association of being at home with snacking.

Over time you’ll stop craving snack foods at home, which will make it infinitely easier for you to control your diet. Now I know for some people this might not always be possible, maybe you live with family members or have house mates.

If you do, then stop eating other people’s food.

It’s not cool.

Joking, aside it comes to down to recognising what is a priority for you and using the other strategies listed here to help you manage your overall food intake.



View Calories as Weekly Instead of Daily

When you track your calories, how do you do it?

Is it day by day or week by week?

If you want an easier time sticking to your diet, then it should be week by week. I know, it sounds like a lot of work but if you’re eating a lot of the same things it makes things a lot easier.

Not only will you never need to scramble to make food decisions on the day, but you’ll get a better idea of how your calories work across the week.

I know there’s the temptation to get bogged down in the daily stuff, but your body doesn’t change that quickly which means you can use the week to your advantage.

Yes, your weight can and will vary on a daily basis. However, changes in body composition at a more fundamental level don’t happen that quickly.

This means messing up your diet on one day when viewed in the context of your weekly calorie intake won’t make a difference if you stay in a calorie deficit for the week.

Let’s put this into perspective.

If you’re maintenance calories are 2,300 a day, you’d need to eat 16,100 calories per week to maintain your weight. To lose weight you’d remove 500 calories and eat 1,800 calories a day.

This means your weekly calories to lose weight are 12,600.

Now let’s say Monday through Friday you eat 1,800 calories a day but on Saturday you splurge and eat 3,000. That’s an increase of 1,200 calories, so for the week so far (Monday to Saturday) you will have eaten 12,000 calories.

This means if you get right back on track on Sunday and eat your usual diet of 1,800 calories, you’ll only have eaten 13,800 calories for the week. This is still 2,300 calories less than what you’d need to maintain your weight.

You’d still lose weight for the week, although a little less than if you hadn’t messed up.

Kind of liberating isn’t it?!

It gets better though.

If you know in advance, you’ll be eating more you can reduce your calories a little during the week to account for this. Using the above example, if you knew on Saturday, you’d eat 3,000 calories you could eat 200 calories less every other day.

This would keep you in your normal calorie deficit for the week whilst giving you the flexibility to eat more without worrying.



Plan Ahead

This is particularly important for counteracting those times when willpower is low, hunger is high, and tiredness has set in.

Planning head is all about doing things when effort is high to make things easy when willpower is low.

It could be;

  • Food shopping in advance

  • Prepping meals for the week

  • Keep trigger foods out of the house

  • Packing your gym bag the night before

  • Joining a gym that’s on your route to and from work

All the decisions will have already been made and you can just get on with doing what you need to do.

You remove all the temptation to stray and make it easy to avoid messing up your diet and binge eating.



Keep A Food Diary

Find you keep messing up but you’re not sure why, think you’re in a calorie deficit but somehow, you’re gaining weight?

Then it could be that you’re underestimating your calorie intake or overestimating your calorie burn, or both.

Sure, this isn’t messing up your diet in the wider sense of this article but none the less it’s keeping you stuck firmly at square one so let’s address.

The best way to overcome this problem is to keep a food diary every day for as long as you need to, to stop it from happening. This means not only recording what you ate but how much of it too.

Another good practice is to make notes on how you felt when throughout the day and see how this corresponds with your eating habits.

As with the first point in this list, this can help you identify any recurring behaviour patterns and gain a deeper understanding as to why and where you might be messing up your diet.



Use A Nutrition Plan That Works for You

There is a lot of debate about which diet is best, but that’s a topic for a different article, the point here is that whatever method of eating that works best for you is the one you should use.

If you keep jumping from unrealistic juice diet to unsustainable celebrity fad you will ALWAYS regain any weight you’ve lost and then some.

Like a dog is not just for Christmas, fat loss is not just for summer.

If you really want to lose fat and keep it off without putting yourself through a continuous cycle of messing up your diet, gaining weight and starting again. You must find something that works for you.

A few criteria to keep in mind when choosing are;

  • It must be sustainable i.e. you have to be able to stick with it consistently

  • It has to be something that will not be detrimental to your health

  • It preferably should not exclude any food group or food item unless for medical reasons

  • It must allow you to have a social life i.e. dinner out with friends, drinks with colleagues or whatever ‘a social life’ may mean to you

  • It must be made up of 70 to 80% nutritious foods with the remaining 20 – 30% being used to include the foods you like

If you can find something that fits the above criteria you’re on the right track. However, even with the perfect diet setup, they’ll still be times where you mess up your diet for one reason for another.

When this happens it’s important you react in the right way to avoid further damage.


How to Get Back on Track After a Diet Binge

It’s inevitable that at some point you’ll mess up on your diet, after all, we’re only human and mistakes get made.

However, it’s how you react when these mistakes happen that will determine two things;

  • How likely you are to mess up your diet again

  • How likely you are to achieve your goals in the long run

Most people think that their mistakes require drastic measures;

  • Overeating calories one day leads to a 24 hour fast the next

  • Indulging in snacks causes you to swear off all snack food for good

  • A weekend of boozing results in juice fasts and tea cleanses

  • Any mistake has you in the gym doing huge amounts of exercise to make up for it / punish yourself

As a result, you swing from one extreme to another, struggling to find the balance you require to make progress and see results.

I used to be stuck in the cycle of strict weekday eating, weekend binges followed by day-long fasts and extra exercise to try and make up for my ‘diet ruining’ behaviour.

All I got for my efforts was;

  • Massive guilt from binging and ruining my diet, cue long fasts as repentance

  • Disappointment in myself for not being able to stick to the plan

  • Lacklustre progress in the gym

  • A bad relationship with food with a warped view of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods

  • Feelings of disillusionment with the whole ‘fitness’ process

It’s safe to say I wasn’t loving life at this point.

Something had to change.

I can’t remember the exact turning point, but I do remember an overwhelming feeling of being fed up, with my progress, my lack of self-control and my overall situation.

I knew there had to be a better way to react.

I was done with not only going off the rails but reacting in an equally extreme way in response.


How to Bounce Back from Diet Binges

My first step was to move from a restrictive diet plan to something more sustainable.

This was a huge change that was revolutionary and forever changed the way I eat for both losing fat and building muscle.

The next step was to adjust my behaviour and mindset in response to diet missteps I made along the way.

I learnt that the best way to react is to simply get right back on track

Get back on track straight away

I know this might sound counterproductive at first but hear me out.

When you mess up on your diet the first thing you’re going to want to do is to make up for it somehow, for some it’s punishing yourself with exercise to earn back those calories and for others, it’s imposing a 24 hour fast to restore the balance.

All this does is throw you further out of balance and increase feelings of guilt for messing up your diet.

The trick is to carry on as normal, accept that you are only human and get back to the plan straight away.

This means;

No brutal exercise sessions

No 24-hour fasts

Any other sort of self-imposed punishment

Instead, you want to pick up where you left off the very next day.

Realise the worst thing that will happen from a single day of overeating is minimal in the long run.

Think about it like this…

Imagine a 170lb guy who needs 2,400 calories per day (16,800 calories per week) to maintain his weight.

This guy wants to lose fat, so he eats in a calories deficit of 400 calories per day and loses 1 – 2 lbs per week.

This means every week he eats 14,000 calories (2,000 per day) and his total calorie deficit is 2,800 calories per week.

Let’s imagine on one day he’s out for dinner with friends and eats or drinks an extra 1,000 (or even 1,500) calories on top of his 2,000 daily target.

The end result is this;

  • For the week he is still in a 1,300 – 1,800 calorie deficit

  • As a result of the above fat loss will continue

  • He enjoys himself without needing to worry about the result

Sure, weight loss may slow down a little that week but there’s certainly no need for him to feel guilty or ‘make up for it’ in any way.

Instead, all he needs to do is continue as normal the next day and it won’t make any difference in the long run.

This is how you stop messing up your diet.

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