One of the most common questions that I get asked as a nutritionist: is what happens if you have a small amount of something that "isn't allowed" on your dietary regime, what should you do? For example, if you have changed your lifestyle so that you are no longer consuming sugary or processed food and one day you have a milk chocolate bar, does this mean that you have wrecked all of your progress to date and should just throw it all in? As the title of this post states, do you actually have to get it completely right 100% of the time in order to meet and sustain your goals?
I think too often people can get bogged down with this mentality of an all or nothing approach, particularly when it comes to food. You know how it goes, it gets to Friday night after a very trying week and instead of the nice clean meal you had planned, you opt for the nearest take away and grab that bottle of wine. After you have eaten it you suddenly start to feel guilty and think that you have wrecked your diet. This then leads onto the thought that if you have already spoiled things then you may as well make a weekend of it. Before you realise it, one meal that you normally wouldn't have consumed turns into a whole weekend of over indulgence, leaving you feeling even worse that you had felt on the Friday night. Then Monday rolls around again where you triumphantly declare to yourself and all that will listen, that you are "back on your diet"; and so the cycle ensues.
The question that I get people to ask themselves is: firstly, does the dietary regime that you are trying to follow fit in with your lifestyle? As many of you will know out there, adopting healthy eating habits can be difficult with temptation left, right and centre. The process of losing weight involves many different factors, including your own biology, genetics and psychology, and not forgetting the environment we live in. So unless you are following something that you know you could do forever without too much effort, then I can honestly say it is never going to work.
Once people have established that the dietary regime they are on is right for them, I then get them to look at the bigger picture. Using myself as an example, I generally eat a diet that is low in sugar, starches and processed foods. I travel around a lot and have a pretty active social life whereby I eat out a lot, so always having meals prepared for me etc. is difficult. If I know that I am going to be away from home and so do not have access to a gym, to compensate I will then make sure that I am really selective with my eating and vice versa. If I am staying in a hotel for the week and know that I won't have access to different food options but do have access to a gym, then I will make sure that I keep up with my normal exercise regime, even if it means waking up earlier. The point that I am trying to make with this example is that it is ok if one aspect of your normal health habits slips for a little while. The main thing is to look at how you can adjust other aspects until you can get it all back into balance.
On a different note, if there is a special occasion where I eat something that I normally wouldn't eat, I just make sure that the rest of the food I am eating for the remainder of the day is in line with my normal dietary habits. If you begin to engage with the thoughts that you have already blown it and so should just carry on the day eating whatever, then I promise you the journey to making those lifestyle changes will be so much harder.
When you embark on a new lifestyle change, the journey can at times be difficult and slips are going to occur. The main thing to remember is that this is normal and that you don't need to get it right 100% of the time.