THE LONGER YOU’VE BEEN DIETING, THE MORE IMPORTANT IT IS TO RESIST THE URGE TO OVERINDULGE WITH A FREE MEAL. YET, THE LONGER YOU’VE BEEN DIETING, THE MORE YOU CRAVE A FREE MEAL AND MEAL (OR DAY!). IT’S A TOUGH SPOT TO BE IN, BUT GIVING IN LATER IN THE GAME IS FAR MORE CONSEQUENTIAL THAN GIVING IN EARLY IN THE GAME IF YOU WANT TO MAINTAIN YOUR PROGRESS AND HARD-EARNED PHYSIQUE. HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
The conversation in your head about whether you should stray from your diet to enjoy a “free” meal usually goes something like this…
“What’s one meal going to do?” you quietly rationalize with yourself.
“It’s one meal out of 42 meals per week. I think I’ll be just fine. Plus, eating this meal will end my cravings and I’ll feel refreshed and motivated more than ever the next day,” you continue reasoning with yourself.
“It’s just one meal!” you exclaim out loud. Weird, I know.
The last argument may resonate with you. But this far into the game, a “free” meal enjoyed with reckless abandon does far more harm than you think, especially compared to enjoying one earlier in the game. It may not only bring your current progress to a screeching halt but even cause you to take a step – or three – backward. Now, and in the future.
Hear me out.
YOUR BODY IS PRIMED TO STORE EXTRA CALORIES
When you consistently eat fewer calories than your body needs, your body views this as a stress. To conserve energy, several metabolic adaptations take place to conserve energy to protect you from this stress. You can read more about these adaptations in detail in my article “The Worst Mistake You Can Make After A Diet” but the main adaptation you need to be aware of for the purpose of this article is that your metabolic rate, which accounts for a large chunk of the number of calories you burn per day, significantly decreases.
For example, you may have begun your current diet by reducing total calories by 300 per day. At first, the weight appeared to almost melt off as you lost a consistent 0.5 – 1.0 percent of your body weight each week. But by week four, the change on the scale likely plateaued.
Because your body had adapted to this new consistent intake and what was once a calorie deficit had now become a new maintenance number of calories. So, to jumpstart weight loss again, you reduced calories by another 300.
As you can imagine, the further along you are in a diet, the fewer calories you’re eating. This means your body is accustomed to eating very little. And given that this is a very stressful situation, your body not only continues fight to remove this calorie deficit – by further reducing the number calories it burns per day and significantly increasing hunger and cravings – but it also readies itself to capitalize on any rare opportunity that presents more calories than usual so that it can protect itself from future stress, e.g., dieting.
So, when you decide to let loose for a meal (which too often turns into a day), your body is licking its proverbial (and physical!) lips juts waiting to store, store, store those additional calories. And the results are typically not what you intend…
THE IMMEDIATE IMPACT OF THE FREE MEAL
The deeper into a diet you are, the more drastic an impact eating an overwhelming number of calories has on your progress and physique.
For instance, let’s say that eight weeks into your diet you’re consistently eating 1,400 calories per day – a 300-calorie deficit compared to your previous goal number of calories. You’ve had a very stressful week at work that included significant overtime to meet a major project deadline. When Friday finally arrives and you’re released for the week, you want nothing more than to immediately feel better. So, a large pizza and milkshake it is. You’ll get back on track with your diet tomorrow.
That large pizza you just ate…well, that had 2,100 calories.
And the cookies n’ cream shake you washed it down with?
Another 775 calories.
So, in that one meal, you consumed 2,875 calories, or more than double your daily calories. Take into consideration that you’ve already consumed 625 calories prior and you’re now at 3,500 total calories for the day. That’s 2.5 times as many calories as your usual intake!
Your 300-calorie daily deficit has now turned into a 1,800-calorie daily surplus. And your weekly 2,100-calorie deficit (300 calorie deficit per day) has now turned into a weekly net “zero” deficit (300- calorie deficit six days per week plus a 1,800-calorie surplus one day).
Not only did this meal throw you out of whack that particular day, but it essentially negated your entire weekly deficit!
And furthermore, as a means of protecting itself, your body may not only store these additional calories in existing fat cells but also create new fat cells. This means that you now have potential to store even more fat, which, if you’re not mindful of the portion in the weeks, months, and years to come, you may end up gaining weight quicker than you’d like.
And of course, I cannot forget to mention the ripple effect this “one” free meal may have…
- Will you really keep it to one meal?
- Will this really lessen future cravings?
- Will you really get right back on track tomorrow?
- And how will you react to not seeing a reduction in the number on the scale the next 4 – 7 days?
- Will you overreact and further reduce calories unnecessarily after one weigh-in?
It remains to be seen. But for many, one free meal deep into a diet doesn’t stop with one meal. It leads to grazing periodically the remainder of the day or even waiting until a new week begins to commit to getting back on track.
STRATEGIES TO STAY STRONG
Making diligent food choices and hydrating habitually are just some of the methods you can use to help keep hunger at bay. You can also pay attention to how you eat, utilize different cooking and preparation methods, rely on certain foods, and even use specific fluids and supplements to fight back against hunger.
Your ability to stay strong when temptation hits may be the difference between…
- A size 4 and a size 8
- 6 abs instead of 2
- Finally having the confidence to rock that bikini you haven’t worn in years
And even better, you can master multiple advanced hunger-fighting strategies by watching my new online video course, “Advanced Hunger-Fighting Strategies,” set to launch in the new few weeks, in less than 60 minutes! This course contains 20 videos, each 2 – 4 minutes in length, detailing the science, why, and practical application of several hunger-fighting strategies that are sure to keep you on track to finish your
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