How many times has this happened to you: You’ve resolved to start eating better. You start your day with an incredibly healthy food choice. You feel great about starting your day according to plan. Lunch hits and you make another great choice. Two in a row! Later that afternoon, when a coworker tempts you with office snacks, you say, “Sure,” after all, you’ve been so great all day, you’ve earned a few fun bites. At dinner, you decide to add that glass of wine, thinking, “I’ll have the wine since the day is already off-plan.” Lastly, while unwinding after dinner, you decide to have some ice-cream. “The day is already shot,” you rationalize, “I’ll just get back on point in the morning.”

Sound familiar? Notice that no one ever decides to go off-plan at breakfast because the night previous was bad, even though it’s just slightly more removed from the previous meal than dinner is from lunch.

As humans, we love to look at each day as a distinctly separate entity than the next. We’ll classify each day as being “good” or “bad”. However, with only eight hours of sleep to distinguish one day from the next, we look at each new morning as a clean slate, a fresh start. This way of thinking that each of our days are completely compartmentalized can undermine our success when trying to eat well.

The key to long term success on a nutrition plan is to avoid looking at each new day as a reset. Consider each day as removed from the previous one allows us to make regular small exceptions to our plan that add up to a lack of progress longterm.

Instead, try this approach: Tell yourself that you’re going to make the right food choice 90 times out of your next 100 opportunities. Maybe each off-meal is spaced out from the next. Maybe you go on a two day french fry bender. Regardless, you now have license to make exceptions for truly delicious opportunities (90% adherence is always enough for a nutrition plan to bring results), but you also don’t rationalize off-plan choices just because of where they fall relative to other meals. Make a bad lunch choice? Fine, but now it makes a lot more sense to get back on track at dinner since you’re tracking meals-on-point and not days-on-point.

To making mind games work for us,

Ben Supik

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