A common question I get from clients goes something like this:
On Friday I overate by about 400 calories. Should I compensate for that the next day by eating less?
My answer is a very clear no, and here’s why…
A Healthy Lifestyle Requires Healthy Habits
That might seem like an obvious statement to you, but if you find yourself overcompensating for a day of overeating, then you’re likely missing one very important connection.
Habits require many repetitions to form. That’s what turns a particular behavior into a habit so that it can start to work on autopilot without much thought or effort.
So when you get most of your behavioral repetitions in through over and undereating, you get really good at doing those two things. So good that it might become a habit.
And because of that, you spend very little time doing the behaviors you want as part of your healthy lifestyle, which means they don’t get the repetitions in to become habits.
You get better at the things you do most. So you need to do more of the things you want in your life.
Here’s my attempt to illustrate this concept…
This is what your lifestyle looks like if you’re overcompensating from excess eating. The black line running through the middle represents the healthy lifestyle you want. It is the accumulation of all the healthy habits that make up that lifestyle.
And look at how much time you spend getting in repetitions to form those healthy habits (blue circles). Not too many opportunities there.
The result? You get really good at over and undereating and your healthy habits never form. You yo-yo back and forth and fall into a negative feedback cycle.
Here is what your lifestyle should look like instead…
The goal should be to immediately return to the healthy behaviors you want in your life. Any time you veer from that Healthy Lifestyle Line, your priority is to get back to it as soon as possible.
Not after you compensate by undereating. Not after you overexercise to “make up” for missing yesterday or for eating too much.
You put the mess up into the past and you move forward with the your next healthy decision. Mess ups are going to happen. You’re going to overeat. It’s what you do after those mess ups that make the difference.
Spend more time doing the behaviors you want and less doing the ones you don’t. You compensate by getting back to your baseline healthy habits. That’s how healthy lifestyles are formed.