The question comes up frequently, “What should I do if I cheated on my diet?” Via instant message, text message, email, Facebook group post, smoke signal, or carrier pigeon, it has become a topic that seems to be poorly addressed. To begin with the end in mind, let’s address the five key points up front. We will tackle each in more depth below, but here they are in all their radiant glory:
- Review the circumstances that lead to the decision.
- Understand and own the consequences of your decision.
- Don’t get caught in the cycle of binge and punish.
- A diet is not made or broken in a single meal or a single day.
- Your choices define your outcome, but they don’t define your worth.
Each of these will be addressed in a five-part series, the last of which is below. If you haven’t read the first part, please click the hyperlink above to read it.
You Are Worth More…
A Texas pastor, Tony Evans, has said (and I’m paraphrasing here) – if I asked you, “Who is Michael Jordan,” you would tell me, “Perhaps, the best basketball player in history.” Likewise if I asked you, “Who is Diana Ross?” What would your response be? “A famous musician.” Right?
Here’s the problem with how you answered. I asked you who are they and you told me what they do. That isn’t the same thing, but it’s near the top of the things that people get confused. And we don’t do any favors when in our introductory moments of every first encounter, what’s the first question or second question we ask…”So what do you do?” Admittedly, saying to someone, “So tell me about you” is a bit awkward, but in order to genuinely understand the person we must ultimately LEARN the nuances that make the other person unique in the world. Why should we believe that what we do defines who we are when we have the inner monologue that we all have? If the other person is not defined by what they do professionally, then why should we be? And if what I do professionally doesn’t define me…why should one choice to eat an off-plan meal define me as a “failure” a “cheat” or a “loser?” (Pro-Tip: It Shouldn’t!) A single decision cannot and should never be allowed to define you. If a single loss made you a failure, then everyone who has ever competed at anything would be branded permanently. If we reject that premise as absurd, why do we internalize the messaging “I am a loser” while choking down our tear-soaked Ben and Jerry’s?
So here’s the “Go Team Go” message, followed by a kick in the pants. Here’s the simple message: Your worth is not predicated upon your last meal…or your last week of meals. That has to be said openly. It sounds cliché when I suggest that you are the only you that has ever been…in fact it sounds like I lifted it out of a children’s book. I may have. Or not. I have no idea where it comes from, but I heard it once years ago, and it’s a very true statement. You are unique in your personality, your nature, and your makeup. The person that you see in the mirror is different from any person in the history of time. That person is not defined by the sandwich or the cookie you had with lunch…but (and here’s the kick in the pants part) that person IS defined by what they do habitually. Dietary habits are not a unique attribute…they tend to follow the same playbook as the rest of the person’s behavioral habits. So there are two truths here that need to be called out:
- You are not defined by a single action in a specific context.
- You are partially-defined by the culmination of all the choices you have made in all contexts of your life.
Why the distinction? Because one choice may be an out-of-character failing on your behalf…whereas a string of choices form the basis of a habit. And your habits, over time, will determine your outcomes. How so? If you are inconsistent with your diet, your results will be mediocre or even negative. Habit is where a long cascade of individual decisions gain traction in your life…what your habits are determines your outcome. This is truth…however a habit is related to an outcome, not to the worth of the individual in question.
In spite of all the habits which have yielded all the outcomes in your life…they can only define a portion of you. They can define your waistline, but they cannot define your spirit, your abilities, or your heart. I want to reiterate again that I (nor anyone that has your best interests at heart) am advocating that you make a regular habit out of eating off-plan…that you willfully disregard your stated goals and make decisions that cause backward momentum would be foolish to encourage. I am, however, suggesting that you take the choice to eat a meal or to permit yourself to make mistakes in judgment or poor decisions and allow yourself to recognize them for what they were, own the consequences, put together a clear understanding of the context in which the decision was made…and then forgive yourself, learn from it, and move forward.
Your worth is NOT defined by your waistline, your body fat percentage, or your food log. Your worth is NOT defined by your relative successes or failures. Your worth is defined in your uniqueness…that you bring to bear on this planet something that no one before you (nor will anyone after you) ever bring again. Your choices can create habits which dictate outcomes, but the essence of you cannot be destroyed by cravings for pizza. In the madness and marketing that dictates today’s society, it’s so easy to forget that…to assume that our “KetoHeroes” or even our regular heroes make NO mistakes. It’s easy to assume that they don’t have errors of judgment, moments of weakness, or points of frustration…and that would be a mistake to assume. We do…we all do. The sign of maturity that comes with years of experience, tons of reading, and a high price tag for therapy is this (and I’m giving it away to you):
- Forgive yourself – no one is perfect, and few of us are good.
- Grow from your failures and poor choices.
- If you change the habit you will change the outcome.