One of the things I see people struggle with is cheating on the diet and how to mentally handle it. I also see coaches struggle with this and how to handle the situation with their clients. I’ll address both here as it is something it took me YEARS to learn and get down myself.
First of all, I don’t care who you are… no one goes year-round without “cheating” on their diet. And by cheating, I mean saying the hell with it and just blowing it out. If someone tries to say they don’t, they are flat out lying. The thing is, they are embarrassed by the fact they do it too because surprise!!!- we are ALL HUMAN. Nothing is wrong with you, it’s not weird, you’re not less of a human because of it.
Some people cheat here and there, some people cheat multiple days a week and just can’t stop. To understand this we have to get to the root of the problem- restriction.
Any form of counting calories and restriction WILL eventually cause someone to get mentally burned out and cheat on their plan. There is a mental side of this that just happens, when you start realizing this you can accept it for what it is and guess what happens….cheating actually doesn’t happen as often.
If you are trying to “eat clean” and are constantly cheating on the diet, that plan is wrong for you. I don’t care what your diet coach says about “you have to eat only these foods” because if you can’t stick to it, it’s worthless.
So two things- if a coach makes you fit their plan instead of making a plan that fits you, it’s most likely not going to go as well as it should. The other thing, if you are trying to make yourself stick to a plan and can’t for say a few weeks… I would suggest stopping that approach and trying to find an approach that you can stick to. Maybe something more common in today’s world such as flexible dieting, macro counting, or meal prepping your food ahead of time.
The number one reason I find people cheat on their diets is they are trying to eat too clean, all of the time, with the mentality that they can’t (ever) have certain foods again. That’s a recipe for disaster and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, try to work foods you like into part of your diet and you will start winning this battle.
I tell my clients I want them to be upfront with me when they cheat or fall off the wagon. I don’t yell at them, I don’t degrade them, I simply walk them through what happened because once again, we all do it… so instead, we talk over why it happened, then we see about damage control.
Some people will just try to up their output when they do cheat, or dropping their calories extremely low the next day. I don’t recommend doing a bunch of cardio and dropping cals, because that creates the process of binge eating then starving, NOT what you want to do because that does not fix anything. I have often found that just by letting them know I understand and that we may need to alter the plan some so they can adhere better helps.
So coaches, if you yell at your clients, or make them feel inferior for falling off the wagon… remember that you yourself aren’t perfect and it only makes the situation worse. Trust me, I understand having to hold them accountable and getting issues fixed… but I do it with a level of understanding that we ALL should have because we all experience the ups and downs. 99% of the time my clients thank for me helping them work through it and fix it. Think firm, but friendly.
While I don’t drop calories or up cardio, I will tell clients to add some extra sets to every exercise they do the following 2-3 days to take advantage of the extra food. That’s a positive way to approach it, work to get some muscle gained out of the deal.
Plus, room needs to be created to be able to have another high-calorie day the next week so upping volume/sets helps deplete muscles somewhat to accept more carbs again later the next week. Just don’t make a habit of trying to severely deplete just to go eat your face off, that’s not a healthy approach and won’t fix the issues.
This isn’t a license to cheat, it’s a realization of what to do when it happens. Yes, consistently sticking to your nutrition plan will help you earn the results you want, so the more consistent the better… BUT understand that health and fitness is a lifestyle and if you are too restrictive for too long, or think you can’t ever have some of your favorite foods again, you are setting yourself up for failure.
The best nutrition plan is one that is in line with your goals and that you can stick to consistently for a long time.
-John Gorman (BA, MA, CPT), 1st Phorm Elite Trainer, is the owner of Team Gorman, a company that works with a wide variety of people ranging from professional bodybuilders, crossfit athletes, powerlifters, high school wrestlers, the mom of 3 kids looking to get into shape, athletes trying out for the NFL, and more. John is the host of the Training and Nutrition Truth podcast, owner of The Phat Muscle Project apparel line, owner of 2 Anytime Fitness locations, owner of the Physique Summit Conference, a 2x published author, 1st Phorm Elite Trainer, and proud family man and father to his two boys.