I looked in the fridge again - 3 cupcakes left. My body was filled with anxiety; I felt like I was powerless to resist, I was doing so good on my diet for weeks now and I don't want to cheat...again.
As I paced the room, I knew I should throw them away but I didn't. And soon they were gone leaving me feeling awful, shameful and guilty.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever cheated on your diet? I'll be honest with you; I have many times. I wanted better health but I kept sabotaging my progress. It drove me crazy and I wanted to understand why. Was it psychological? Physiological? Environmental? Habit? After some initial research, the guys over at the SCD Diet have given us some insight - the four mind traps that cause us to cheat on our diets. If you're cheating and ready for something different, the following suggestions will help you eliminate these common mind traps.
The 4 Traps
- Forgetting the Goal
- The “No Progress” Syndrome
- The “It’s Only For Me” Complex
- The “I’ll Never Make it, No Fun” Loop
The reality is our brains are wired to forget. It's too easy for us to unconsciously fall into old patterns when we're around family, friends and our regular environment, so you must find a way to break through the mental clutter and remind yourself.
Try this: write the number of days you've been faithful to the new habit on your hand. Here's how it works: every day you're faithful to your new habit, write the day on your hand. So, if today is day 1, then write "1." Tomorrow write "2" and the next "3" and so on. All day long, you'll look down and see your hand and be reminded that you are committed to something bigger and better.
The “No Progress” Syndrome
This requires us to implement another habit: journaling. Above we mentioned starting to record the number of days of your habit on your hand. Unfortunately, there’s no proof from the number on your hand that things are changing. Instead, you need to have a logical place to check to reassure your mind that you are indeed doing the right thing - through a journal.
Try this: each day, journal a few markers. They should vary based on your goal(s). The most basic template, that anyone on this site could use, goes like this:
- How Was My Mood Today? (1-5 scale)
- How Did I Sleep Last Night? (1-5 scale)
- How Much Energy Do I Have? (1-5 scale)
Do that every day and when the day comes (and it will) that you’re feeling down you can open up your journal and review all of the small successes and habits you have been creating and implementing. The goal here is to create a resource that shows you over time (a week, a month, a year) that what you’re doing is worth it.
The "It's Only For Me" Complex
Sooner or later, the selfish side of us comes out to play. And when it does the drive to cheat becomes really strong. For example, when you ask the waitress 7 questions to make sure you get the right meal while everyone at the table waits, groans and makes faces or when family or friends give you a gift, a treat or a compelling reason to cheat on your diet. In these moments, you eventually talk yourself into breaking your habit as you will yourself to believe that you have a valid reason to cheat.
Try this: the way to beat this is to know it's coming and create other feeling-based reasons for you to stay on your diet including:
- Create a social contract that says you guarantee to your friend, loved one or mentor that you will commit the following habit for x number of days.
- Write a check to a friend or loved one who can cash it and spend all the money if you cheat. Make sure the amount of money is something that would really hurt if you lost it.
- Use social media to announce to your following that you're going to be doing this new diet, for instance. Then, post pictures or recaps of what you did on a daily basis. Be sure to tell them if ever you don't post you want them to ask, poke and publicly shame you for cheating!
You don't need to do all three of these of course, but depending on your personality one will likely resonate with you. The way to avoid this trap is to make sure you have an equal or greater than fear-based feeling to always stay true to your diet.
The "I'll Never Make It, No Fun" Loop
People who get off the wagon for days, weeks and months (and never get back on it) are stuck in this loop.
The first part of the loop, "I'll Never Make it," sounds pretty reasonable. But if this really were the case, then your progress journal would stop it dead. In this specific mind trap, you'll read your journal but perhaps nothing has changed. You'll then create new stories in your head about why you won't achieve your goal and how you're not making progress (fast enough usually), so you might as well quit now and cheat.
The second part of the loop is about deprivation. You look around and see your friends and loved ones eating and doing things you used to, and all you can focus on is how you're losing out and not having any fun.
When you're lost in this loop in your head, it's almost impossible to stop (which is why outside support is so key).
Try this: having a support group and/or your whole family do the same diet at the same time are both ways to help get out of this loop.
The Odds Are Stacked Against New Habits
These traps are coming for you and hopefully the outlined suggestions above will help you take the proper actions to avoid them so that you can continue your healthy habits each and every day!