Welcome to Part 2 of our blog series: When the Wheels Come Off. You know those times when you’ve been really adherent to a certain style of eating, and then you have that day? You know that day when you wake up with a cold, skip your workout and give in to your overwhelming cravings for indulgent comfort food like you had when you were little, or the day when you stay late at work and feel so exhausted that the LAST thing you want to do is go home and cook so you grab a pizza and beers instead?  I know I have. We’ve ALL been there. That’s the day the wheels come off after trying to make changes to your nutrition habits.

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If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, check that out here first for more context, including an understanding of how the perfectionist mentality feeds into these patterns of eating and more importantly what to do about it.  

Next up, let’s dive into how to process what goes on before, during, and after these situations when the wheels come off, so that in the future, you can make the necessary changes to stop ping-ponging back and forth between two black and white, all or nothing options, and feel in control and consistent with your eating habits.

To help you reflect, you might try getting a notebook and writing down, mind mapping, or drawing a few of these prompts and your responses to get you analyzing these situations like a scientist.

Analysis Steps

1. What were your thoughts before, during, and after the wheels came off?

You may not even be aware of them. Look out for rationalizations, justifications, or judgmental thoughts. Thoughts like:

“There’s nothing I want in the fridge. I guess I better order takeout! I’ll just tighten things up even more next week.”

“Two pounds in two weeks after killing myself? It’s not even worth the effort. Bring on the brownies!”

“You never stick to what you say you’ll do anyways...”

“I’m too tired to cook or chop vegetables. Pizza it is!”

“I bet my partner would love it too if I brought home takeout.”

“I’m STARVING! I need to eat RIGHT now. I don’t care what it is.”

“I was REALLY good this week. I even worked out hard today. I deserve this!”

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2. What were you feeling before, during, and after the event?

Do you remember any strong emotions?

Feelings like: anger, sadness, boredom, joy, incompetence, tension, disappointment, grief, loneliness, deprivation, or embarrassment?

How were you feeling in your body physically before, after, and during?

Were you tired? Jittery? Easily distracted? Tense?

Uncomfortable emotions are often so intense that we knowingly or unknowingly seek out ways to take the edge off or distract ourselves from them. One of those ways is through foods or drinks that make us feel good in the moment. When we try to change our eating, all of a sudden we don’t have our usual coping mechanism, yet the stress is still there and needs to be managed somehow.

3. What were your behaviors or the events that happened before, during, and after the wheels came off?

Did you take a different route home that went by your favorite fast food restaurant?

Did you see and click on an advertisement for fast food on social media?

Did you really undereat the day before and consequently felt ravenous much of the day?  

Did you have a small breakfast and lunch, and felt like you wanted to eat everything in sight by dinner?

Did you have a stressful day and just want to relax and unwind at the end of the day?

Did you not have any meal options at home, with you while out for the day or while traveling?

4. Are these instances associated with certain foods or drinks that are easier to overconsume?

We all have those trigger foods that appeal to us more than most and are hard to stop eating. I’m looking at you, warm, salty Mexican tortilla chips.

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5. What are the different surroundings and people that make it easier for the wheels to come off?

Is it a certain restaurant or any restaurant?

Is it going home and being surrounded by some of your favorite childhood foods?

Do the wheels fall off after you visit your in-laws?

Do you indulge more when you’re with hanging out with your buddies after a few drinks?  

You may not realize all the different factors that have an affect on overeating or deviating from your typical eating habits. You might think that you’re just making impulsive choices or that you just really LOVE food, but there’s actually a chain of events that happens before the wheels come off.

Start thinking about your patterns and dig a little deeper the next time something like this occurs as soon as you can after. Create a log and write down anything you observe about the thoughts, feelings, behaviors, foods, people, and environments before, during, and after the event occurs. A little work in the moment will pay off with lasting changes in the future.

To make these enduring changes, check out the final part of this series in which you’ll learn how to use the information from your analysis to prepare, plan, and problem solve for these situations. If you’re scratching your head and feeling uncertain how to analyze these moments, seek out the services of a qualified nutrition coach who can take a step back, ask the right questions, and work with you to analyze your situation and create solutions.

Ready to become a healthier, stronger and fitter version of you?

Learn more about TDAE Nutrition Coaching HERE!


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Ryan Healy, BS Exercise/Sport Science, CSCS, has been a certified personal trainer for over 13 years and is a Level 2 certified nutrition coach through world-renowned Precision Nutrition. She is passionate about helping people change their lifestyle habits with support, guidance, and compassion along with helping clients train around their injuries so they can move better, feel stronger, and get more of what they want out of life. 

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