Common Weight-loss Misconception #5: Tomorrow will be different
Do you ever say: I’m starting my diet tomorrow so today doesn’t count?
Being “on” and “off” diets makes it harder to lose weight
Learn how you can make sure: Tomorrow will be different
This post debunks the 5th of five common weight-loss misconceptions:
Tomorrow will be different
All five misunderstandings were captured in a short diary entry written by a 13 year-old. Rebecca courageously shared her weight-loss struggle on the Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids Podcast. To get the most out of this post, read Common Weight-loss Misconceptions Intro (where you can hear Rebecca’s Diary entry) and Common Weight-loss Misconceptions #1, #2, #3 and #4.
Common weight-loss Misconception #5:
Tomorrow will be different.
13 year-old Rebecca:
“I say every summer, I am going to lose the fat. Every summer I go and come back fatter.”
When people tell themselves tomorrow will be different, it’s because they’re not happy with today. But waiting for tomorrow to start another diet leaves you in between diets.
Ever hear someone say: I’ve already ruined my diet so I may as well keep eating? Or I’m starting my diet tomorrow so today doesn’t count.
But today does count!
I wanted to write this post because it’s easy to be romanced by the idea that tomorrow will be different.
For 10 years I believed in dramatic change. I thought I just needed to be more determined.
But willpower isn’t a weight-loss strategy.
This post shares a strategy that works. And it explains how I broke the tomorrow will be different mindset – which was key for me to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
The things you do today will either make tomorrow easier or harder. The more unhealthy choices you make today the more you’re ingraining bad habits that will build barriers between you and your goals.
For 10 years I told myself: Tomorrow will be different.
Whenever I made (what I thought was) a mistake I’d feel discouraged. I’d think I wrecked everything. It was important to me to follow my diet exactly as it was planned because I wanted to prove I was determined. Believing tomorrow will be different was the only thing that made me feel optimistic.
So all my hopes would be pinned on the things I’d plan for tomorrow. I’d write up a new, stricter diet (to make up for lost time) so it was ready for the next morning. Then I’d tell myself that whatever I did for the rest of the day didn’t matter because I was “off” my diet.
After days of under-eating and over-exercising (because all my misinformation told me that’s how you lose weight) I’d be starving. This intense hunger would lead to binging. Without realizing I got caught in a starve-binge-purge cycle. In hindsight, I see that re-starting my diet tomorrow was actually the first step of the cycle. I thought reaching a healthy weight required the discipline to restrict your energy intake. The diet industry said weight loss was about willpower, and I believed it.
All the self-destructive behaviour I did between diets became ingrained and made it harder to lose weight. These bad habits were so preoccupying they got in the way of all my goals, including school and sports.
My experience was pretty extreme because I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I was obsessed with following my diet perfectly. So if I ate the smallest thing that was unplanned, I’d say I ruined everything. Then I’d be compelled to start a new diet the next day. But until the clock struck midnight I was left in no man’s land. There were no rules. I didn’t realize until years later when I was healthy, that over those 10 years it was more important for me to stick to my diet perfectly than to lose weight. Believing tomorrow will be different became a coping mechanism for my anxiety.
Now I realize you can only learn from your choices if you keep moving forward. So you ate an extra cookie? Who cares!
Weight loss is not about following a diet perfectly. It’s about improving on what you normally do. Focus on improvement not perfection! If you eat five cookies today, try to eat four next time. Small changes add up quickly. Soon the wild swings in your behaviour will start to level out into healthy habits.
What to do if you keep telling yourself tomorrow will be different
Focus on today! The only time you can really make a difference is the moment you’re in. Make your next choice positive.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.’
– Bill Keane, Cartoonist (The Family Circus)
Understand these 3 points:
They will help you breakdown the idea: Tomorrow will be different.
1. Carry on. The mistake is never the problem. It’s all the things you do after you think you’ve made a mistake that is the problem. Continuing to eat after you think you’ve eaten too much turns a small problem into a huge problem.
Think of athletes. Imagine if a pole jumper gave up for the day each time she knocked down the pole! Improvement is all about trial and error.
2. Be flexible. If you eat a little more than you thought you should it’s no big deal. If you didn’t end up exercising today and you meant to, no worries. Roll with it. Carry on. Don’t get lost in the details. The more healthy choices you make today the easier it will be to make healthy choices tomorrow.
You can apply this strategy to any part of your life. For example, don’t put off studying for a big test until tomorrow. Even if you just do 10 minutes today it will make it easier to open your books tomorrow. There’s no perfect moment to begin. Every little positive thing you do counts. Doing one productive thing today builds momentum.
3. Build habits. Don’t diet. Dieting is short term. Reaching and more importantly maintaining a healthy weight is all about building habits. Why? When you build healthy habits a healthy weight will follow. The more healthy choices you make each day, the more you’ll be in the habit of making healthy choices tomorrow.
Think of it this way: every time you make a choice you have the option to build a healthy habit or an unhealthy habit.
If you feel upset after you think you’ve made a mistake, keep your end goal in mind: Building healthy habits. Keep moving toward it. What is one small, positive thing you can do right now?
Being “on” and “off” diets leads to more weight gain. It’s essentially yo-yo dieting, which trains your body to slow down your metabolism so it can:
- hold onto your existing fat
- hold onto any calories you eventually eat
- run on less energy
Your body loves stability. Being “on” and “off” diets jerks your body around and creates a complicated relationship with food. If a relationship is truly important to you it can’t be switched on and off.
Think of the last time you ate something you thought you shouldn’t have.
What did you do?
Did you make a small mistake bigger?
Think of what you could have done differently for a more positive outcome.
…Take a moment to think about it…
Make a plan for next time you think you’ve made a mistake.
What can you do instead? Pick a few activities to break the cycle of turning a small mistake in to a big mistake. You could:
1. Walk your dog
2. Put on nail polish
3. Read one chapter of a book
4. Phone a friend and ask how s/he is doing – focus on someone other than yourself
5. Do one thing on your school or work “to do” list
Salvage the day rather than sabotaging it!
Ask yourself this question:
Do I want my next choice to take me closer to my goal or further from it?
Putting your actions into words helps you understand your options. Then you can make better decisions.
Troubleshooting: When you keep thinking: Tomorrow will be different:
Build in accountability. A strong person is resourceful and takes advantage of the opportunities they have around them. If you have trouble stopping yourself from continuing to eat once you think you’ve eaten something you shouldn’t have, ask for help. It can be as simple as asking your mom if you can call her to break the cycle. Don’t be embarrassed! You’re awesome for wanting to make your life better. Make your plan simple for next time you make a mistake. Decide you’ll pick up the phone and dial the number of someone who cares about you.
Talk to the person you trust ahead of time. You can just make a code word that will make you laugh. Then you can call your loved one and say you’re just calling to talk about “Pink Flamingos.” They’ll get the picture and it will help you jump into a real conversation about another topic if you like. Getting busy will help distract you and pull you out of a self-destructive cycle.
Seek Medical Help. If you aren’t able to break the starve-binge-purge cycle, speak to a doctor. If you have trouble letting go of the idea of following a diet perfectly, speak to a doctor. If you keep trying to fix the same problem with the same solution that doesn’t work, speak to a doctor. Break the pattern! Consulting a professional can help you get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Asking for medical help is no different than asking for help with plumbing, music lessons, getting your hair cut or anything else you’re not an expert in.
Our communities are full of people who are excellent at what they do. Go to a doctor to get help so you can save time and energy and refocus on what you love to do. Then you can use it to help others.
Talking to your family doctor can give you some ideas to get started.
Summary: How you can make sure tomorrow will be different
Tomorrow will be different IF, and only if, you do something different.
Instead of making a small mistake big, make your next choice positive. Keep moving forward. What can you do today that will make you proud tomorrow? Weight loss is about carrying on through trial and error. Then you can figure out what works for you.
Focus on healthy eating and exercise habits. A healthy weight will follow.
Keep a book, bottle of nail polish or your best friend’s phone number handy for the next time you think you’ve made a mistake. Plan to break the cycle of ruining today. Learning more about what healthy eating and exercise looks like will also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight so you can focus on the rest of your life. Sign up for my weekly blog post (below) and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned. It will help you build healthy eating and exercise habits—or reach any goal.
Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it
Do you ever tell yourself: Tomorrow will be different?
Under what circumstances do you say: Tomorrow will be different?