catching up to your goal - the tortoise or the hare?

catching up to your goal - the tortoise or the hare?

Yesterday I met someone for lunch at Chili's (first mistake). I ordered a couple appetizers instead of an actual lunch (second mistake), thinking I could share them and wouldn't eat as much - plus they both sounded awesome and I couldn't decide on one thing to order! Boneless Buffalo Wings and Southwestern Eggrolls - mmmm good.

Chili's boneless wings and southwestern eggrolls

As it turned out, my colleague only ate a couple wings, leaving me to finish both plates (third mistake). And for some reason I just couldn't muster up the willpower to stop eating. Then, when I got back to my office, I looked up the Chilli's nutritional guide to see how many calories I had just stuffed down my cake hole (fourth mistake!) - let's just say it rounds to about 1,800. For lunch. On one day. Ouch.

A smarter person would have looked up the menu & nutritional guide before going to lunch, and already have known what to order before even leaving his office!

Doing the Math

So how does that big lunch fit into my overall calorie budget? This is the time when a little math, and a little rationalization, go a long way...

First of all, I stopped the bleeding by eating a very small dinner - a couple hundred calories at the most. Unfortunately the damage had been done; breakfast, snacks, dinner, and those gigantic appetizers put me at about 2,800 for the day.

Next I took a step back and thought about the big picture. I know I'm not going to be perfect every day. It's easier to hit my mark as a weekly total than it is to hit my daily mark 7 days in a row, so I want to see what my week looks like.

For this example, let's assume my daily calorie budget is 1,900. (I'm in maintenance mode, rather than weight loss mode. - side note, on that calorie budget calculator, always use sedentary for the activity level.)

1,900 calories per day * 7 days in a week = 13,300 calories per week.

So, if I've been on target lately, and I was 900 calories over budget today, I need to be 900 calories under budget over the course of the next 6 days.

The Tortoise or the Hare

The Hare would attack those 900 calories, possibly going so far as to quasi-fast on 1,000 calories the next day and get back to budget-even. (This is the old "rip the band-aide off" method.)

The Tortoise, on the other hand, would take his time, adjusting his daily budget from 1,900 down to 1,750 for the next 6 days. (The "pull the band-aide off slowly" method.)

Which is Better?

Neither option is better, per se, since both animals will get to the finish line. (and both methods result in the band-aide being removed.) The trick is matching your personality to the right animal.

Frustration and failure set in when you choose the wrong method. If the tortoise's method of "just a little bit of pain each day" sounds better, but then you don't have the patience to stick to it for all 6 days, you won't be successful. On the other hand, if the rabbit's "get it over with" plan sounds better, but then you find yourself not able to get through that ultra low calorie day, you'll be over cal-budget and disappointed with yourself.

Personally, I usually start off by planning like the tortoise, but then I get impatient and accelerate the schedule, finishing up like the hare!

Bottom Line

Yesterday's story has a few takeaways:

1.) There will always be failures along the way.

2.) Planning ahead can make a huge difference. No need to play catch up if you never get behind in the first place.

3.) Accept that there will be failures along the way, but try to minimize the damage as it's happening. If I had had the waitress take the plates away while there was still some food on them, I could have had a 500 calorie problem to recover from, which would have been much easier.

4.) Consistency Counts - as long as I stack together enough successful days in a row, I can easily overcome an occasional failure. It's not about one day; it's about the week, and then the month, and then the year. Little successes, day after day, for months at a time - they add up to greatness.

-Chris Butterworth