Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.
80,000-99,999 SparkPoints 84,118

The Weight Loss Mistake You’re Making

Monday, October 01, 2012

...... You're on a diet and doing fairly well. One day you go to lunch with a friend, and while they are chowing down on a tasty burger you're dutifully eating your spinach salad topped with grilled chicken and olive oil.

You're following your plan even better than expected. You've got the fiber and antioxidants from the spinach, protein from the chicken, and even some healthy monounsaturated the olive oil.

You should be proud of the decision you've made, the steps you're taking towards your goal.

But you're not proud; you're grumpy--because you want that burger.

If you're anything like me, you've been in that situation, and you can literally feel your resolve crumble. You want to stay strong, but at the end of the meal, you decide to split a dessert.

Oh, yeah. We've all been there.

Now, eating half of a restaurant brownie isn't going to help you drop the body fat you want, but it won't completely sabotage your efforts, either. The problem is, the brownie is usually just the start.

And this is the problem. Having worked with clients for more than 10 years, most people suffer from an extreme inability to fail on a small scale. When they screw-up, that's it for them--they have screwed up permanently, and so they keep going.

Conventional wisdom tells us that if you find yourself in a hole, you should stop digging--that's the logical thing to do. However, when it comes to nutrition, we aren't logical or conventionally wise. When clients have a dietary faux pas, their impulse, paradoxically, is to make it worse; after they eat the brownie, they think, "Well, I've ruined today. I may as well just eat whatever I want and then be good tomorrow."

That would be bad enough by itself; however, for many people, they carry the failure over to the next day, and the day after, and finally, "I'll be good tomorrow" becomes "I'll start again on Monday."

The Monday Mindset

Historically, Monday is the busiest day at gyms. (In my facility, attendance is 30% higher than any other day of the week, and that is not unique.) A decade of looking at clients' food logs makes it clear that Monday is also the day with the highest level of dietary compliance.

Which is ironic, considering this: In my view, Monday is the most dangerous day of the week. Not Monday, but the idea of Monday--a fresh start, always available, never more than a week away.

All of this is part of what I call the Monday Mindset. When you're thinking about getting started on an exercise or nutrition plan, the Mindset manifests itself with items like these:

"I'll go to the gym on Monday."
"Starting Monday, I'm going to do cardio every day."
"New diet on Monday! This is going to be my last 'bad' meal, so I'm going to enjoy it!"
Familiar, right?

When you're already on a plan of some kind, the Mindset excuses look these:

I've missed two workouts--this was a really busy week. I'm talking the week off. I'll start again on Monday.
Well, I had that brownie. The day weekend is shot to hell. I'll just start again on Monday.
I'll have a few beers during the game. But starting Monday, I'm taking things more seriously. No more drinking.
In either case, this type of self-delusion self-talk is the number on thing inhibiting your progress: It keeps you from progressing because it encourages a limiting belief that you can't course-correct during the week. It encourages you to give up close to the finish line because of the incorrect thought that you can start over.

We've all heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and yet we all fall victim to the trap of Monday over and over and over again.

So, how to we fix it? There are two big steps to take.

1) Remove the refresh button from the equation.

What we all need to realize is that there is nothing inherently special about Monday. There are no magical properties about that day that make it any more or less effective in terms of achieving results. The fact that the calendar says it's the beginning of the week doesn't mean that you can lift more weight or that you'll burn more fat on Monday than on Tuesday or any other day.

What you need to do is just take five to ten minutes and really think about that. Monday is just a day. Just because it's in the beginning of the workweek doesn't mean it has to be the beginning of everything else. Once you realize this, you will immediately take ownership of the fact that you can start--or re-start--your program on any day; and that makes it much easier to get back on the wagon.

To help my clients with this, I just rearrange programming to avoid the issue. Monday is no longer the starting point. Instead, each new program begins on Thursday. The motivation of the new workout carries them through the weekend--where screw-ups are most likely to happen--with little trouble, and they are able to focus and execute.

In fact, for some clients, Monday is an "off" day and there is no gym time at all. I have found that since Monday is generally a busy work day, removing the idea that you "have to" go to the gym after your longest and hardest work day actually increases compliance for the rest of the week.

2) Learn to fail small.

If you find that the thing holding your success back is "cheating" on your diet, mastering small failures is probably the number one thing you can do to minimize the impact of stepping outside your diet.

Mastering small failures means that you become comfortable with the fact that sometimes you will slip up. This happens to everyone. None of us are perfect, especially when comes to dietary habits, and eating half a brownie isn't some cardinal sin that immediately negates the impact of your previous successes, or devalues or invalidates your future ones.

If you can wrap your head around these things, then you will find it exponentially easier to hit the breaks--instead of the gas--when you eat something you're not supposed to.


Consider the following situation: Say you took a trip to Vegas and immediately lost $500. If you're like most people, your response wouldn't be to spend the rest of your cash. Instead, you would dial back your spending and get back on track. Your diet is no different. I suggest keeping a "play money" account of calories each week. You can easily do this by setting a calorie goal on My Plate. If you do slip up, think of it as "spending" these calories on something frivolous--just don't go over your budget, and you'll be fine. Once you have spent your allotment, do everything in your power to STOP spending. Begin your budget with 300 to 400 calories (per week, not per day), and try to work your way down.

Eventually, you'll start to develop both discipline, and a completely different attitude towards food and cheating. Of course, this can take some time, and mastering small failures and discarding the Monday Mindset is pitting you against two habits that are arguably the most difficult to discard. But your first step is awareness, and in some way, just reading this article will be of tremendous value and help you make changes that will help your efforts.

Whether it's removing the temptation of an ever-present fresh start or learning to master the all-in attitude such temptation fosters, your best bet towards fixing the problem is cutting yourself some slack. Realize that messing up on one meal out of three isn't the end of the world--nor is messing up one day out of seven.

Developing a real understanding and mastery of these concepts is the key to keeping these failures in check, and giving yourself the best chance for success. Once that occurs, you should feel confident that the rest will fall into place.

(courtesy of
Share This Post With Others
Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thank you! emoticon
    1226 days ago
    Very good stuff!! Love that "Monday mindset" . . . . NOT!!

    And thanks for your get well wishes!
    1326 days ago
    You have posted some good information in your blogs. I used to be all of the above until SP. Not saying I haven't slipped up a day or two. I I do I now- I don't wait until Monday- I start immediately or the next day-depending on the splurge. It isn't easy to break old habits or behaviors-it probably took me a year and I am still going and learning 2years later! One day, one habit, one goal at a time! Thanks for caring and posting great information for us! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1331 days ago
  • v SWAZY33
    Yes!! So agree with this information. My hubby is famous for the I'll start Monday...and it always drives me crazy! I say why not start today! Making an effort to choose healthy and fit does not have to be all or nothing but a well thought out process to try not stepping off course too much and if we do...we need to get right back on course and not wait till monday!!
    1331 days ago
    Well-written! I've never really had that mindset, but then, I'm also a klutz, so failing small is normal: failing big is an injury!
    1332 days ago
    Great blog.......thanks. I think we all have had "Monday Mindset" at one time or another.
    1333 days ago
  • v NEW-CAZ
    Great blog Tatty, so true about the Monday mindset!
    1333 days ago
    I could totally relate to this article. Although I don't push off that "start" to Monday but I find myself battling myself once I have made a bad choice - for usually the rest of the day.
    So glad I have spark that has helped me to continually change - even my mindset!
    1333 days ago
    You've posted some very good blogs over the last few days.

    Very interesting about the Monday mindset. I don't get why a small slip-up leads to a complete fall from grace, but apparently it frequently does. Am I guilty? Can't say for sure, but probably. I saw someone's blog here who said he decided to skip a workout after running a marathon (seems reasonable, no?), but after that it took a very long time to get back on track. I think most people who successfully lose weight understand that they can't go back to their old way of eating; nor do they want to. But one slip-up leads to another, and then next thing you know, they are back to their old habits.

    It is interesting that you note that Monday is the most crowded day at the gym. I don't have hard stats, but that is my perception based on personal experience. Seems like Mondays and Tuesdays are very crowded, and by Friday night, the gym is almost empty.

    Keep those great ideas coming!!! emoticon
    1333 days ago
    I always say.....if you "mess up" your very next choice is an opportunity to start over.....not tomorrow.....Definitely NOT Monday!!
    One healthy choice at a time!
    emoticon info...thanks for sharing!
    1333 days ago
    Thank you for sharing. As I sit here on a late Monday night craving less than healthy options, this was a great reminder to keep focus.
    1333 days ago
    Thanks for posting this! I'm going to add a link on Colorado Cnristian Women Team, because I think the gals would benefit!
    1333 days ago
  • v NEWNAC304
    Thanks for sharing this. It is something iam guilty of and I needed to hear it.
    1333 days ago
    1333 days ago
    I really enjoyed your blog....Monday mentality must be ditched in order to make lasting progress. Thank you for sharing. emoticon

    What is your occupation?...just a curious question asker, that's me! emoticon
    1333 days ago
  • v CATHY63RED
    Great blog it is so true. Small steps and small failures that's what we need emoticon
    1333 days ago
    Thank you for this blog - I feel like you were talking right to me about this!
    1333 days ago
  • v PLYNSN316
    SO true! I find it helpful to think of my nutrition like cash - I have a certain amount to spend per day, and I have to stay within my budget for the day.

    I also have to remind myself that one slip up (i.e. a brownie on Saturday) does not completely destroy my week of hard work, it might set me back (or it might not), but it definitely won't result in a giant gain. However, if I give in and let that brownie slip up turn into a pan of ice cookies for breakfast, etc., that potential nutritional blip will turn into a full on processor shut down and transformer blow out. And then I'm further away from my goal.
    1333 days ago
    Great blog!
    1333 days ago
  • v BRAVEONE92
    This is a emoticon Blog! I enjoyed
    reading all the wonderful information.
    Thanks a lot for sharing. emoticon
    1333 days ago
  • Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

    Log in to post a comment

    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.