A Shame-Free Food Lifestyle

An indulgence here or there won’t destroy your diet. It’s what you do afterwards that counts.

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We all do it. Maybe it's while we are on vacation, or during the holidays, or even on a random Tuesday. Everyone overindulges on occasion. After all, we are only human and eating can be one of our greatest pleasures. Whether your treat is a scoop of beloved ice cream or a meal from your favorite restaurant, it's really what you do afterwards that matters most.

First and foremost—don't panic! It's unlikely that an unhealthy snack or even a single meal's worth of missteps will translate into excess pounds overnight—you would need to over-consume about 3,500 calories to gain 1 pound of body fat. As long as you are eating sensibly and exercising consistently, then it's OK to consciously indulge once in a while.

And even if you did really overdo it with your favorite cheesy pasta dish, don't beat yourself up! Nobody is a perfect eater all the time. Besides, it doesn't help to be mean to yourself. The good news is that instead of feeling guilty about the inevitable overindulgence, you can use it as a chance to get back on track. Think of each meal or snack as a new opportunity to get it right—like a Monday morning.

The most important thing to remember is to prevent the domino effect. If you overindulge one day, don't be self-deprecating and give yourself permission to continue to overeat the next. It's easy to feel defeated and say, "Oh, I blew my diet yesterday, so I'll just keep gorging myself until after the holidays." Countless dieters get trapped in this pattern, or worse, make it a long-term habit. In fact, many Americans eat too many calories every day—roughly 570 calories more than they did in the 1970s, according to a recent study. Make sure that you avoid this common pitfall by isolating the incident so that you don't simply throw in the towel after a slip-up.

So how do we get back on the right path? Think about your diet in terms of what you eat over several days. When you have a slip-up, take the next four or five days to eat consistently and focus on quality foods like veggies, whole grains, fruit, lean protein, and healthy fats, while staying conscious of portion sizes. Also, skip the scale for a few days after your splurge. It may simply reflect bloating from the extra calories you've just consumed, which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame. Instead, resume sensible eating, stick to your normal exercise routine, and keep track of what you eat over several days. This way, your splurge won't translate into bad long-term habits.

So remember, we all fall off the horse sometimes. Enjoy the occasional indulgence, but then start fresh with the very next snack or meal. Doing so will help you get back on track and feel … just a little bit better!

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored three books: Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!