If I Overeat One Day Should I Undereat The Next?

A client sent me an email yesterday: 

“I’m having a big New Year’s eve dinner, how should I approach it? Should I curb my food intake? And if I overeat one day, should I undereat the next?” 

My answer to her: 

The WORST way to start a brand new year is dieting on New Year Day. 

And it’s not just New Year Day, it’s everyday in life. The WORST way to spend everyday in life is being so obsessed, anxious, nervous, and stressed about food that you can’t be present enough to do things you want.

I talk about food freedom a lot all over my website. But for the sake of this article in particular, let’s focus on answering this one simple, straightforward question:

Should you undereat the next day to compensate for overeating the day before?

You should NOT…unless you want to be a frustrated, sad dieter who can’t lose weight no matter what forever. 

Let me explain it further. For starters, I bet it’s not the first time you’ve had this question in mind. And I bet in the past, whenever you’ve overeaten one day, you’ve most likely deprived yourself on the next day to achieve some sort of ‘calorie balance.’ 

Did this strategy ever help you lose weight for real? The answer is obvious. 

And this leads to a few vital truths I’m going to expose to you today, with the first one being the following: 

Truth #1. The idea of the CICO Diet Isn’t scientific at all. 

You can read this article I wrote for more details on why every variable of the CICO equation is fundamentally a myth when it comes to the actual numbers. Essentially, you can never accurately calculate the numbers around your calorie intake and calorie consumption. And the two main reasons causing that is: 

REASON #1. The FDA-allowed 20% error margin for the numbers on the nutrition labels. Due to that reason, it wouldn’t be exaggeration to say the food label is a lie in many situation. Here’s a screen shot of the FDA guidance document with that information highlighted:

cico diet

REASON #2. The volatile basal metabolic rate which differs from individual to individual based on her own metabolic efficiency. For instance, if someone has been dieting chronically, her metabolic rate is likely lower because of the lowered metabolic setpoint

So if you are evaluating if you’ve been “overeating’ and “undereating” based on the estimated calorie numbers, you are making decisions based on noise. And counting calories itself is a practice that stops you from sustainable weight loss. 

Think about this: 

In retrospect, how many years have you been counting? Has it led you to any lasting results yet? 

By lowering your metabolic setpoint and creating this dieter’s mentality in you, it has stopped you from living the life and creating the identity of a holistically lean, healthy, and happy person. And many times, your body doesn’t look better despite the weight loss because you aren’t really losing fat.

Truth #2. The 80-20 Principle.

I’ve first introduced this principle in another post I wrote How To Recover From A Cheat Day. And in my answer to the title question, I said there’s nothing to recover from. Many people don’t understand it, and here’s an important distinction that’ll immediately bring you relief: 

The 20% of the time when you overeat a bit of calories or sugar DOESN’T MATTER. What matters is the 80% of the time when you do a good job reaching a good balance and eating healthy. 

Therefore, what you should keep looking at is rather 80% of the time when things go well. And as long as you maintain that 80%, the 20% of the time when you sort of indulge us negligible in the sense of its impact on your weight loss result. And this is unquestionably true among my clients who have applied this principle in their life.

For the whole journey, they forget about calorie counting and train their core senses into accurately gauging the right kind and amount of food to eat. Sometimes they voluntarily and unapologetically overeat because, say, it’s Christmas eve. For 20%-25% of the time they let themselves cross the line because they need to enjoy some precious events and moments in life. We all do because living happiness is what life asks for. And they still lose weight. 

Most dieters do this completely wrong. Instead of holding onto the 80%, they are obsessed with 20% of the time when things don’t match their expectations and blame themselves for that. 

“Oh I ate 500 more calories yesterday and I should eat salad the whole day today.”

Then they eat salad and get really frustrated. And the everlasting emotion is “why can’t I have that cake?” They think that way whenever they see someone having a cake. That negative sentiment extends and permeates into everyday life. At the end of the day, they lose the happiness over the 80% of the time because all they think about is to compensate for what they believe are mistakes.

Moreover, the dieters battle with that craving all the time because they are never satisfied. The constant overthinking about food caused by the irresistible cravings, which is fueled by self-deprivation, leads to food obsession. Now they lose self-control. 

“I can’t stop thinking about food!”

“I don’t even know how to eat normally now!”

Here’s the sad reality:

On average, women with food obsession spend 3-4 hours a day thinking and researching about food. I’ve come to this number after speaking to thousands and thousands of women who have this problem. And most of them have very good careers — they are doctors, psychiatrists, project managers, advertising professionals, business consultants, etc….. Yet their ambition and busy work and life can’t distract them from this long-established vicious cycle.

A couple of hours a day easily translate into thousands of hours a year…on obsessively thinking about food. Is that how you want to spend your life year after year?

if I overeat one day should I undereat the next

Again, if you just focus on the 80% of time or maybe 75% of the time when things do go well, you’d save yourself from all those problems. 

Truth #3. The dieter’s mentality leads you to dieter’s failures without exception.

One critical sign of the dieter’s mentality is constantly thinking about food, evaluating calories, and being judgmental about food categories. 

“Wait, don’t holistically healthy, lean people do that as well?”

Usually not. Holistically healthy, lean people don’t need to. Their body self-manages and self-corrects on the weight management front. Their mind and taste buds are programmed to want the right food mostly — so there’s no micromanaging needed. The healthy patterns they’ve established just keep running on its own like a well programmed algorithm. Food and weight are non-issues because of that. However, there are exceptions though — for instance, some medical doctors and dietitians are sensitive because they are trained to take numbers seriously.

So this is one of the biggest myth amongst dieters: 

“Healthy people watch what they eat and follow all the best practices that we are forcing us to follow with willpower.”

That’s seemingly not true as well.

Yes I watch what I eat, but I’m not going to tell myself ice creams are all fat and sugar and I should have less than one a week. Nor am I going to think to myself “this slice of bread has 240 calories in it and since I only have 140 calories left in my budget today, I shouldn’t eat it despite the fact that I’m hungry.” 

How is that supposed to be the normal life to live?

When I’m hungry, I EAT. And when I want an ice cream, I grab one. My fridge has coke, orange juice, and Haagen Daz in it (the authentic, non-diet version!) And I’m an online weight loss coach who not only has effortlessly maintained her own weight for 16 years but also has taught hundreds to gain the same experience!

Hope that makes you rethink about the relationship between food freedom and healthy weight loss a little bit. And specifically about the Haagen Daz in my fridge, my favorite wisdom to share is:

It doesn’t matter what you have in your fridge. What matters is how long they last. 

And if you are run by the dieter’s mentality, any food — healthy ones or pleasure treats — will be an issue for you. Binging is binging, it doesn’t matter if you binge on cabbages or ice cream because it’s the same problematic psychological pattern that you are dealing with.

Here’s me talking further about the dieter’s mentality during one of my many podcast interviews:

@riselean

Here’s what happens when your body blocks weight loss. FUN TIME recording an interview with my friend Sarah Ramsey @toxicpersonproof for her globally successful podcast Toxic Relationship Proof. #weightloss #foodaddiction #healthyeating #healthyliving

♬ original sound – Executive Weight Loss Coach

Real weight loss is never about willpower, it’s about rewriting your physical, neurological, and emotional patterns with regards to food and weight — so that your body and mind work FOR you to lose weight. 

Your body does its own job to self-correct as I’ve mentioned earlier. And you do your job of living your life fully.

Remember this:

Weight loss, after all, is your body’s job, not yours.

And as I’ve said it at many places: a dieter and a holistically healthy, lean person are two different species based on how differently their bodies function, how differently they think, and how differently they live. 

It’s TWO POLAR DIFFERENT life experience and identities.

And the dieter’s mentality of watching food all the time will only lead you to the dieter’s reality — deprived, frustrated, and never winning the game. 

The moment when you decide to assume the identity of a holistically healthy, lean person is the moment when you change that reality. 

Truth #4. You can lose weight and keep it off easily — without watching and judging your eating all the time.

I’ve alluded to this point a few times in the previous paragraphs, and now I want to be 100% forthright and clear about this.

HERE’S THE DISTINCTION:

A holistically healthy, lean person mindlessly eats to effortlessly maintain their weight. And an overweight person can mindlessly eat to effortlessly lose weight as soon as they’ve re-activated their bodies to work for them. 

The oriental idea of mindfulness (in eating) is in my view distorted and abused in the western dieting context. The key isn’t mindful eating, it’s gaining the ability to mindLESSly eating to health. 

Just like your body’s instinctive ability to self-correct on its weight and functioning, intuitive eating is an instinct after all. 

And mindless eating isn’t the problem at all when you’ve gained this natural subconscious programming of making the right choices and decisions. I described this programming as natural and subconscious because it really involves no deliberate thought process. 

That’s how you can eat mindlessly but still eat well and eat right. And because both your food psychology and your body’s core senses and physical, neurological patterns are working for you, you can easily lose weight without dieting

Watch my client losing 10-12 pounds a month without dieting, counting calories, or exercising: 

So what should you do when you overeat one day? 

Ask yourself the following questions: 

Question 1. What’s my goal? Is it becoming a more obedient dieter, or a holistically lean, healthy person? Remember I said above these two are 2 different outcomes, and you can’t take the path to one hoping to get to the other.

If your answer is the latter, here’s Question #2: 

How would the healthy, holistically skinny fit and strong _______ (your first name) treat this situation? Will she fuss about every single calorie she takes in? Will she give herself permission to enjoy food and the moment? 

If you’ve been dieting for years, chances are that your core senses including satiety, tastebuds, and cravings have been skewed or suppressed to some extent. Start trying to reconnect to these senses and make the best decision you can at that time. 

A lot of the time, when you’ve eaten a super heavy meal one day, the next day you’ll naturally want to eat lighter and more plain meals. Follow that feeling because your body is calling for it.

And remember the 80-20 Principle that I’ve just introduced to you. It means moving from the time you think you screwed it up. Don’t be fixated on it. And focus on the time you’ve done it well. 

ONE LAST NOTE:

If you’ve been stuck in the dieter’s mentality and lifestyle for such a long time that you don’t even remember what it’s like to live and eat like a normal person…

Or if you’ve already lost the sense of fullness, been addicted to sugar, or have been struggling with food obsession….

The current psychological, emotional, physical, and neurological patterns will keep preventing you from the real results you want. 

The chances are you won’t be able to solve it by yourself because you don’t know what you don’t know. In this situation, finding professional help is no brainer. 

My Lean Instinct Formula™ is designed for you to revert all these exact problems for achieving sustainable, consistent weight loss. And it has had a long track record of creating successes over the last 8 years. You can learn about it here and schedule a call for more details. 

The bottomline is that once you are on the pathway to that outcome, you’ll never bother asking questions for trivialities like “should I undereat today if I’ve overeaten yesterday?” And you’ll never wonder if having unlimited food freedom while losing weight is too good to be true

Leslie Chen is Creator of Lean Instinct Formula™, which helps people enjoy UNLIMITED food freedom while gaining a head-turning body — through re-writing their physical and emotional patterns towards eating, removing their inner weight loss blockers, jumping out of the western FAD labyrinth, and leveraging Asian wisdom that creates immediate organic results. Leslie is rated as one of the Top Weight Loss Coach in 2023 by Coach Foundation due to consistent results she brings to her clients.

Want to work with Leslie? Book a Clarity Call.