The progression principle (ctd)

I just wanted to highlight another example of the progression principle in action, this time in the dieting world. This comes from a post discussing the current thinking about cheat days and dieting over at While I encourage you to read the whole post, here are the important bits:

  • Psychologically, it may be effective to accept that it’s only possible to stick to a diet about 80 percent of the time. The other splurges are totally natural and a-okay.

Here’s what they had to say about guilt, slipping up, and back-sliding:

The key, according to Joe, is getting past the guilt of assigning “good” and “bad” tags to various foods. Rather than turning a minor slip-up into a major back-slide, she says cheaters should simply accept what they ate, and continue with their diet as planned.

So what are we talking about here? We’re essentially talking about the progression principle, or the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, you will stay on target for your diet plan. 20% of the time, you will slip-up now and then. You may even back-slide. That is OK. As long as you accept the slip up, and then return to your plan as normal, in the long-term you will continue your upwards progression. This holds true in diet as well as training or any behaviour you’re trying to change.

Remember, when you’re habit-forming — and that’s what dieting, exercise training, or learning a skill is — you are building new pathways in your brain. Through repetition, you are making those pathways easier to access. But sometimes your brain will revert to old habits; it’s a resilient organ, and that’s in it’s nature. Expect these slip-ups to happen from time to time, but just make sure you stay on target the rest of the time. If you can manage that, you’ll find that the new behaviours slowly become easier, and the slip-ups will reduce. Torturing yourself over missing a calorie goal or missing a workout once in two weeks is not worth it. Simply accept the slip, adjust your timelines, and move on.

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