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Why Trying to Be Good Is a Bad Idea


WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

Redbook Magazine LogoThe instant you label any food or behavior "good" or "bad," you're practically guaranteeing you won't reach your goals, warns Redbook's Real-Life Healthy Life nutrition expert Lisa Young: A single falter (a clandestine donut or skipped workout) is interpreted by your brain as total failure. And since you're "off your diet," you're free to enjoy another donut (or a dozen) until you're ready to commit to another slim-down plan.

But as Young reminds us, it's important to teach ourselves that one slipup doesn't eradicate all prior success, and a truly healthy lifestyle doesn't have any extremes-meaning a guilt-free donut here and there is not only better than a dozen, but it's also better than no donuts at all! Here, how to short-circuit the good/bad mindset for good:

- Legalize all foods you consider forbidden; nothing should be off-limits. Once you're allowed occasional treats, you won't feel deprived or believe you're cheating-which in the end just brings on binges.

- When you do slip up, silence negative thoughts ("I've been bad") by instead focusing on the progress you've made that same day ("I've had six glasses of water"). This helps you stay grounded in reality, so you're less likely to devise an excuse that facilitates more unhealthy choices ("I'm a screw-up, and screw-ups deserve to be fat...might as well have another piece of cake").

- If you make an unhealthy choice, simply make it a trade-off with something healthy later in the day or first thing the next morning. For instance, stretch your walk an extra 20 minutes, or skip the cheese and mayo on your turkey burger.

Related content on redbookmag.com

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