In a previous article, I mentioned something we, as people, have a tendency to do when things go wrong.
I named this theory ‘The Magnifying Glass Effect’. Here’s how I described it in that article:
‘This is what I call the ‘Magnifying Glass Effect’. We ‘zoom in’ on the fuck up and because we’re hyper-focused on that one fuck up it becomes totally blown out of proportion; making it seem much bigger than what it really is.’
I want to expand on The Magnifying Glass Effect [MGE] theory in this post, and show you – visually – why a few ‘bad’ days of falling off your diet or training programme won’t do you much harm – what will though is falling victim to The Magnifying Glass Effect.
This grid represents one year of your life.
The red dots represent every time you’ve fallen off of your diet, or missed a training session or basically done anything that wasn’t conducive to your goal/s.
Doesn’t seem so bad, right?
Let’s zoom in a bit more.
This is one month in your life. The red dots are still representing all your fuck-ups.
Still not too bad, eh?
Let’s continue zooming in:
This is one week of your life.
Now, this is where things go south. The image above on its own wouldn’t be too bad. It’s one day, right?
Yeah, about that.
You see how every good story has a bad guy who totally cockblocks the Hero’s quest?
Well, so does this story. This guy:
So, here you are. The veritable hero, on your quest to lose fat and get your lean on. You’re totally killing it. But then comes that one day where you slip up on your diet and/or training.
Ideally, you’d see this one ‘bad day’ and be like
But then the MGE turns up.
And you go from this:
You’ve magnified your one day of ‘bad eating’ or ‘not training’ or whatever, into this gargantuan beast of absolute fuckery.
And now that the MGE is in full effect; you lose all sense of rationality and begin freaking out.
This is no longer just one bad day. No. Thanks to the MGE, this has just become the be all end all. Mainly the end all.
This freak out leads you to do things that only amplify the initial fuck up. So what initially wasn’t that much of a big deal, has now just become a [very] big deal. This is where people will:
- Aggressively cut calories to make up for the one bad day of eating. This in turn leads to a cascade of mental fuckery which often ends in an insidious cycle of overeating and then restricting. Or,
- You’ll try to exercise more to offset the damage. Which can lead to injury, burnout, and even muscle loss. Or,
- Give up altogether.
But, see. There really isn’t a need for you to stress out. A day, even two, going off track with your diet won’t ruin things and cause you to gain fat.
To help you understand, we’re gonna do some maths.
How this looks in real life
While not 100% accurate, the 3500 calorie rule is still fairly accurate and so I’m going to be using it to illustrate this point.
The 3500 calorie rule states that to gain 1lb of fat you’d need to consume 3500 calories on top of what you’re currently eating in a week.
Let’s assume you’re dieting and your current caloric intake is 2000 calories.
In a week this equals 14,000 calories [7 days x 2000 calories].
To gain one pound of fat, you’d need to eat 3500 calories on top of the 14,000 calories you’re currently eating.
This means a total weekly intake of around [or more than] 17,500 calories [14,000 calories + 3,500 calories]
So let’s assume you ate 2000 calories for 6 days, and then one day in the week you ‘fell off’ and ate, hmmm, I dunno, let’s say 4,000 calories.
This equals a weekly intake of 16,000 calories – by the end of the week you’re still in a (weekly) deficit of around 1,500 calories. Not enough to gain weight.
*Seriously, do you know how much food 4,000 calories even is in the period of a day?
That’s the equivalent of 8 Big Macs.
unless you’re legitimately force feeding yourself, attempting a food challenge, or straight up injecting food straight into your blood – it’s extremely hard to eat this much without a) dying or b) wanting to die.
The weight you will have gained from this one day of overeating is going to be water, salt and glycogen – ergo, not actual body fat – which will drop after a few days of getting back on to your diet.
Let’s push this example further and look at it over the period of a month*
Let’s say you have three ‘fuck-ups’ in a month.
— Fuck up 1 – 2000 calories
— Fuck up 2 – 1500 calories
— Fuck up 3 – 3000 calories
That’s a total of 7,500 calories worth of fucking up over a month.
If your daily intake to lose fat is 2000 calories, in a week that’s 14,000 calories, in a month that’s 56,000 calories [14,000 x 4 – roughly 4 weeks in a month].
For you to gain actual weight and body fat, you’d need to be eating around 70,000 calories over a month [3500 calories x 4 = 14,000 + 56,000 calories = 70,000].
So those three days of falling off aren’t going to ruin your fat loss progress, as long as you get right back on to your diet.
*While the example of a month may seem extremely hyperbolic – it’s not. Fat loss doesn’t happen overnight. It can take a few weeks for fat loss to actualise. Too many people are stuck in the MGE and fail to realise this.
Remember to keep the bigger picture in mind.
Look. Everyone fucks up on their diet and training occasionally. The point of this post is to illustrate to you the fact that one or two days of falling off your diet or training plan isn’t going to be detrimental to your goals as long as you get right back on it.
Fucked up? Fine. Acknowledge you fucked up and move on.
When you freak out and start trying to ‘damage control’, that’s the moment the MGE kicks in and you end up doing something that only makes the situation worse.