The Magnifying Glass Effect is when we “zoom in” on a fuck up and become so hyper-focused on only that one fuck up that it becomes totally blown out of proportion and seems much worse than it really is.
In this post, I’m going to show you why a few ‘bad’ days aren’t as bad as you think they are and why you should avoid falling victim to The Magnifying Glass Effect.
This grid represents one year of your life
The red squares represent all the occasions you’ve fallen off of your diet or missed a training session, or basically done anything that wasn’t conducive to your goal.
Doesn’t seem so bad, right? Good. Let’s zoom in a bit more. This is one month of your life.
Again, the red squares represent all your fuck-ups. Still not too bad, eh? Let’s continue zooming to 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 know how every story has a bad guy who cockblocks the Hero’s quest? Well, so does this story.
So, here you are. The intrepid hero on their 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 shit’s about to get real.
And you go from this:
You’ve magnified that 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 freak 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 huge deal. This is where people will:
- Aggressively cut calories to make up for the one bad day of eating. Leading to an insidious cycle of overeating and 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, here’s the thing: 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, so I will be using it to illustrate this point.
The 3500 calorie rule states that to gain 1lb of fat, you 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 calorie intake is 2000 calories per day.
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 ~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 fat.
4,000 calories is the equivalent of eight Big Macs.
So 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 gain from one day of overeating is water, salt and glycogen ––not body fat. And this ‘water’ weight will drop after a few days once you’re back on track.
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, and over a month it’s 56,000 calories (14,000*4).
For you to gain body fat, you’d need to be eating more than 70,000 calories over a month.
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.
Remember to keep the bigger picture in mind
Everyone fucks up on their diet and training, occasionally. The point of this post is to illustrate that a bad day or two isn’t going to be detrimental to your goals as long as you get right back on track.
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.