Compensation & Bargaining

Have you ever found yourself reaching a point where you felt bad about eating something, and saying to yourself:

  •  “Tomorrow I start a new training / diet programme, so tonight is my last night to eat all the [enter favourite junk food] I want”
  • “I’ve screwed up my ‘diet’, to hell with it, I’ll have the rest of this tub of Ben & Jerry's and a milkshake and just skip breakfast tomorrow, and double up on the exercise.”

The last is quite an extreme example of binging, restricting, and over-exercising, but I think we can all relate to this situation in some way!

This is a short-term fixation on compensating or bargaining with the ‘bad’ for something ‘good’, or the other way round e.g. “If I don’t eat… then I get to eat…”.

These tendencies can swing pretty dramatically in either direction once you give it momentum, moving your focus more and more on the short-term and to either extremes, which may eventually lead to eating disorders and poor relationships / loss of control with food and exercise.

And it all starts with compensation and bargaining.


First thing to do, is to NOTICE and become AWARE of when you’re creating these thoughts.

(Look over the previous post on “The benefit of tracking”)

Find out what foods / emotions / social or physical environments trigger these thoughts and behaviours.

Secondly, try and focus long-term and come to terms with 2 CRUCIAL FACTS that we expand on in the coaching programme with Precision Nutrition:

1. You can't out-train a poor diet

Exercising to make up for ‘mistakes’ or to ‘burn calories’ doesn’t work in the long run. No matter how hard you push yourself in the gym the ‘day after’, a lean and healthy body comes from smart food choices and learning how to ‘tune-in’ with your internal bodily cues.

The compensation and bargaining mindset also pulls the plug on the FUN of exercising, draining it until it becomes a chore. Likewise, eating turns from PLEASURE into a sin, and eventually you feel more run down and hungrier than ever, becoming totally OUT-OF-SYNC with your body.

2. consistency beats compensation

Consistency over time beats any other style of practice – which is why for the long-term I ONLY promote habit-based coaching.

Rather than frantically trying to make up for a ‘mistake’, only to cycle back to making another after a period of compensation.

Focus on making small daily actions you can do every day, knowing that it’s HUMAN to slip up from time to time and that you’re a “WORK IN PROGRESS”, NOT a failure.

Over time, you’ll create a new level of standards for yourself around your health and happiness. You’ll also feel better when you focus on consistency. More in control. More relaxed. Happier.

And you get better results, too.




take action:

  1. NOTICE when you have these tendencies to compensate & bargain with yourself (write them down).
  2. Focus on consistency over compensation. Accept your slip ups and understand that it is perfectly HUMAN of you! Think of yourself as a ‘work in progress’ next time, and how you could be 1% better at the next challenge.
  3. Start fixing the problem from the kitchen, choose foods that will nourish you and ADD VALUE to your body.
  4. Don’t categorize foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Instead ask yourself is this a smart food choice? Why or why not? Want’s the alternative? And what might be just a bit better? Think of a continuum from good, better, best - not a categorical good or bad.
  5. ENJOY exercise and movement because it makes you stronger, fitter, and healthier
  6. Finally, eat slowly and to 80% full – surprisingly tough as the MMF 21-Day Challengers would tell you!



Stay Healthy and Happy!