Remember that “Off” feeling in your stomach last time you put away a few donuts? Neither do we when we’re looking at pictures like this!

Everyone has off days. No matter your intentions, the stealth attack of an office birthday cake or cookie-wielding neighbor can railroad your efforts for a day of clean eating. The key to recovering your healthy plans, says brain expert, Dr. Amen, is in where you go from there. According to one of our favorite experts in brain science and mental health, after you’ve wiped the cookie crumbs from your lips, your next steps are crucial. Here’s Dr. Amen…

Learning from failures helps you identify your most vulnerable moments. We do not want you to be a victim of your failures, but rather to study them, just like a scientist would do. Be curious. We like the phrase, “turn bad days into good data.” Change is a process! If you pay attention, your mistakes can be ever so instructive.

One tip we have found helpful for people who study their failures is to create simple rules for vulnerable times, such as:


Eat healthy foods before bad ones. You’ll find you shift your diet by default. If you fill up on your veggies first, you’ll ultimately eat less of what’s left on your plate.

Be grateful and mindful:

Pray for the food to nourish your body before meals so you can fulfill your mission on earth. Remember that food is fuel.

Eat veggies first:

Like our first tip, it’s important to fill up on good foods first. But veggies, especially greens, can also help you to better digest other foods.

Share your goals and your plates:

Split your orders with a partner or friend. Try a greater variety and eat less of those large restaurant portions.

Preemptive strike:

Eat before you go to the ballgame or dinner party to avoid being tempted by the caramel apples or hors d’oeuvres.

Use smaller plates:

Sounds funny, but the truth is we tend to fill whatever size plate we’re given. Smaller plates, smaller portions. Simple as that.

Put it off:

You can cheat on your diet, but only after reading your motivation list and calling a friend – this introduces delay and social support and may help you skip that craving altogether.


When tempted, take a walk, repeat a poem or drink a glass of water. Be aware of the impulse and then focus on something else until the impulse goes away.

These tips come from Dr. Amen’s new book, The Daniel Plan, written with Rick Warren and Mark Hyman. Get a copy of your own and start learning from this trio of wellness heroes!

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