Myth: Learning From Our Mistakes

Read time: 90 seconds

Let’s say we binged on food for a night, loading our body with calories like a bulldozer filling a flower pot with dirt.


We hear it all the time. It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as we learn from it.

Well, it’s not OK to make mistakes. But if we do, our mistakes don’t define us. Making a mistake does not mean that we’re a mistake. And, especially in diet, mistakes are often not permanent.

If we’re told to learn from our mistakes, then we’d be clear on what NOT not to do. But exactly what to do remains ambiguous.

And ambiguity can be dangerous.

“I know I shouldn’t have eaten that entire pizza and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s last night…”

But yet tonight we eat a multi-deck cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a large milkshake.

Our lesson gained from the mistake taught us what not to do, but was not clear on what to do.

Another “lesson” buried under further excess calories.

Rather than trying to learn from our mistakes (which is really just meaningless rhetoric and the only real lesson is the useless don’t do it again), try to learn from our successes.

What have we done in the past that was successful?

Eat something light for one night? Eat mostly vegetables and a quality piece of fish? Or maybe skip the meal altogether and go for a walk, go to the bookstore, or drink some sparkling water with a good magazine?

What has worked? What had made you feel better, physically and mentally, after a night of uninhibited eating? For me it’s just skipping a meal or two… simply turning off the valve. At other times I go completely Paleo for a couple of days.

Whatever balances out the caloric intake in our favor over the next day or two (or by the end of the week) is considered success.

I know for a fact that going 100% Paleo for a couple of days, or using short-term fasting, have brought success — and they have allowed me to think of pizza and ice cream less of a mistake and more of a joy.

When we try to learn from failure, then we become fixated on failure. Instead, learn from our successes.

And do what has brought them.

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12 Responses to Myth: Learning From Our Mistakes

  1. mommy1.618 says:

    Hi Johnny,

    I’ve been out for a while, but have been reading steadily. I feel like you were channeling my thoughts this morning about how I ate with my family last night. UGH. Everything you say about learning from our mistakes is right–it is all rhetoric. We should focus on our successes instead. Gotta get back on track again. Thanks, Johnny.

  2. Jordan D. says:


    On Wednesday I had my first slip up in a while. I took three things from this mistake:

    1) The next day I simply skipped my first meal and only ate dinner. A quick, easy way to get back on track. 🙂
    2) Although it was more food than I should have eaten given my weight loss goals, it was much less food than the scary amounts I’ve consumed in the past. So that’s actually something about the mistake that I can feel good about.
    3) I was stuck at 209 pounds for about a week. My weight this morning: 207. 🙂

    As you said, these mistakes aren’t permanent. I did myself no harm.

  3. Fern says:

    I slipped, too. Gained 4 when too much company, food and traveling went back to back. But I’m doing the paleo thing-got some great recipes here
    and missing a meal here and there worked to get it off.

    Thanks, Johnny.

  4. moe says:

    Good post. I have found another good reinforcement to aid in repeating your successes. When you have a good meal, tell yourself that was good, and emotionally FEEL good about it, even smile as you think about the good thing you just did for your body.

  5. Casey Adams says:

    Very good post. It is reminder like this that I personally need to read regularly because it’s so easy to start believing that if you “mess up” once, it’s permanent. It’s good to be reminded that you can balance things out the next day just by eating less or skipping a meal. Intermittent fasting has kept me on track in the past 15 pounds of weight loss, and it’s all been relatively simple. At this point, I believe this can easily be a permanent eating lifestyle! Thanks, Johnny!

  6. Casey Adams says:

    Oh and by the way, even though I’ve lost 15 pounds, I’ve noticed more and more muscular definition. The kind of physique I’ve always wanted is beginning to show! I just lift some weight and keep my workouts simple, like you’ve written before.

  7. Al says:

    I think my biggest mistake is forgetting that getting lean and staying lean (by eating whole foods and using IF) is a “LIFESTYLE” and nothing else. To me lifestyle = commitment.

    Once I understand and accept this “LIFESTYLE” concept then I will eventually obtain the results that I am after. Good post.

  8. Marc says:

    I remember years ago reading Art Devany posts, and he kept stressing “be patient! be patient….and stick with it….it WILL come”

    All I can share is my experience and I can tell you it took me a little over 3 years. I woke up one morning looked in the mirror and realised I didn’t quite look the same anymore 😉

    Be gentle with yourself, be patient and stick with it. You will get what you’re after.


    • Johnny says:

      Great comment, Marc. Being gentle with yourself is what makes the whole thing sustainable.


  9. Jane says:

    Just found your blog and already read most of your articles. This is just great and it sounds so easy. And then you go and proof it with your amazing look in those pictures you posted.

    As you probably know most women are always on a diet and nothing seems to work. We pack on and on and on those kilos and body fat. Most of us haven’t figured out what to do, while some lucky gals found their way to keep the unwanted body fat off.

    I am one of those still looking for the holy grail. Unfortunately, I cannot digest vegetables, even leafy greens, very good. They slow digestion real bad and they take many days to digest at all. I have been eating fruits almost only for the last months and was able to shed a lot of body fat. Introduced some raw cheeses and the occasional egg and BAM body fat is creeping back.

    Have you got any idea what the reason could be?

    Also, what do you think of being a fruitarian?

    Appreciate your answer and the time you take.

    Keep those articles coming 🙂

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Jane,

      I’m not entirely familiar with fruitarianism but I understand that it’s mainly a consumption of fruit. I’m not sure if I personally can limit myself to eating just fruit, but others seem to do fine with it. I don’t know how balanced this diet can be, from a micronutrient standpoint. But there’s not a lot we truly understand about nutrient balance other than the limited context of scientific studies on micronutrients.

      Anyway, I’m not sure why you seem to be unable to digest vegetables. Ask yourself what kind of vegetables you’re eating, where they’re from, how often you experienced this, etc. If it doesn’t add up, you may consider seeking professional opinions.

      My experience has been that intermittent fasting helps people on almost any kind of diet, from Paleo to vegetarianism to standard American diet. In the end, it is the control of calorie intake that will transpire to end-weight. What kind of diet you chose may dictate how easy the diet is long-term — does it make you satiated, does it increase hunger, does it increase the addictive value of food? (Food that tastes unreasonably good tend to trigger the neuclus acumbens, the reward center of the brain that reacts similarly to that with drug use. Typically food that’s been flavored with a lot of fat, salt, and sugar. Stay away from these foods and many people can stick to a low-calorie diet better.)


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