In Defense of Cheat Meals
So, it turns out that completely changing your attitude to food is pretty hard and nearly impossible to do without a spectacular cheat meal or two. But are they something to feel guilty about? Science says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Does this mean in 21 days I'll never want to eat anything but nut butters, salad and turkey mince?
I've often wished for quick fixes to my relationship with food but 26 years of programming isn't going to change any time soon, so I have to adapt myself to food changes in a way that doesn't make me feel deprived - and that's difficult. It's a balance between finding ways to enjoy the healthy stuff more and still allowing a certain amount of decadence.
The first part is the easier of the two - I find great recipes, like pulled pork or smoothies, and work them into a regular rotation meals - they become part of my food repertoire and thus form a habit.
The second part is hard, and resisting foods you crave in favour of sticking to you diet is a mental minefield.
Some might be reading this thinking "this is a food blog, not a diet blog - why are you talking like this is a diet?" The fact is, clean eating means giving things up and deliberately avoiding a whole variety of foods, which I'm sorry to tell you, is just like any diet on the planet. For me, the difference with clean eating is that the foods you are avoiding are off-limits because of the highly processed, artificially sweetened ingredients, whereas most other diets I've been on aim to avoid any fatty, sugary or calorific foods.
Clean eating aims for healthy fats and sugars, and quite often that means a lower calorific content but it's not the entire point of it.
Anyway, the trouble I have is portion control and resisting having foods I don't need whenever I feel like it. I may not be perfect but over the years I've developed some tactics to help and I'm passing this advice onto you!
- Always ask yourself if you're really hungry - most likely you're bored. I have always been a boredom eater so know how easy it is to end up on auto-pilot. Make yourself a drink so your trip to the kitchen didn't feel like a waste of time and find a new task.
- Have a hot chocolate - if you have a sweet tooth like me then finding a substitute amoungst the greenery can be hard. My latest clean eating task is to find a hot choccie that not filled with sugar or sweeteners and when I do I will shout it from the rooftops.
- Have snacks prepared - I always have about 3 snacks I take to work because that place is more often than not filled with cake. It's just a very cake-filled office. My snacks obviously stop me from being hungry at my danger times and therefore give me the strength to say no to Charlie's homemade salted caramel birthday cake.
- Tell yourself you don't want it, not that you can't have it - this mentality is hard to get into but once you start using it your confidence in your new diet and you self-control improves dramatically. Everything about your eating should be your choice, if you don't feel that way you're more likely to rebel or give up.
- Don't stock up - it's tempting for money reasons and ease to buy all your special snacks and treats at once. You think you'll save them and they'll last for ages, but who the hell are we kidding?
- Plan a cheat meals into your week - just one mind you! Whether you're avoiding the processed evils of artificial sweetener or calories in general, one cheat meal can save you from a cheat week. I usually have mine on the weekend so I can incorporate it into a social event.
The long terms goal of any dietary change should be sustainability and constant deprivation is not the way to do it.
Go on, treat yo'self.