Too often I see people (especially women) denying themselves their favourite food on a frequent basis, many of the people I know of (male & female) who have gone through a period of restrictive eating said something along the lines of “it made me miserable” and didn’t stick with it long term, which is no surprise.
When we tell ourselves that we can’t have something, that’s when we want it most! This makes dieting difficult and is why most people who diet don’t stick with it very long & also why it tends to be followed by a period of binging. I remember watching a show a few years ago in which women were asked to follow a severely restricted diet which resulted in the women “cracking” half way through, with one eating ¾ of a packet of biscuits that she didn’t even like
simply because it was the first thing she found in her cupboard.
My own food journey has gone from eating mostly processed food to eating wholesome, natural food whilst still enjoying the occasional indulgence (yes I sometimes eat chocolate that I didn’t make myself) therefore I wanted to share what works for me in the hope that it also works for others.
1) Recognise and accept that treats are a necessity: As I mentioned before, chronic food restriction usually leads to binging afterwards and in the long term may lead to a very unhealthy relationship with food. Therefore, tell yourself its ok to have a treat and that food is one of the greatest joys in life which you deserve!
|Choc salted caramel slice I had for my birthday
2) Mindfulness: When having a treat make sure to actually pay attention when you’re eating it, many people eat treat food when they’re stressed and are so preoccupied with the scenario that has them stressed that they don’t even realise what they’re eating, they don’t savour it therefore don’t feel satisfied & then want more
The reason behind treating ourselves is that we enjoy & get some pleasure from it, so by not savouring the chocolate/treat we defeat the whole purpose! Taking time to savour your treat also decreases the chances that you’ll over eat.
: Looking up healthy food bloggers is a fantastic way of getting inspired about what to make and can really help with making your treats nutritious. I personally am not vegan but I do love many vegan/raw bloggers as they tend to be very creative with their ingredients & always leave me feeling inspired!
You could also ask a friend to share their favourite healthy recipes and could get baking together which will help you build your recipe treat collection but may also introduce you to new ingredients or new ways to use old ones.One of my favourites is to use butternut squash in brownie mixes, sweet potato in brownies/cakes/puddings or frozen slices of banana to make “icecream” which also counts as 1 of your 5 a day- awesome!
4) Educate yourself:
I love learning about the nutrition in our food and how the various components in it work with our bodies to heal them/keep them functioning smoothly. This is great to know when I’m indulging as it not only helps to make informed healthier choices when selecting food but it also makes me feel good eating it. When I enjoy some dark chocolate I think about the high antioxidant content in it & how it can help to lower blood pressure, when I add nuts or nut butter to my desserts for a creamier flavour (which is very frequently) I’m remembering all the good fats, fibre, antioxidants and variety of minerals they have.
|Pure melted cacao with berries
5) Social Aspect
: Over Christmas/Easter etc there is a heavy social aspect to food, mainly parties. If you’re at a party and so focused on desperately trying not to inhale the smell of the fresh chocolate chip muffins for fear that you’ll cave in and eat them, then you’re not really enjoying that party & I’ll bet you’re also not really listening to anything anyone has to say either.
So instead, let yourself enjoy something delicious but try to scan the food for one that will also provide you with some nutrition if possible e.g. something with fruit in it like chocolate covered strawberries.
Another idea is to make something yourself such as flapjacks full of fruit & nuts to bring to the party which you can snack on knowing what’s in it & will also not leave you feeling hungry which decreases will power.
These are my healthier secret ingredient brownies
6) Lifestyle change
: Over the last few years, one of the biggest differences regarding my eating habits has been the frequency with which I crave unhealthy food/treats. Years ago I would have craved and consumed them a lot, nowadays I genuinely prefer more natural, wholesome food and rarely think about the other stuff. A huge bonus is that this means I can truly enjoy my food and treats knowing that it not only tastes good but is doing me good on the inside too & removes any guilt associated with typical indulgences, win, win!
Start by replacing just 1 or 2 of your regular treats with healthier ones, this could mean it is homemade rather than store bought or replace some ingredients in your recipe with better options e.g swap white sugar for pure maple syrup/ fruit or replace refined white flour with a wholegrain form/ ground almonds.Choose food as close to its natural form as possible, remember that our bodies also come from nature therefore the best way to indulge without doing harm is to choose real food. Eventually your body will crave wholesome food more and more.
|image source: kilospire.com
One thing I don’t do regarding indulgence is a “cheat day” however if you find it works well for you then that’s great, but I personally don’t like the concept. Firstly I feel it’s still very constrained as people are confined to one day a week so still feel deprived the rest of the time meaning they tend to overdo it on cheat days and end up eating all the calories which they’ve burnt off the previous few days.
Another reason I don’t like this term is that the word itself “cheat” implies that it is something bad that you shouldn’t be doing when it’s actually the opposite which is true as we need to eat regularly, so enjoying our food in perfectly natural & shouldn’t make us feel bad at all.
♥ Life is for creating, living & loving (this includes food) so don’t waste so much energy ever again on making yourself feel bad about indulging in some delicious food, simply try to be mindful & make the food nutritious as well as delicious & try to pick something as close to its natural state as possible.
I’d love to hear how you treat yourself well & how it makes you feel?
Trust me this gets easier with time.