I do not have a perfect diet nor do I want to. Perfection does not allow for holidays, birthdays, monumental celebrations or simply a normal Wednesday gone awry. A flawless diet does not exist because something is going to be sacrificed such as your social life, travel schedule or pure sanity. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a life without some of our favorite foods be it pizza, donuts, ice cream or my Aunt’s prized apple pie. While, this is not a promotion to make these foods a part of your weekly grocery list, rest assure that you can still achieve your health goals and still have a some fun along the way.
If you can stick to your healthy eating plan consistently throughout the week, then having an indulgence once a week is perfectly fine. Remember you are what you repeatedly do, not what you occasionally do. One indulgence won’t ruin your diet just the same that eating one salad won’t improve it. Studies have shown that being “too healthy” can bring its share of consequences. So personally, I welcome opportunities, when appropriate, to enjoy fun foods that I normally don’t consume on a regular basis (see chart above 🙂 ). Here are some additional tips to help guide your indulgent behaviors.
Don’t write off your favorite treats. Making certain foods forbidden can have nasty consequences— both mentally and behaviorally. Sometimes telling yourself “no” does nothing but intensify those thoughts and cravings. Think of it in terms of a pressure relief valve. The occasional indulgence can help relieve built-up pressure of cravings and bring you back to a happy equilibrium.
Make it count. Indulging can be defined by the act of pampering or spoiling oneself. It should be a real indulgence and not a pale substitute. While some substitutes may taste quite authentic, most will leave you lingering for the real deal and will not fully satisfy those specific cravings. On the other end, if something doesn’t hit the spot stop eating it! There is nothing worse than the feeling that you just wasted your special treat on something you did not truly enjoy. Be confident that there will be plenty of future opportunities to treat yourself.
Define when you will indulge. You have heard me preach before how strongly I dislike the phrase “everything in moderation”. This message is simply too vague and most walk away with the thought that it’s okay to eat something less nutritious on a frequent basis as long as it’s a small serving size. For example having a daily small portions of dessert is not practicing moderation, it is your habit. Reserve indulgences to special occasions and celebrations such as weddings, holidays, annual festivals, etc. Sorry, but making it through a Monday is not necessarily a good reason to treat yourself.
Plan ahead, when possible. Let’s say your indulgence is spending $$$ on a vacation. Leading up to and even after your trip, you are probably going to be a little more conservative with your wallet. This approach can also be applied to your eating habits. If you know of your potential indulgence ahead of time, try to make sure you have high quality meals and snacks all week. No need to decrease calories, but make the calories you do consume as nutrient-dense as possible.