Despite what you may have heard, you aren’t a horrible person if you eat a cookie. Same goes if you indulged on Super Bowl Sunday, or ate your entire box of chocolates before Valentine’s Day was over. It happens. You don’t need to feel guilt, mentally beat yourself up or make promises about how you will never, ever do it again. Instead, pay attention to what you eat the rest of the year—on all those days in between. If there’s one piece of advice I give people who are sick of dieting, it’s this: What you do most often counts more than what you do once in awhile.
Your body is a reflection of your daily habits, not a reflection of the one day when you ate French fries or told friends you cheated because you had a piece of birthday cake. The only thing flawed in that situation is your thinking. You aren’t a bad person because of what you ate. You didn’t cheat. You don’t need to be plagued with guilt. You were normal. Here are two simple ways to stop calling yourself a “cheater” if you indulge in the occasional treat.
Forget All or Nothing Thinking
Your self-worth should not be determined by what goes into your mouth. Food and eating are not ethical or moral beliefs that determine whether you are a good or bad person; food is about your choices. If you attach negative values to certain foods and negative judgments about yourself for eating those foods, you are setting yourself up for failure. How do you think you will succeed in making your life healthier when you spend your time putting yourself down?
Don’t give yourself labels like cheated or failed. Guilt makes people give up. That’s the diet mentality and it doesn’t work. All or nothing thinking doesn’t give you space to be real. It makes you feel so badly when you have one cookie, that you may just decide to have six. When I have a good oatmeal raisin cookie every so often, it’s not cheating. It’s me making a choice to eat a cookie. You can’t change your habits with a declaration that any deviation from your healthy plan will ruin it all. Life is full of unplanned obstacles, distractions, and temptations. Your best approach is to prepare for them by establishing a mindset of: Most of the time, I will be healthy.
Your healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be something you are on, it should be something you live. You can transform your eating habits by eating to live and not living to eat. The key to good and sustainable health is to make your lifestyle about choices not cheating.
Aspire to Eat Clean
I advocate clean eating. Focus on eating things that come mostly from plants and trees, sometimes animals, and eat less from boxes, bags, and take-out containers. Look down at your plate: Is most of your food alive or dead? Is it nutrient dense or void of nutrients? Try to get the majority of your daily calories from fresh fruits and vegetables, minimally processed whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds and lean meats and fish. Clean eating minimizes the presence of preservatives, chemically altered fats, extra sodium and artificial ingredients.
Pay attention to portions. It is often not what you are eating, it’s how much. Prepackaged snack foods actually stimulate your appetite. Go for moderation. Do a reality check and give yourself one serving,not three. This takes education, discipline and practice.
Shop the parameter of the store and fill your cart with lots of fruits and veggies. Go for produce that is nutrient rich and has fewer calories. Nutrient rich food provides you with more bang for your buck. Who do you know that gained large amounts of weight by gorging on fruits and veggies?
Clean eating doesn’t mean perfect eating. It doesn’t mean you will never consume another bag of chips or another brownie. It means you are aware that some food choices are more ideal than others. When deciding how to fuel your body, decide wisely most of the time. Don’t attach guilt to your choices, accept them. Enjoy that brownie while you are eating it and develop confidence that you will return right back to your healthy eating habits.
Choose not to participate in the food is either good or evil mentality. Let’s change our thinking from cheating to choices. When you look at eating this way, there is no such thing as cheating.