I know this won’t be popular at first, but, hear me out; I am not a fan of the cheat meal. Think of it this way. You have committed to a healthy lifestyle. Imagine if the person you were dating said to you, “Look honey, I’ve been faithful all week, so this Friday I’m going to go out with my friends and find someone to sleep with.” If you said, “Yeah sure that’s fine,” this behavior is now acceptable, and the relationship probably won’t last very long. In the same way, if you restrict your food, and then reward yourself by over eating unhealthy options, you are doing the same thing. You are only kind of committing to a healthy lifestyle.
So how can we best create a lifestyle we can commit to for the long-term? Start by deciding what kind of relationship you will have with your food. Are you casually dating clean eating and seeing some processed foods on the side? Are you in an open relationship with food? Are things kind of serious, but you’re open to seeing other nutritional options? From this decision you will build your meal plan and decide what foods you will allow into your diet and which food you will either exclude, or keep to a minimum.
Sometimes, when we decide to start to change our eating, the changes we make are too drastic to stay with long-term. We overwhelm ourselves because the upkeep is unmanageable and unrealistic. Sometimes, it takes some easing in to. Let’s say you currently eat 1,800 calories a day of processed food and you don’t work out beyond walking to your car. If you say, well I’m going to go Paleo and workout twice a day, then, you may be setting yourself up for failure. This may be a better long term goal. What steps can you take to meet it? Maybe you want to add 3 workouts per week for a month and cut out white flour for a month. Then, maybe the next month you want to add another workout and make another change to your meal plan. Really ask yourself, “How realistic is it that I will stay with this until I reach my desired fitness goal?”
Keep in mind your long term goal, and set a realistic time line. Maybe it will take a year. So set 11 short term goals to hit that will allow you to reach that goal by month 12.
In the past, what usually gets in the way of you meeting your goal? Is it pizza, ice cream? Don’t stop yourself from having it. Let yourself flirt with it so you don’t have a full on affair later. Maybe every night you eat a pint of ice cream, instead of buying a pint, buy individual serving sizes and allow yourself to have one of those per night. Pair it with a healthy option like a banana, or some peanut butter, that will satisfy your craving in a more fulfilling and nutritional way. If you count calories, include that in your daily calorie count; if you incorporate it in, knowing you are going to eat it, you won’t be cheating and you won’t feel guilty. As you continue on, maybe you’ll only do this three times a week, then once, then only occasionally when the mood strikes. By not forbidding yourself from having it, when you do, it’s not a bad thing.
Just like dating, if we pull out our Pinterest dream wedding board over drinks on the first date, chances are you’re not going to see date 2. Take it slow. Get to know yourself and your food. You’re looking to make a change that will last a lifetime, if you rush it, chances are, you will scare yourself from committing to it. Make your goals manageable and set a realistic time line to get to them, and remember, it’s not cheating if it’s an agreed upon part of your meal plan.