Last week I was meeting with a client who was telling me about how he can stick with his diet Monday through Friday but then he can’t help but order ALL the food when he goes out on the weekends and is away from his normal routine. My response to him was “You can enjoy everything you eat but you can’t eat everything you enjoy.” We both stopped and lit up like we’d just had a major “Aah haa” moment. We should all LOVE food. It is literally what gives us the energy to live.
And yet this is one of the biggest issues people have with diets and why there is such a struggle to make lasting changes. Cut the cookies, cut the pizza, cut the beer, cut the burgers and fries. Eat only lean meats, bland brown rice and vegetables. Suddenly you’ve cut all the flavor out of your diet and therefore all of the enjoyment out of your food. No wonder you can’t stick with a diet or make long term changes to improve your health.
So how can we enjoy everything we eat and refrain from eating everything we enjoy?
Get creative in the kitchen and learn to cook! Creativity is a part of a happy healthy life. Creativity in the kitchen is crucial to enjoying everything you eat. Try different spices and cooking fats. Which combinations create flavor profiles you enjoy? Bake a sweet treat or combine a new vegetable with your favorite to make a stir fry. Have fun making your plate look presentable. Food that looks good is more palatable. That’s a fact.
Find better alternatives to sweets. Food can heal or food can harm. For example your favorite packaged chocolate chip cookies are filled with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Two ingredients that wreak havoc on your system, increasing inflammation, sugar cravings and fat storage. Does that mean you can never enjoy a chocolate chip cookie? Absolutely not. Opt for a homemade recipe or a chocolate chip cookie dough Lara bar. Both will give you the enjoyment of the flavor without the harmful ingredients.
Eat mindfully. Back in the day the foods that tasted the best (ie: berries and organ meats) were also the most nutritious. And so our brain is wired to want more of what tastes good. Those foods are still the most nutritious but now with the help of industrialization and chemistry we have managed to manufacture foods such as twinkies that may taste delicious (or so I’ve heard) but have no nutritional benefits. Getting in tune with your body and it’s hunger signals can help you to know when to stop, when to indulge and when to reach for a glass of water instead.
Learn how moderation works for you. This one is easy for some and more of a challenge for others. Moderation comes in all different sizes. It is important to reflect on your personality to determine what realistically means moderation for you. For some this is enjoying the burger but not the fries on a weekly basis. For others it’s the once a month indulgence of the burger, the fries AND the milkshake. And for someone else this is a burger at home on top of a salad with some baked sweet potato wedges. Can you enjoy one but not the other?
Do you need help getting creative in the kitchen? Are you looking for nutritious alternatives to your favorite indulgences? Do you understand your body’s signals?