Eating healthy is one of the biggest goals people make for themselves all throughout the year. Generally January 1st is the big kickoff, but it seems like it’s always a constant thing people say. “Oh, I just need to eat healthier.” or “Man, I could really stand to eat more fruits and veggies.” It’s just a part of who we are. Always trying to eat better and getting on the Eat Healthy Bandwagon. The problem is that so many people think that eating healthy means they have to deprive themselves of some of their favorite foods. If I’m going to eat healthy, that means no more of my favorite ice cream. Let me tell you, that is so not the case.
Depriving yourself of your favorite tasty treats can generally only lead to unhealthy thoughts and habits.
Why Deprivation is Harmful
What happens when you tell yourself you’re not allowed to eat any more of a certain food? Well, I don’t know about you, but the only thing I’m able to think about eating is that one food that I’ve banned from myself. I try to ignore the cravings. I try to move on. But the more I think about it and tell myself I can’t have it, the more I feel like I just need to have it! Eventually I will cave in, eat a ton of it, feel guilty about it and basically beat myself up over the “damage.” This can lead to low self-esteem because you feel too weak. You feel like you don’t have any self-control. You think you’re not good enough to be able to avoid these “bad” foods. Also, much of the time, you end up eating large portions of these foods you have forbidden, which makes the damage quite a bit worse than if you had just allowed these foods that you love into your life in small quantities.
So How Is it Possible to Eat Healthy and Enjoy the Foods You Love?
Looking through Happy Food Healthy Life’s recipe vault, it’s easy to think that I don’t actually eat all that healthy. I love to bake cupcakes, brownies, and mix up some yummy alcoholic drinks. These things aren’t necessarily screaming healthy by any means. The truth of the matter is that I sure do love these treats. They’re fun to think of, fun to bake, and super fun to share with you all as well as eat myself! But I definitely feel better when I am eating more healthy foods that are good for me. Foods that are based in the produce section of the grocery store. So how do I find balance?
I don’t deprive myself of anything at all. Once I know that all foods are available to me at any time I want them, I lose a large amount of desire for all the extra sweet treats. For example, I used to tell myself I couldn’t eat ice cream because it was bad for me and would make me fat. Then I would eventually cave in and eat about half a gallon of ice cream in one setting. That did not feel good but I had to get as much of it as I could before I told myself I couldn’t have it again! As you can imagine, that didn’t really work for me. Now what I do is keep ice cream around in the freezer much of the time. I’m allowed to have it whenever I want. Knowing that keeps the desires at bay and I rarely crave it any more. And when I do, I have a little bit and then stop when I’m satisfied, knowing that it’s available as soon as I feel like another little treat.
Another one of my favorite ways to feel good about the treats I love to eat is by making healthy substitutions to the foods I love. Whole wheat flour when I can. Applesauce instead of oils. Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese. Many of these options help make my favorite treats a little more nutritious without sacrificing taste. I’ve also learned how to make some smart drink choices so that I’m able to enjoy my favorite adult beverages as well.
Moderation. Moderation. Moderation
What it comes down to is moderation. Think of it as a 90/10 rule. If you are eating healthy food that makes you feel good about your body 90% of the time and indulging just 10% of the time, you are bound to make changes and feel good about your lifestyle. Or maybe you’d feel better with an 80/20 rule. You decide what makes you feel good and go with it.
But what’s not going to work is eating super clean 100% of the time. And eating dessert and treats 100% of the time isn’t going to work either. Find balance. Find what will work best for you.
So as you make your goals to eat healthy, remember that it doesn’t have to be boring. You don’t have to miss out on all your favorites. Allow yourself to be flexible. There will be some occasions where you will want to indulge more, and that is just fine. Try little bites of everything you would like to try. And when you’re finished, get right back into eating healthy foods.