“Oh no, I dropped my phone and the screen is cracked. Oh well, I’ll just smash it now until it breaks.” This attitude seems a little nonsensical, wouldn’t you agree? But when it comes to staying on track with a nutrition plan, we seem to have this same mindset time and time again.
Let’s set the scene; you’ve just received your new healthy eating plan that goes along with your 8-week transformation goal. Your enthusiasm and determination is at an all-time high and you can’t wait to see those abs appear. You’ve studied your shopping list and recipe E-book and have all of the necessary food items in your arsenal. You’ve cleared the fridge, presses and pantry of any foods that are on the banned list and you are ready to smash it.
Then Friday rolls around after a busy and stressful week at work. You arrive home, have your chicken and chickpea curry with brown basmati rice, it was delicious, but now you fancy something sweet. You rummage through the presses and find a packet of biscuits that you must have missed during the Sunday clear out. As you study your banned food list, you say: “Surely one biscuit won’t hurt? I’ve been doing well, I deserve this small morsel of sugar.” And before you know it the biscuits are gone, and all that remains is a line of crumbs down the front of your shirt. A feeling of guilt and shame washes over you and the verbal bashing start. “The plan is very clear, biscuits and cakes are certainly on the banned food list. Why didn’t I just stick to the plan? Am I that weak? I’m a failure. Okay, I will start afresh tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day. Now what should I do with the rest of these biscuits?” One innocent biscuit quickly turns into an all-out binge and you’re sitting with an empty packet of Caramel Digestives on your lap.
Slow and steady
If this self-destructive behavior sounds familiar, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The pitfall I see so often is that people will always want to take an all-or-nothing approach with nutrition to see results quickly, only eating certain healthy foods and condemning the unhealthy food groups.
It seems we have moved so far away from understanding what food is all about; catching up with the girls over tea and Minstrels, going to your favourite restaurant with your spouse or celebrating a wedding with family and friends, are all enjoyable occasions. Instead of enjoying these moments, we’ve started to panic, allowing the thought of going to social events in which we cannot control the food we eat to fill us with stress and anxiety.
Food is food
The key to de-programming this behavior is by disassociating foods with labels like clean, good, bad, unclean or forbidden. Food types are not something to demonized and feared. Food is food. If you eat something today that you don’t feel is conducive to your goals, that’s OK. The only time you should ever associate feelings of guilty or shame with food is if you’ve stolen it from a shop.
The key to being successful with a nutrition plan and being a healthier version of yourself has nothing to do with how many morning kale and spinach smoothies you drink, or abstaining from refined sugars, it’s about finding balance. It’s about understanding that no one food causes us to gain weight, and one meal enjoyed on the weekend is not going to derail the hard work you’ve put in over the last five days.
So next time you find yourself in the biscuit predicament, avoid the mental turmoil and simply allow yourself to eat it. Enjoy it. Savour it. And afterwards, move on. Life is too short to be tormenting yourself over a biscuit.
Michelle Hone is the head nutrition coach at The Fit Clinic; performance nutritionist with Bray Wanderers FC and Kilmacud Crokes Senior GAA Football and has worked on a one to one level with over 400 clients, including international athletes. For more information visit thefitclinicnutrition.com