Yep, you read correctly, “How to cheat on your diet.” If you’re going to break some rules, there are some
good better ways to go about it, and I’m going to tell you about them.
First though, I want to clarify something: I don’t really like the word “cheat” if the unhealthy food you’re eating is part of your game plan. In the Nutrition Tithe post, I offered up the idea of eating healthy 90% of the time, and the remaining 10% can be for some fun stuff. When the time comes for you to eat that 10%, I don’t want you to feel like you are cheating… after all, it’s part of the plan.
Think of it this way, if you set up a budget, you have different categories: housing, clothes, healthcare, auto, and so on. One category might be “Fun Money” and this is to do with whatever you want… a movie, socks, P90X videos, you name it. When you go to spend that money, I wouldn’t want you to feel guilty about it… you were disciplined and set that money aside. The “Fun Money” was part of the plan. Same goes with the 10%. It should be enjoyable. And here are some tips on maximizing that enjoyment.
Tip #1: Eat your favorite version of that food
You want in on a little secret? I love donuts. Yes, I know how incredibly bad they are… all the sugar and carbs and fat. I know this, but I still love them. I’m not saying I eat them a lot, but just that I really, really like them (look at those t-shirts if you don’t believe me…. and yes, I do wear those in public thank you very much). However, I refuse to eat anything but my favorite versions. For instance, I don’t eat those little Hostess Gems. Not worth it. However, I do eat freshly made donuts from a landmark bakery here in Louisville, Kentucky called Plehn’s. They make their donuts from scratch. You can smell them from the street. And they’re fantastic. That’s the donut for me! I also enjoy a good Krispy Kreme. But you’ll never see me eat the kind that are sold in the grocery or at the gas station… you know, the ones that have been sitting around for who knows how long. Why do this? The calories are going to be the same if you eat the fresh, good ones or the crumby, old ones. So only eat the good ones, your favorite ones.
Tip #2: Do NOT eat distracted
Any time you are eating, but especially when it’s the 10%, you should be thinking about the food as you’re eating it, right? What does it smell like? Good texture? Are you enjoying the flavor? Is it worth using towards your 10%? But you can’t fully enjoy it if you’re distracted.
What does this mean? Don’t participate in mindless eating. Don’t eat while driving. Don’t eat while reading. Don’t eat while watching TV. Don’t eat while working at the computer. You get my drift? You wouldn’t randomly spend fun money on something without thinking about it. Same goes for food.
Tip #3: Eat the healthiest version of that food if possible
Let’s say you’ve never met a cheeseburger you didn’t like. You’ve been diligent all week, carefully planning for your 10%. The weekend rolls around and you’re ready for some of that greasy goodness. I’d encourage you to drive right on past McDonalds and head to a home-grown joint that uses local beef. If local beef isn’t an option, chances are, they’re still using a higher quality meat than McDonalds (or any fast food joint, be it Burger King, White Castle, Wendy’s, etc.). In fact, they’re probably using higher quality everything. This way, you can still enjoy a delicious burger without the often accompanied ill-effects of fast food. This same idea applies to pizza, ice cream, cookies, most anything really. The healthier the version, the better!
Tip #4: Do NOT eat straight out of the bag, container, package, etc.
If you are eating ice cream, please take the time to scoop it out of the container. Don’t peel off the lid and grab a spoon and start going to town. You WILL overeat it, I promise. You’re 10% will easily turn to 20% if you’re not intentional about this. Same with chips. Don’t just grab a bag and start pounding them. I’m not even suggesting you measure them out, but at the very least, pour some in a bowl and put the bag away. It’s just too easy to go overboard when you’re eating straight from the package. Trust me, I know of which I speak. I nearly killed a whole bag of buffalo wing flavored pretzel bits once, and my tongue sat on the DL for a good few days because of it. The idea is to enjoy your 10%, not exceed it. Enough said.
Tip #5: Eat ssssslllllooooooowwwwwwlllllllyyyyyy
Your brain and your belly are always talking. But sometimes, it takes a while for the message to get through (kind of like in a marriage… and I’m sure you already know who the belly is in mine). When you’re eating, it takes the brain 20 minutes to send a signal to your stomach that it’s had enough. So, if you eat fast, you’re likely going to eat more than you need to be satisfied. That’s the first part. The second reason to eat slow is so that you can actually enjoy it. It doesn’t taste better just because you’re eating it faster does it? So put the fork down after each bite. Or better yet, do what we did and buy chopsticks (assuming you’re not good with them… which our family is not). Not only will your eating speed come down to a more reasonable pace, your kids will learn a skill, and you’ll look totally boss the next time you’re at PF Changs, enjoying that 10% meal.
Closing thoughts: I’m not here to be a fun-squasher. I’m not one of those nutrition sticklers that says you can never eat __________. I say go for it, enjoy that 10% that you worked so hard for. If your absolute favorite hamburger is McDonalds, than by all means, if it’s in the 10%, enjoy it… I won’t judge you. In fact, if one of your favorite things is to watch TV while eating generic Doritos straight out of the bag, if it’s in that 10%, you’ve earned it.
But what I’m mostly encouraging you to do is to be intentional. Be thoughtful about it. Employ balance and smart practices. That’s what it’s all about… maximizing the enjoyment while minimizing any unwelcome side-effects. Do this, and you’ll never hear me call you a “cheater cheater (fill in the blank) eater.”