Whether it is cheese cake, ice cream, chocolate chips cookies, or that pizza that has been menacingly calling your name, entirely cutting out foods that you enjoy from your diet is a recipe for disaster.
So what are you to do? In this post I’ll show you how I manage my unhealthy food cravings without losing my sanity in the process.
Most fitness companies are so focused on the short-term sale. They’ll pollute consumers’ minds with false hope saying “Eat whatever you want, whenever you want” so they'll buy their diet plans. This is not only unhealthy, but it’s totally false. There has to be boundaries and structure to any healthy weight loss diet.
On the other hand, I have seen diets on the opposite end of the spectrum. They will tell you to stay completely away from any and all junk foods. These extreme diets usually work only in the short term. In an ideal world, the philosophy of avoid junk food at all costs would work. But is that realistic for the majority of people? I'm going out on a limb and saying no for this.
What I have seen happen to these dieters is that they don't eat any junk food for a week or so. Not long after, their cravings become too much to bear and they binge eat whatever junk food is in sight. Often just one binge eating session can cancel out a week’s worth of effort. This spurs the guilt cycle, where you blame yourself for giving into temptation and you become discouraged with pursuing your weight loss goals.
If you want to find a way to be healthy without sacrificing all of your junk foods, then follow these tips to indulge smartly:
Don’t completely deprive yourself. Add small portions of the foods that satisfy your craving once or twice a week. In my previous post “Weekends are Making You Fat,” there is a fine line between indulging and overindulging. I mentioned binge eating before. I do not want to get that confused with a cheat meal.
The difference between the two is that when you binge eat, you are mindlessly eating whatever is in sight without regard for your target caloric intake. A cheat meal is something you would normally not eat as part of a healthy diet, in moderation. You are still accountable to be in range of your daily target caloric intake. If you allow yourself to “let loose” and eat whatever you want, I can guarantee that you’ll eventually need to let your pants loose to accommodate for your expanding waistline.
Add some flavor. Just because you’re limiting “bad foods” does not mean the rest of your diet has to be void of flavor. There are so many delicious entrees and desserts that are actually packed with nutrients. We actually make it extremely easy for members of The 20-20 Workout to eat healthy, pallet-happy meals. We make and eat every single meal in the recipe section. My wife and I check to make sure every recipe tastes great, is simple to make and most of all is healthy.
Schedule your treats. Planning your treats ahead of time can be beneficial in two ways: first it gives you something to look forward to. Second it will help condition you mentally to limit your treats to those designated times. You may choose to have a small indulgent snack daily, or an indulgent meal you love as part of a Friday dinner. Either way, just make sure you do not go overboard and exceed your daily calorie goals.
Stop snacking on 100 calorie snack packs. When 100 calorie snack packs were first introduced to consumers, they were a dieter’s dream. After all, you could eat double chocolate caramel mocha cookies for just a 100 calories! What could be bad about that?
It turns out that these snack packs contain a lot of processed ingredients and are loaded with artificial sweeteners. While it may only be 100 calories, it’s not healthy by any means.
The biggest problem is that 100 calorie snack packs do not fill you up. Not even a little bit. The first time I saw this snack was at my parents’ house. I was pretty hungry and sifting through the kitchen cabinets. I laid my eyes on a 100 calorie snack pack that my mom received from a well-known diet class that she attends. The inner health nut in me jumped up and down in excitement. The hunger side of me was happy too when I saw "Decadent Double Chocolate cookie" written across the package.
I quickly grabbed the bag and was ready to rip into it. Just before I opened it, I stopped, shook the bag and thought “Did they forget to fill this thing?” The bag looked like a balloon. The air alone took up 80% of the bag. My empty stomach did not care and nudged me to proceed.
I peeled open the bag and saw three mini cookies staring back at me. Three lousy cookies! “No wonder why it’s 100 calories!” I thought. After forcing myself to eat the entire bag (sarcastic much?), I felt even hungrier.
Next time you go to reach for a low-calorie snack, remember what a snack should be with this acronym: Satisfying Nutrients And Craving Killers.
It is more important to eat filling, nutritious foods that satiate your appetite than to eat snacks that further instigate your hunger pangs. After all, it will just make you more hangry (the compound of hungry and angry).
Swap this for that. When it’s time to indulge, try to find a healthier version of what you want to eat. The awareness of health issues has created a market for healthier versions of the snacks that we all grew up with. Examples of this are baked chips instead of regular, reduced fat Oreo’s, low calorie ice cream and frozen yogurts. This is a simple way to cut a few calories, but still satisfy your cravings.
Cut your portions. For many, indulgence comes in the form of going to a restaurant or getting takeout food. It may seem like a relatively harmless indulgence, but don’t be fooled. Restaurant portions have become increasingly large over the past decade, and as a result those who eat out often have larger waistlines than those who cook food at home. These jumbo portion sizes quickly tip you over your daily caloric intake threshold and cause you to pack on the pounds.
A few years back, I was out to dinner with a few friends. The waiter brought out the dinner plates and set it down on the table. When my friend got her meal, she instinctively took her knife and started cutting her chicken in half as well as the sides she ordered. She pushed half of the meal to one side of the plate and then proceeded to eat her dinner. After we were finished with our meals, she had half of her plate left and scooped the uneaten portion in a container to take home.
I thought this was a great idea because usually we let our stomachs tell us if we could finish the meal. When our stomachs are full, we’ll either push through the pain and eat the rest of our meal (we’ve all been there) or box up whatever is left.
But what my friend did was opposite of our conventional dining habits. She made the decision that she was only going to eat half of the portion and take home the rest. By doing so, she did not allow her stomach to control her mind. Even if we do box up the left over food, we have already given our stomach the control to make the decision for us.
If you don’t think you have the willpower to pack up the food at the end of the meal, then do it at the beginning. Ask the server for a take home container and before you even take a bite of your food, you’ll have the food out of site and out of mind. If you are still hungry at the end of your meal, drink water. This will help fill you up and give your stomach time to signal your brain that it has had enough food.
Add healthy items to your indulgent foods. Want to have that delicious snack, but with less calories and no guilt? Instead of having bowl of ice cream with whipped cream or chocolate sprinkles, add chia seeds. These flavorless seeds provide the texture that you would get from sprinkles and is packed with healthy nutrients. Chia seed are especially high in fiber, which will keep you full and satisfied so you don’t continue to ravage the kitchen pantry.
If you have a sweet tooth that you normally satisfy with syrup or sugar, try using sugar substitutes like PureVia. PureVia is the best sweetener that I have come across. This all natural, zero calorie sweetener is sweet without the bitter after taste you get from other zero calorie alternatives.
Stick to it!
In the end, it is all about staying on course with your diet goals. By adding a little indulgence to your diet, you make it easier to stick to your goals, and more importantly make it a way of life. So incorporate a cheat meal or daily snack into your diet, just don’t overdo it!
What are some of your craving killers? Comment below to let us know!