First, I would like to say that “cheat” meals or foods do not exist. While they may not be as healthy as some of the other things you eat, it is still food. And “cheat” or “bad” is largely exaggerated by the way you think about sweets.
What if I told you that eating a small piece of chocolate after dinner would be better than eating 5 more fork fulls of your processed carb pasta dish you just ate? After all, the foods we eat get burned as sugars in our bodies anyway.
There are far worse things out there in the world than indulging in sweets from time to time. You are no lesser of a human because you crave sweets. Once you stop self-identifying yourself as weak, you can start to focus on the how.
Remember that viewing a cheat meal as such forces a negative relationship and shames you into thinking you have failed yourself. Instead of avoiding sweets, you should plan to build them into your lifestyle. I’m going to show you a few ways at the end how to do just that.
Change the way you think about sweets
For many, it seems logical to overlook the importance of an entire meal instead of the evil parts that might make it up. The wrong perspective is eating a massive plate of pasta with three servings of bread, cheese galore and not bat an eye but if this was a small portion of chocolate, the response becomes “No I shouldn’t have that.”
In this scenario, your carbs are the problem, not the small brownie/cookie you ate after dinner. While sugar has been demonized over and over, which it should be, it has distracted us from the real problem that happens way more frequently.
By focusing only on avoiding sweets, you take away the mental capacity you have to make healthier decisions in other areas. For example, let’s say you are at the cheesecake factory (why I picked that I have no idea because I hate that place). You think, well I’m going to eat healthy today. I’m not going to get cheesecake at the end of the meal. Nice. Well played.
Subconsciously, you think you won. You have already made the decision that you are being healthy because of the sacrifice you will make. But you forgot to account for something. That is 70-80 percent unhealthy and oversized main course meal that matters most.
The bigger culprits
We have all heard the 80/20 principle time and time again, but what about this one; 70/20/10. 70 percent whole food awesomeness, 20 percent borderline health foods (the semi-healthy stuff to make your food taste better), and 10 percent whatever the hell you want.
The problem is most people have a lack of understanding what that 70 or 80 percent whole food is.
Our society has tricked people into chasing mouth pleasure. The constant pursuit of things that have to taste good.
I say, grow up. Not all healthy food is the most delicious thing you can have, but you can make it taste better.
Let’s take a look at the foods that are far more of a problem and more common than the rare sweet you might choose from time to time:
- Flavored low-fat yogurt (even greek)
- Low-fat foods
- Almost all types of bread
- Too many fruits
- 100% fruit drinks
- Protein bars
Shall I go on? Read the food labels if you do not believe me.
Of course, you know that doughnuts are bad for you. You know that pop, candy bars, and all of the other forms of sweets are bad for you.
We all know what we shouldn’t have. It is the fixation on not breaking the rules that cause people to overlook the hidden dangers of “healthy” foods being consumed more often and in unbalanced portions.
Remember that when we eat carbs, they are broken down into simple sugars in the digestive tract with fiber being the exception. Simpler carbs such as most bread, white rice, fruits, and sweets are easily converted into sugars in our bodies.
Instead of avoiding sweets like the plague, view them as just another food. It’s about the complete picture of nutrition, not just the eliminating the bad. Build these indulgences into the diet instead of losing track of your overall goals.
Below are 6 ways to help change your relationship with sweets.
Two groups were told that each time they were faced with a tough decision to say “I can’t do x” vs “I don’t do x” in the number of questions they were asked. Upon turning in the assignment and walking out the door, they were offered an ice cream treat. The result?
“The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time as opposed who said “I don’t eat X” choosing it 36% of the time. By self-identifying and changing their terminology, the “don’t-ers” were able to resist more than the “can’t-ers.”
Even the small percentage of time you say no will compound over time into something great.
Do it for your gut bacteria
By consistently eating the same foods, your gut bacteria will start to rumble in your stomach making you crave the foods you feed it.
It’s fine to give in sometimes, but depriving your gut bacteria of the foods it craves is one of the “easiest” things you can do. Over time, these gut bugs will start to dissipate and your cravings for sweets will be reduced. And you eventually desensitize yourself to sugar which makes everything taste overly sweet. Even non-indulgent foods!
Think about your choice from that perspective for a second. You have the control. Challenge yourself instead for the sake of better gut bacteria. Your motive becomes different when you are doing it for other reasons than just weight loss.
Understand your weaknesses
The real question is understanding when you crave sweets the most. Is it at home during everyday life or is it only in occasions where you know there are sweets around? Of course, the latter is harder than shit to master.
Make a list of your moments of weakness. When and where are you most likely to over indulge in sweets? Now, think about how to overcome this. Maybe this is where you might also make them hard to get to.
That way when you go digging through the freezer like a fiend you will realize how desperate you really are.
Choose the best quality sources
Here’s my secret. Tell your wife/husband, who may or may not be an awesome baker, to make only healthy sweets. Don’t buy them, but try to recreate a healthier, low sugar option.
For example, Michelle makes these almond butter, banana, and cocoa squares. Very simple ingredients and provides just enough substance to get the taste. Simple and non-destructive to my overall health.
How about her muffins? These bland little bastards (but they are only bland to others. Remember the desensitization?) are created with coconut flour and almond meal and have very little sugar (Add some Kerrygold butta and yes, please).
The most recent, her chocolate truffles. These were made with coconut shavings, coconut oil, and cocoa powder.
Just get a taste
I believe that when you know you are getting a taste, you tell your mind that it is OK. It is this mindfulness that allows you to be more accepting because it was something you built into your meal. By choosing a small portion you are not violating any hard commitment you made.
Instead of binge eating because you “cheated”, you took back the control.
Cut any and all sweets into bite size pieces and enjoy. Sometimes all we need is the taste. Take a bite of a cookie or ice cream and put the rest away. For me, this sometimes means I will take a bite of a delicious cookie and throw the little sucker away. Out of sight, out of mind.
Instead of giving in, try shifting the focus to something healthier. If you are truly still hungry, eat another whole food instead. But if you are full, realize that it is just a craving and it will eventually go away.
Try to give yourself at least 10-15 minutes and start doing something else. If after that time you cannot overcome the craving, then it’s a good indication that you might have to reevaluate the distribution of macronutrients of your meals.
One of the keys to reducing cravings is to eating to satiety. If all of your “main meals” are unbalanced, this will be hard to do.
So, why you running?!
Eating sweets obviously is not the best choice you can make. In fact, it is the primary reason for many of the diseases in our society today. However, sugar is addicting. It is also a temptation that exists almost everywhere.
Yet, people are somehow OK with poisoning themselves with carb heavy food portions that aren’t part of well-balanced meals. Or some might justify having a couple craft beers/slices of pizza in place of sweets and then get all high and mighty that they didn’t choose the sweets.
Don’t you want to have both?
When we stop looking at indulgences as binary choices, more options start to open up. We begin to think creatively how to build them into a healthy balanced diet. Most importantly, we begin to realize that they make up such a small portion of our diets!
I agree that it’s easy to overindulge. You are no lesser of a human being if you have a small portion of something sweet from time to time.
When you learn to be satisfied with a little taste of something, you can accept that it won’t wreck your day and stay focused on the other important things in life.
Have any expert temptation tips? The world needs them now more than ever. Be sure to share this if you think it was helpful!