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In a perfect world, we would all be able to choose to not eat something indulgent that is highly processed and also high in sugar, and to never be tempted to allow it into your diet again. We would all have lost the weight when we first decided to do so, or we would have run that race or marathon when we wanted to in the first place.
Unless you have incredible self-control like my husband or Jocko Willink, who says that discipline equals freedom, you are probably like the majority of the human population, and you will fail at times and cheat on your diet or your fitness regime.
You can choose to be very frustrated with yourself and to dive deep into self-loathing when you do fail for a moment or go off the rails for a day, or you could choose to not let a 30-minute meal ruin the next ten hours of your life.
After cheating on diets in the past, I have climbed into very dark and deep holes of self-loathing, and I realise that it is unrealistic to expect myself to be perfect or to do things perfectly. I kept thinking that I had to keep trying to learn what I had to do, so that I would never cheat again, then maybe I just had to change my mindset around cheating on my diet.
In the greater scheme of things, eating badly and too much for one day will not damage your body permanently, and if you eat healthily afterward for three or five days, your body will return back to normal.
Then, if you know that there is a 95% chance that you are going to cheat on your diet, then decide that, from now on, you will not feel guilty if that happens. Also promise yourself that if you are going to cheat on your diet, it has to be worth it.
You will know exactly what I mean by that if you have, in the past, craved something, cheated on your diet, and then the thing you were eating was very disappointing and not nearly as tasty as you imagined it would be.
A disappointing and stale doughnut really is not worth the calories. If a doughnut is what you are really craving, then rather make it a Krispy Kreme doughnut than a cheap, stale, second-rate version of it.
If I choose to eat something that contains gluten, then it has to be worth the side effects of having stomach cramps and my skin breaking out more. The only food source of gluten that I have found is worth a pimple or two is a croissant.
I have exceptions for each one of my diet rules. I do not need gluten, but I will indulge in a croissant. I do not eat sugar, but I will never say no thank you to a macaroon or one of the Lindor balls from Lindt.
I follow a low-carb diet, but I will never give up sushi entirely, and I will have popcorn every few months or so.
If you can weigh up the negative effects of what you are eating, you can decide if eating it will be worth it or not. The same applies to when you are eating the indulgent treat. Sharing a piece of cake with a friend is much better than eating cake alone in your pyjamas.
Taking your kids for ice cream is better than eating ice cream in the car on your way to another meeting.
Of course, you do not want to eat unhealthy foods every day, and want to follow a healthy diet 80% of the time. But every now and then, eating something that contains gluten or sugar is still okay, and you do not have to feel guilty about indulging.
An indulgent diet, for me, is the way to go. I practically live on healthy and indulgent desserts that are low in sugar and carbohydrates, but high in healthy fats. I might have a croissant every three months, but because I eat healthily most of the time, I do not have to feel guilty.
To me, it is worth cheating on my healthy diet. Until I can make an equally indulgent, but healthier croissant that tastes the same as the original, I will not deny myself one of mankind’s most delicious creations.
A great example of a group of people who only choose indulgent treats that are worth eating is the French. There is something called the French paradox. The people in France tend to be quite healthy, yet they consume a lot of wine and indulgent cheese, croissants, and sweet pastries and treats.
They do, however, practice portion control, and they have high standards when it comes to what they choose to eat. Rather eat an indulgent and rich piece of chocolate cake than a cheap candy bar.
Become a dessert snob and only eat something if it is high-quality and absolutely worth it to you. You can decide what is worth eating or not, but do not waste your calories or naughty treat on something mediocre when you could have chosen incredible instead.
Next time you are faced with the decision of whether or not to eat a slice of pizza or have cake at your best friend’s birthday party, ask yourself whether it is worth it or not. Life is too short for disappointing desserts.