I think all too often we think that to eat well means to CUT OUT foods.
And this attitude is what causes many people to never want to make dietary changes.
And I don’t blame them!
Who wants to think that eating well means cutting out tons of calories or the foods they love?
But eating well isn’t about cutting out…It can actually be about adding in, making swaps and FINDING BALANCE.
The focus on CUTTING OUT is what gets us into trouble. It is what makes us feel deprived. It is what makes us not want to stick to our program. It even can hinder us from getting the results we want.
This focus on cutting out is what makes people think that eating well means suffering.
It leads people to never want to commit to a lifestyle change because eating well is too difficult and doesn’t even get them the results they want.
Sometimes this belief that eating well is just about cutting out leads to people cutting out too much.
For instance, while cutting calories is necessary if your goal is weight loss, there is such a thing as cutting out too many calories. Cutting out too many calories can slow your metabolism and stall your weight loss.
Sometimes by actually ADDING IN higher calorie days, especially on days when you are more active, you can keep your metabolism running strong.
Also, sometimes by ADDING IN those foods you love on a cheat day or in moderation a couple of times a week can keep you on track. They can keep you moving forward toward your goals.
Sometimes if you don’t add in any indulgences, you feel deprived and those feelings of deprivation may lead to an all out binge that will completely derail your progress.
Basically what all this means is that if you restrict yourself too much, if you cut out too much, you are going to stall, and maybe even derail, your progress.
Also people think that with eating well they have to cut out all of the food they love and that just isn’t true!
Ever heard the quote “Strive for progress NOT perfection?”
Well that is exactly what you need to do. It’s all about the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time you eat what your body needs, 20% you indulge in what your mind wants!
Start making small changes, don’t just cut out everything at once.
Those foods that you love, that you feel you can’t live without, SHOULD NOT be the first foods you remove from your diet.
And on top of that, you aren’t simply cutting out foods, you are swapping them for healthier variations.
If you enjoy french fries, you don’t have to cut them out completely! Either you can choose to indulge in them as part of your 20% OR you can find a HEALTHIER VARIATION.
For instance, you could BAKE fries in your oven!
If you don’t find ways that you can ENJOY eating well, you aren’t going to stick with the lifestyle change.
AKA YOU CAN’T SIMPLY CUT THINGS OUT!
You need to find BALANCE with eating well and indulging. You need to find HEALTHY SWAPS for those foods you love the most.
And you need to make slow steady changes so that each change becomes habit before you start working on something else.
Eating well doesn’t have to feel like punishment and it most definitely isn’t only about cutting things out!
There are many ways to go about creating a healthy diet change.
The most common is the cold turkey approach.
When people do this, they literally cut out all bad food and start a new completely clean diet. They quit “cold turkey.”
For some people this really works.
For others…well they can’t maintain it and end up back where they started usually in only a few short months if not weeks.
For many the widely accepted cold turkey approach just doesn’t work.
But you have to know yourself to know what kind of approach is going to work best for you. Do you know?
Have you tried the cold turkey approach before and had the diet fail?
Maybe it wasn’t the diet that didn’t work. Maybe it was the go all in, drastic change approach that was the problem.
So maybe you aren’t a cold turkey kind of person. That doesn’t mean you can’t change your lifestyle! You just need to try a different approach!
Another great way to start a healthier lifestyle is to make small changes. I’ve talked about this approach before and I’ve found that, all in all, it works best when you aren’t looking for a quick fix but a true lifestyle change.
How does it work?
Basically, you make small changes until you’ve found a combination of healthy and unhealthy that you can handle that will get you the results you want. The combination that usually works to get great results, while keeping you from going insane, is 80% clean and 20% cheat. (Reaching 80/20 is the goal not what you should necessarily start out with…Perfect IS NOT the goal…80/20 is!)
Each week or two you try to cut out one bad thing slowly and replace it with something good. For instance, if you drink soda, you could start by cutting out all soda for the week (go cold turkey) OR you could simply cut out one soda per day for the first week and then all soda three days a week the next week and so forth until you’ve removed all soda from your diet except for the occasional cheat!
This can honestly be done with anything. It can even be done in terms of adding in good things! Like even if you really don’t like veggies, maybe you start by adding in veggies to one meal every other week. Then one meal every day. Then two meals every day…and so forth.
Small changes add up quickly!
And usually when you make small changes, they really really take root! You’ve actually TAUGHT yourself to live with the new lifestyle.
Sometimes when you go cold turkey, you get sick of the diet. And so you cheat. But most of the time, you can’t get yourself to go back to that super strict diet and so you fall off the wagon until you find another diet to try and go cold turkey with that!
Most of the time when people go cold turkey they seek perfection!
When you make small changes, you aren’t looking for perfection. You are looking to become better – to become healthier!
So next time you start a diet, think about making small changes instead of going cold turkey. Don’t seek perfection! Remember the 80/20 rule!
I think the sign of a good diet is whether or not it has evolved, even just a little bit, from when you started it.
When you first start a diet, you should stick to the guidelines laid out as strictly as possible because that way you know if the principles work.
But most of the time the guidelines laid out by that other person, aren’t perfect for you. So either you end up giving up on the diet OR you start evolving the diet to better work for you.
I started out doing the Primal diet as Mark had it laid out. But slowly I made my own changes.
At first apples and almond butter were a staple snack to replace the apples and peanut butter I had been eating. Now….I can’t even remember the last time I ate them as a snack.
At first I also didn’t eat rice and potatoes. I ate nuts and fruit and vegetables as my only carbs. But then when I wanted to really cut body fat, I stopped eating as many nuts (actually I basically only eat macadamia nuts now) and started carb cycling with rice and potatoes.
Recently though, I haven’t eaten any potatoes. Instead I’ve had a very little bit of white rice and homemade corn tortillas. Although corn isn’t recommended in Primal, I’ve found that having tacos with corn tortillas as kept me from really cheating otherwise. And my energy levels have felt great, my workouts have been intense and my body composition has actually improved.
I also used to eat a lot more cheese when I first started Primal. Slowly cheese became more of a treat and less of a staple. I no longer need the cheese each day to keep me sane.
That is really what experimenting with your diet is all about – staying sane while being healthy.
You don’t want to deprive yourself of something you love to the extent that you complete give up on a healthy lifestyle. Remember the 80/20 rule – perfection is only required 80% of the time to reach your goals.
You need to find what works for you.
How many carbs do you need? Do you crave sweets or can you not live without your cheese?
All diets can and SHOULD be adjusted to fit YOUR needs.
How has your healthy diet evolved since you started it? What changes have you made to keep yourself dedicated to an overall healthy lifestyle? What do you allow in your 20%?
We all “know” that no one is perfect – that we will never be perfect.
Yet we all try to achieve perfection in our diet and exercise programs.
If we “know” that perfection is unattainable, WHY ARE WE PRESSURING OURSELVES TO ATTAIN IT!?!
DON’T DO IT!!
Slip ups, mistakes are going to happen, but they don’t mean that we’ve failed or that we should just give up trying because we weren’t able to be “perfect.”
I’ve tried to attain perfection according to other diet and exercise programs and I’ve always fallen short. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but I just couldn’t follow their rules every day, all day. There were just times when I was too worn out/stressed/busy/on vacation to be able to stick to all of the rules.
So what happened when I slipped up?
I gave up.
But I realized I would never achieve my goals if I gave up every time I made a “mistake” – every time I cheated on my diet or missed a workout.
I couldn’t let one cheat or one missed workout lead to a week of bingeing or a week off from working out.
I had to change the expectations I had for myself.
I could seek perfection, but my definition of perfection had to include room for cheats and missed workouts. I couldn’t expect myself to be perfect 100% of the time.
BUT I could expect myself to achieve perfection 80% of the time with room for cheats or missed workouts 20% of the time.
I didn’t necessarily want to encourage cheats or missed workouts, but I had to expect that from time to time they may happen and that I could still reach my goals if I was “perfect” 80% of the time.
I stopped looking at reaching my health and fitness goals as an all or nothing thing, but a journey that I had to enjoy.
Plus I found that expecting perfection only 80% of the time lessened the pressure I felt and actually helped me stick to my program more consistently than I ever had before.
If I went on vacation, I didn’t force myself to stick to my diet if there was a dessert I really wanted to indulge in. I didn’t force myself to workout if we were all enjoying lounging by the pool.
But I found that because I wasn’t “forcing myself” to do certain things, I almost had more desire to do them even while on vacation than I ever had before.
And because I allowed myself to enjoy the times I did choose to cheat, it was easy to go straight back to my diet and exercise program when I got back from vacation.
I found a way to strict a balance between perfection and enjoyment of life. You can achieve your goals without sacrificing everything that you enjoy to do so.
You just have to accept that there will be setbacks along the way. And you can’t let them get you down. There will be mistakes and cheats and missed workouts that might upset you at that moment, but they won’t matter if you just accept them and move on.
Perfection isn’t important. Getting right back on track when you cheat or miss a workout is what matters.
It is what makes you stronger and will help you accomplish your goals.
So don’t force yourself to be perfect 100% of the time. Seek perfection 80% of the time and you will find much more success and enjoyment.
Lots of people pressure themselves to never cheat and to stick 100% to a diet.
These people also never manage to stick to a diet for very long.
The belief that you can maintain a PERFECT diet is completely and utterly unrealistic especially if you plan to do the diet for any extended period of time.
Instead I don’t plan on perfection. I plan on cheating.
I live by the 80/20 rule – I eat well 80% of the time and badly 20% of the time. Always have. Always will.
And I think you achieve the greatest success when you don’t expect yourself to be perfect. That frankly is just too much pressure and leads to failure.
You simply run out of self-control when you are working to maintain perfect. However, if you plan in a cheat day, you allow your self-control to recharge.
And if you PLAN in cheat days, not only do you recharge but you do DAMAGE CONTROL.
WHAT!?! By doing damage you are controlling the damage?
When you plan in cheats and allow yourself to recharge, you prevent yourself from completely losing control and doing more damage than that one single cheat day would do.
I mean think about it…
When you feel super deprived, what do you do? You eat everything in sight and eat way too much because you’ve run out of self-control. And sometimes it takes you weeks or even months to get back on track.
On the other hand, if you plan in a cheat once a week, even if it is just a Primal cheat, such as dark chocolate and cheese, you quench your cravings enough that you don’t feel the need to stuff your face until you have a food baby! AND you also can go back to eating well the next day because you know you will get all that wonderful tasting food again in only a few days!
So what seems better?
I personally would rather plan to be good 80% of the time than plan to be good 100% of the time. Because I know that 80% is attainable while 100% simply isn’t.
Why set a goal that isn’t realistic when you can set yourself up to succeed and get great results while indulging 20% of the time!?!
Take a look at your diet? Do you always feel like you are falling off the bandwagon because you are expecting too much?
But for some reason I just can’t get myself to do it consistently.”
We know that we should be exercising and we know what foods we should be eating, but for some reason it is sometimes hard to make ourselves do it!
Why is there sometimes a gap between what we know we should be doing and what we actually make ourselves do? And how do we close that gap?
I think we can have issues making ourselves stick to a healthy diet or workout program for numerous reasons.
Self-control, stress, schedule, support and resources all influence how easily we transition to a new lifestyle and maintain it.
Honestly, you can name a thousand reasons as to why we don’t eat the way we know we should or workout as much as we should. You can even claim you don’t truly know what is healthy because of all misinformation out there about health and fitness.
But if you truly want something, only you can make it happen. No matter how many excuses you can come up with, only you can CHOOSE to commit to a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some tips to help you transition to a new healthy lifestyle and STAY COMMITTED:
- First determine which works better – slowly eliminating bad foods or going cold turkey. Don’t go cold turkey if you know that it will make you feel so deprived that you feel the need to cheat in only a couple of days. For some, it works better to do a looser version of a diet and slowly become more strict. For instance start eating whole natural foods, but keep in rice and potatoes while you eliminate grains if you eat lots of carbs currently. Then maybe slowly lessen the amount of each that you eat. OR if you are a sweets person, don’t cut out all treats. Maybe just allow yourself only “healthy” treats like dark chocolate or berries or the Man Bicep whipped cream! If however, you are the type of person that just needs to go cold turkey, don’t tease yourself with little treats…GO COLD TURKEY!
- Write up a plan. It’s easy to cheat on some vague idea, but when you have a solid plan written down, it is a lot harder to cheat on it. Outline what foods you want to eat or what workouts you want to do on certain days. Also plan out how long your program or diet will run. If you set an end date, you can REWARD yourself when you succeed. Treat yourself to something when you accomplish your goal (preferably not food related!). I found it motivating to know that I would get a treat like a massage or shopping spree if I stuck to my plan! And yes, we are striving for a lifestyle change, but if you make up a plan for three months and stick to it, you will find that after that you’ve made it enough of a habit to go it on your own!
- Display your plan and let others know what you are doing. If only you know about your plan, you are much more likely to cheat…especially if you hide it away in a drawer. Display your plan on your door or in your kitchen on the fridge. If you can see it every day, you are a lot less likely to cheat. And if you tell others about your plan, they will help keep you in line. Both their support and just the fact that others know will make you want to succeed so that you don’t let them down!
- Don’t DEPRIVE yourself! When you feel deprived, you are most likely to cheat. So don’t starve yourself! Eat till you are satisfied…not stuffed just content. Also, allow yourself days to indulge a bit more. For one, it will help you stay committed. For two, calorie cycling can help you lose that last little bit of fat since your metabolism won’t slow from constant calorie restriction! For me having one day each week where I eat as much as I want of “healthy cheats” allows me to recharge. Also planning in full cheat days helps me remain committed because I know that even if I feel deprived, it won’t be for long! Remember, the 80/20 rule. Eat well 80% of the time and indulge 20%!
Workout partners and trainers are also definitely good motivation…Anything else help you stay committed?
Cori seems to think that I can shed some light on how to teach your kids good eating habits.
I’m laughing because all I can remember are all the “bad” things I did.
I let them get snacks from the vending machine at the tennis club. I swore I would never do that. When they were preschoolers I would put them in the nursery at the tennis club while I played. It was there that they discovered the vending machine. They were not to be denied. They were fascinated with picking their snack, putting in the money, punching in the numbers or letters (make sure you make use of a little teaching time here) and watching their snack drop down. I tried to control the damage by steering them to the “healthier” snacks. They usually had animal cookies or some kind of cracker. Drew was tough – she loved potato chips – but we didn’t make a regular habit of them.
For their birthdays we would each have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast. The birthday girl’s ice cream was replete with candle and song. By the way, that didn’t replace the birthday cake at dinner. More candles and more singing.
During the summer we would occasionally forgo lunch and hit a famous St. Louis ice cream stand. Our huge ice cream concoction would be our lunch.
I remember a period where we had popcorn and soda every Friday after school while we watched a certain TV show.
And then we had dessert every night at dinner. Bad for you dessert – cookies, cakes, brownies, ice cream.
But we rarely overindulged. We would eat our piece of cake, our 2-3 cookies, our 2 brownies or our bowl of ice cream and we would be finished. We wouldn’t binge on our dessert and keep eating until it was all gone. We would have a little each night. We were in control of our eating.
And maybe this was the most important lesson I gave my kids to help develop good eating habits. The ability to control themselves; to control what and how much they ate.
I think young children do this naturally. Most of them do not overeat.
One day we were at a play group where the host mother set out a full package of cookies for the kids. The children were allowed to help themselves. All of the children, except for one, ate two maybe three cookies at the most. Only one little girl kept eating…and eating. Her mother needed to control her portions.
When Cori and Drew were young, I read an article that advised parents to give their children dessert simultaneously with the rest of their meal. The expert claimed that the kids would not eat the dessert exclusively ignoring the rest of their food.
I tried it and it was true. Cori and Drew were as interested in the rest of their meal as their dessert. In fact, sometimes when I would ask them what they wanted for dessert, they would choose crackers over something sweet.
So if children naturally do not overindulge or seem to be overly interested in sweets, I ask, where do we, as parents, go wrong in teaching good eating habits?
Could it be that by denying sweets or other bad foods, we are creating an uncontrollable desire for them? They become that forbidden fruit?
When the kids were preschoolers, we would go to a lunch bunch. We would rush from my tennis to this group and, I confess, that when I was lazy I would get us McDonald’s for lunch. One little boy in the group was not allowed to eat fast food. His parents forbid it because it was not healthy. This child would, quite literally, attack my girls, grabbing their McDonald’s and gobbling down the fries. He was ravenous for that forbidden fruit.
In college I found that my friends who never ate dessert growing up ate more dessert than those of us who had regularly indulged.
I contend that you can teach your children good eating habits by teaching them control and moderation. To me, obesity is the biggest health issue. If you can teach your children to control their binges and cravings and to eat in moderation, then you are teaching them good eating habits. They learn to control what they eat and can choose to eat “healthy” most of the time.
By the way, I did do some “good” things.
Cori and Drew would often help me grocery shop. We would pick out fruits and vegetables and read labels together.
They would help me cook (and, yes, bake – but they learned control – we didn’t eat all the raw dough and not make any cookies!)
When they were young, we had planned snacks. The kitchen wasn’t a revolving door.
We regularly had family meals together. We usually ate breakfast and dinner together and enjoyed hearing stories about each other’s day.
We regularly ate healthy meals. Fruits and vegetables were always served along with our protein. I didn’t force them to eat something they didn’t like, but we had an agreement that they would at least taste everything that was being served.
So, was I successful in teaching my daughters good eating habits? Cori seems to think so. I can tell you this, both Cori and Drew seem to have a very healthy attitude toward food.
So, good luck and bon appétit!
(I do think the Man Bicep Mom did a great job teaching my sister and I to eat healthily. I credit her with my interest in nutrition (even if it has led me to follow a diet very different from the Man Bicep Mom’s). AND although I do now in fact now binge, I eat clean at minimum 80% of the time! So teach your kids that there is a reason to eat well, but at the same time don’t deny them the experience of eating those disgustingly delicious bad for you foods our society provides! Remember…instilling good eating habits is key because you won’t always be there to control what they stuff in their mouths!)
I found an interesting post on The Great Fitness Experiment about cheat days and whether or not they work. In my opinion, there isn’t a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this. It just depends on the person.
I think the most important part of any diet is just to follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you should maintain a healthy diet. 20% of the time you should indulge. However you choose to break it down just make sure you stick to the 80/20 rule.
Here are the two most common ways people follow this rule:
1. Daily mini cheats. 80% of the food you eat each day is healthy while 20% is an indulgence. This works if you can be satisfied (and make yourself stop eating) after one cookie for dessert. Portion control is key here.
2. Cheat days. During the average week, you eat well for 6 days with 1 day where you eat anything and everything in sight. This works if you are like me and seem to have no shut off mechanism once you start eating bad food. (Even feeling like I’m going to barf sometimes doesn’t stop me from stuffing more food in my mouth.)
Either way you choose to do it, daily mini cheats or once a week binges, just make sure that 80% of the time you are sticking to a healthy diet!!!
Another dieting dilemma…when do you just say screw it to your diet and enjoy life?
There is also no easy answer to this question. It all depends. I’m sure that answer makes you so happy! HA!
For me, vacations, holidays and other big celebrations are all times to just forget about my diet and eat whatever I want. BUT that is only IF I’m going to be stressed out about trying to eat well OR I’m going to be missing out on something I only can get at that specific time or place.
Like when we go to California for Ryan’s bday. I’m going to eat whatever I want the entire time I’m there. We just don’t have the wonderful Mexican food that they have in Southern California here in Boston. AND I’m going to also eat a HUGE cinnamon roll from this diner in Cali since it is the best cinnamon roll in the ENTIRE WORLD!
BUT since I know that in about two weeks I will be eating bad food for 4 days, I had to make a tough decision about this weekend when my mom visits. (YAY! For a visit from Mom) I had to decide whether or not I was going to stick to my routine of only one cheat day per week. And I decided that yes, I will.
There are so many good restaurants here that I can easily eat Primally at…so I really have no excuse to not eat well every day but Saturday. Anytime I can stick to my diet without spending too much time stressing out or feeling like I’m missing out, I will.
Living life doesn’t always have to mean cheating on your diet. BUT there are also times when you do just need to say screw it and enjoy!
I don’t think it is possible to ever get used to waking up at 4:30 a.m. Humans weren’t meant to be up before the sun! And to make matters worse today, my stomach isn’t feeling too hot…Chinese food, chips, dips, cupcakes, ice cream, burritos, bread and candy all make for a nice little stomach ache.
A cheat weekend sounded like such a good idea on Friday…and today…well today I’m paying the price. Usually I only do a day, but for some reason I just let myself go all weekend. A nice little relaxing weekend with no stress – no stress even about what I was eating.
Why do we want to cheat on our healthy diets? Why does junk food sound so good when it really just makes us feel super crappy?
Today, I don’t remember how good any of the food tastes – all I can think about is how bloated I feel and how irritated my stomach is. All I can think about is how bloated my abs look and how much I set myself back (and my abs were just starting to look so wonderful!!! :-)).
So really, why do we cheat? I mean sticking to my healthy diet really isn’t painful – actually the reason I chose to do it, aside from health reasons, is because it is so easy to stick to on a day-to-day basis. I mean I’ve done low-fat, low carb diets. And I get why I can’t stick to them. But a diet full of flavorful foods that just requires you not eat processed crap? That should be easy! I mean dark chocolate is even allowed occasionally!
Yet sometimes I just crave certain foods. I mean sometimes I just want those bad for me carbs that I can’t have everyday. And so I eat them, never remembering or thinking about how crappy I’ll feel afterwards.
And then the day after I cheat, I swear I’ll never cheat again, but a few weeks down the road, my pain is forgotten, and I’m again giving into temptation. WHY!?! SERIOUSLY….WHY!?!
I guess if you need to cheat, the only reason to cheat would be to enjoy life and to then reaffirm your dedication to the healthy lifestyle you maintain at least 80% of the time. As most people who’ve been successfully eating healthily for any length of time will tell you – the 80/20 rule is key.
Anyway, here is my usual day after promise, “I will never cheat again….ok so at least not until Ryan’s birthday on September 13th!” Back to eating healthy!
Everyone wants a quick fix. The diet miracle that will make them trim and beautiful – a magic exercise pill that will do all the work for them. Shoot I would love a quick fix that gave me superman strength and six-pack abs! I mean, who wouldn’t!
But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. We have to struggle and battle. It costs us sweat and even tears to achieve the bodies we desire – which honestly is why most people fall short. It is easier to give up on finding a solution; it is easier to not stick with a plan than to battle day in and day out.
But is it really easier to give up? Are we really happen when we don’t achieve our goals? I’m not!
Always trying to find a better, EASIER way to achieve my goals has led me over the last few years to experiment with both my diet and exercise regime.
I’ve tried P90x. I’ve tried Insanity. I’ve done power lifting and bodybuilding workouts. I’ve tried those routines in women’s magazines.
I’ve tried low-fat diets. I’ve tried eating whatever I want (which was fun until my pants started to not fit because I’d gained 10lbs). I’ve tried portion control and eating everything in moderation.
I’ve experimented to find out what works best for ME. Because let’s face it…Everything I’ve listed above works for someone…yes even the eating whatever they want works for some lucky SOB.
Only by trying out lots of different things have I found one solution, one plan that I feel I can stick to for the rest of my life.
For me that one eating plan is my own take on Primal and enforcing the 80/20 rule. 80-90% of the time I maintain a Primal diet – a healthy diet. But then there is that 10-20% of the time when I just freaking want a huge slice of pizza – and I eat it! For me, giving in and cheating every once in a while is fun and worth it. I’ve found a good balance of eating healthy and cheating that allows me to easily maintain my diet. I’ve also found that for me Primal works. It is a LIFESTYLE I can maintain for the long run. It isn’t some crash diet.
The exercise plan that works best for me is VARIETY. You may think that isn’t a plan, but it is. I like to vary up what I do. I always do some form of heavy lifting each week (I have a hard time gaining muscle and keeping it on), but I also love to do crossfit style workouts, spinning and yoga (when I find the time to). Ok so maybe even more than variety I like a challenge and lifting heavy, heavy weights….like the guy on the Planet Fitness commercial that “Picks things up and puts them down!” haha
Anyway, to sum up my ramblings…The message of my blog is about more than lifting heavy weights…it is about experimenting to find what works for you. It is about not fearing something new and different. It is about taking risks. And for most women, the fitness “risk” they should be taking is trying out lifting. Most women fear it will make them huge so they never give lifting a chance. Just try lifting for 60 days. Let me know what you think then….