Treat or cheat 1

I love chocolate ice cream. It’s my go-to dessert when I want something sweet. Eric, how can you say that? You’re suppose to tell us that ice cream is a big no-no, that it’s on the naughty list and should be avoided at all costs. Alarms should sound off in our heads if we even think about ice cream. That it’s high in sugar, fat and cholesterol. That we should chew on some raw, unsalted almonds instead. Or drink a big glass of water and wait it out. Or have stronger willpower. Hmm. If you have read my blogs over the years, have trained with me or just know me, then you know that I don’t believe in depriving oneself. I don’t believe in gluttony either. And by the way, did it sound like I was encouraging you to eat an entire carton of ice cream or eat it every day? Nope.

Depending on how you look at it, ice cream can be seen as a treat, a fun food for once in a while. Or it’s a cheat food, something to avoid like the plague. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. Personally, I DO NOT believe in diets, so therefore I am not breaking or cheating on my diet (which I am not on) by eating ice cream. As you can see, I’m very forgiving to myself. And you should be too. Let’s be honest, one treat/cheat meal will have little, if any, impact on your metabolism and your overall calorie intake for the week. Aside from some potential GI issues like gas, bloating or diarrhea, my only concern is that it will make a dent on you mentally and emotionally. I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

I encourage people to eat meals (soups, stews, casseroles, sandwiches, salads, etc.) that are high in fiber, sourced from complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and vegetables. There should also be an emphasis on lean proteins from nuts, poultry, legumes, dairy, etc. Notice I did not specify a particular food. That’s where we can get in trouble, by singling out certain foods and labeling them as good or bad. Treating individual foods as good, bad, better, best, prefect or off-limits is a set-up for failure. Why? When we eat a food on the “bad” list, even if it’s just a taste, we feel guilty. Therein lies the problem. Guilt leads to feelings of failure, that you’re a bad person and unworthy. You have failed, and you’re not meant to be in shape. This is all a bunch of crap. You are worthy, and you are NOT a failure because you treated yourself to a fun food.

Sure there are those who thrive on the structure and challenge of a diet. And to our eyes, they do not appear to be bothered by limited food choices. Good for them. But inherent to its very makeup, diets fail people (not the other way around) because diets are not intended to be long term solutions. Seeing fun foods as treats, as opposed to cheats, gives the freedom to choose. You are empowered. You don’t feel guilty. You are not stressed out every time you put something in your mouth. Remember, the relationship between stress, cortisol and weight gain. So many times I have heard people say, “I messed up this weekend.” or “I really blew it.” or “I need to get back on track again.” when they ate or drank a little too much over the weekend. I respond by asking him or her if what they ate or drank was any good. If they say Yes, then I say “I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s okay to treat yourself.” If you haven’t already guessed, I like food. And isn’t a positive relationship with food a good idea? I think so.

Remember, there is no perfect diet, food combination or smoothie recipe, so stop striving for perfection. Just have fun and try. That’s all you can ask of yourself. You are not infallible. Mistakes come with the territory. When I tell people that I can eat anything I want, it doesn’t mean that I eat treats every day. It’s an attitude, an approach to life that says that there’s no guilt, I’m having fun and I’m trying.