I know, I know, I know. How dare I even think about writing such a blasphemous article. Honestly, this comes up in almost every single one of my nutrition consultations. Contrary to those struggling might believe, most people are NOT 100% perfect on their food plan. And yes, that includes me.
While this is a long and complicated issue, I thought rather than going into the “Whys” I would deal with the “Hows.” Rather than make someone wrong for not adhering to their plan, I think you can create more success when you help support these detours and soften the reaction. The most important thing is to make sure you get back on the plan. If there is a harsh reaction each time you get off track, it is that much more difficult to get back on.
Life is hard enough. No one needs more guilt and shame. A loving and self-compassionate way to look at these events is a gentler, and I have personally witnessed, more effective way to continue to achieve your goals.
1. Don’t Plan Cheat Days
There is a diet strategy out now that has you “plan” your cheat days. This is when a person decides that once (or twice) a week, they can have anything they want. The issue with that is that most transitioning to a healthier plan get derailed anyhow during the week. So, that derailment, plus the licenses to cheat sets you up for failure. You will cheat anyhow. Why plan for an extra event?
2. Have a Damage Control Plan
Knowing you will cheat, what is the best way for you to detox the next day? Spend some time thinking about it, and make sure you always have this at the ready. Is it lemon/parsley hot water in the morning? Is it magnesium supplements the night before? Is it hot yoga? Is it a “watermelon” day. Whatever “it” is, that makes you feel better, try to always have these things in your home, or at your fingertips.
3. Create Yellow and Red Zones
Yellow Zones are food or drinks that you rarely have but will allow, once in a while, in a derailment. They could be items such as Doritos, ice cream, pizza. These are things you DO NOT have on a daily basis, but when you have a bad day, these are your “go to” comfort foods.
Red Zones are foods or drinks that you will never, ever eat. These are foods that even when you are having a bad day, you avoid. So, you have your mind set that never, ever will you eat that. For me, that was red meat. I drew the line and decided I would never eat that again.
THIS WILL CHANGE AS YOUR JOURNEY MOVES FORWARD. For example, when I started my journey, my Yellow Zone foods were things like cheese, M&M’s or muffins. In my red zone were hamburgers, hot dogs, and other red meat products. Now, my Yellow Zone foods are more like oils, pasta or chocolate while my Red Zone has grown to include all animal products. So, the line moved, showing a progression. That is super important.
4. Keep Refining
As I continue on this journey, I keep learning. I look at people that are thriving and ask questions. I read blogs on health. I always have an interesting book on hand about food. Documentaries are a staple of mine. I kept changing and growing. My college friends (which I met centuries ago) still tease me about how I “ate funny” back then. I smile knowing that I have come so far from that food plan. I am light years from those choices. Most of those things might be able to be placed in my Yellow Zone!
5. Pay Attention to Your Symptoms
If you have things like a bloated belly, acne, rosacea, stiff joints – these all could be food related. If these get better or worse, you might be sitting on a gold mine. On the days you feel better, ask yourself why? What did I eat yesterday? What did I drink? What did I feel? If you wake up and seem particularly worse, go back and ask these same questions. What I discovered is that different symptoms led me to a different path. Each event had interesting answers. I discovered that my eczema didn’t need a steroid cream, I just needed to get rid of gluten in my diet. So, no matter what people said about gluten-free being a fad, I discovered, that for me, that was not an optimum food. This was not about weight loss, it was about seeing where the inflammation was coming from. Make sense? You might need even more help or an experienced eye to take a look. For that, consult a food coach or nutritionist. You are not alone! I do consultations like this all the time. Let’s talk – www.mindfulnutrition.net
6. Figure Out Your Frequency
How often can you get derailed per week? Once, twice? If you are keeping a food diary, you will be able to figure that out.
7. Find Safe Treats Just Outside Your Yellow Zone
These are treats that can help with a craving but not derail you. They are in that sweet spot of neither really great or inflammatory. So, it might not help you achieve goals but definitely won’t lead you to eat and crave more refined foods. This can be something as simple as crackers with hummus, homemade granola, cereal with rice milk or other treats. Try to always have these handy so you know you don’t need to eat the restaurant’s desserts as you have that yummy fruit juice sweetened cookie waiting for you at home.
8. Recognize Your Pitfalls
We all have those places that we KNOW are pitfalls. Whether they are family dinners with Aunt Bertha who starts talking politics, or a certain restaurant where your best friend insists on meeting, we all have those places that have hard to resist foods. Learn what they are, be okay with it, and start learning from them. You can create strategies from the data that will help support your efforts. Whether it is taking a break from the meal and going to the bathroom to breathe, or pre-eating, there are different things you can try at different times and see if this affects the outcome. We definitely know if you continue to do the same thing each time, you will reach the exact same outcome, right?
These are just a few ideas to help you get to a better place in your journey. Knowing that we are all human, and creating a self-compassion plan around this will really, really help to keep you on track and align your actions with your goals. As always, we are here to help!
Want some help? Let’s connect!