Every season has its gastronomic pleasures. But to some, seasonal delights feel more like sneaky, unavoidable boobie traps. Anxiety sets in at the thought of refreshing summer cocktails, creamy gelato or backyard burgers and buns. And then almost like clockwork, comes the question: Am I allowed to eat that? This question tells me that there is a serious need to dissociate food and fear. It’s time to understand how to treat yourself right.
Treat or Cheat? Before talking strategy, I’d like to be clear on the word treat. You’ll notice that I’m not a fan of the word cheat simply because I believe in adopting a healthy lifestyle, not following a rigid diet, which means that there should be no notion of cheating.
What’s a treat? A treat would be a food that wouldn’t contribute much nutritional value towards your day but holds a hefty calorie-tag. Many foods fit these criteria and different people will have different ideas of treat-foods, so it can be difficult to define. What’s important when you treat yourself is that you stick to real food. This means that instead of having an artificially sweetened frozen dessert every day, enjoy the real deal once in a while. I say this because I often hear “anything is ok in moderation”. Well, I’m not a fan of this mantra, some foods simply have no place in a whole foods diet. Remember that just because it’s a treat, doesn’t mean it can’t be made from real and simple ingredients.
How many treats? I wish I could give you a magic number, but it’s not that simple. For one, deciding how many splurges you can afford per week will depend on your health goal and how motivated you feel. But in any case, what matters to our health is what we do most of the time. So if I were to take a snapshot of your diet, 90% of it should consist of healthful foods. And remember that there are plenty of whole food treats that can be part of your diet every day, without qualifying as a splurge and will keep you satisfied.
3 Ps to treat yourself right
Now comes the strategy. It’s important to know how to deal with treats. Knowing when to give-in and when to pass-up can take some practice. It’s also important to know how to manage a splurge without fearing the worst and being able to seamlessly get back on track. So here are the 3 Ps I use with clients on how to treat yourself right and maximize satisfaction along the way.
The first P is planning and it’s crucial. If you fail to plan and allow yourself even the best piece of cake every day, it will eventually lose its value, you won’t be as impressed and you’ll need more of it to satisfy you. Instead, make it a habit to take a look at the week ahead and target any occasions where treats might be involved. Knowing what’s coming will allow you to be more mindful with your weeknight snacking choices. Besides, a little build-up will make anything more enjoyable.
After planning comes portion sizing. There will be no more eating from a box or carton. Stick to one serving, put it on a plate and enjoy.
TAKE PLEASURE IN IT
The last P is pleasure. And I don’t mean guilty pleasure. In fact, you should never feel guilty. Eating is a pleasure, so please savour every last morsel. It’s also the best way to maximize satisfaction. If you do feel guilty, go over the first 2Ps and see where you went wrong; you’ve been on a treat-streak because of a lack of planning or you devoured a pint of ice cream because you hadn’t plated it. Either way, momentary lapses happen. Just let go of the guilt and make your next meal count for the better.
So, are you allowed to treat yourself? If it’s a real food treat and you’ve gone through your 3Ps, then yes. Yes you can.
What are your favourite summer treats? Do you abide by the 3 Ps?