Did you have a long day? Did your boss look at you funny? Did your kid’s teacher call you? Was there a crazy driver on your commute (besides you)? Did you say “no” to the donuts at work? Well, then… you deserve a treat! You are now justified to cheat on your diet, right? Right!
I think I have heard every excuse in the book. In fact, I think I wrote most of them myself! They are all magnificent reasons as to how we can make it okay to have what we want, when we want it. Does this sound familiar:
“Sometimes, I cheat and have a hot fudge brownie sundae.”
“Every once in a while I just need a little treat.”
Only one thing is a little askew here: Treats are for dogs. Are you a dog? Uh, no. And besides, when you reward your dog for good behavior, do you give him a porcupine to chew on? No, that wouldn’t be a treat. Using bad food as a treat for good behavior is pretty ironic.
When I first developed the nutrition plan for Kickboxers Ultimate Training (KUT), I worked in a “Cheat Day” as I used to prescribe as a personal trainer for bodybuilders. This was a scheduled day in the week where there were no nutrition rules — they could eat whatever they wanted. However, it really derailed many of my students. It gave them a carb hangover, it slowed their progress and made them crave more junk. So I changed it to a “Cheat Meal” which helped a little but some creative folks found ways to drag out their Sunday brunch all day, which resulted in the same negative results. Finally, I turned it into a “Zero Meal” which was a one-hour (timed) meal where there were zero rules, zero calorie counting and zero guilt. This worked much better.
What was the point of a Zero Meal? The benefits were mostly psychological in nature as it is really important to not feel trapped in a “diet”. And if you can put off a whole week’s worth of cravings to just one hour, you are definitely ahead of the game.
However, these days, I don’t really promote the idea of a Zero Meal anymore. Why? Because not everyone needs it or wants it. And for some reason, the Zero Meal was like a “treat” and thus turned all other meals into something that needed to be tolerated until next week.
Here’s the deal, if you want a hot fudge brownie sundae – have one. You don’t need to come up with a lame (albeit elaborate and justifiable) reason as to why you deserve it. You are a free human, able to choose whatever you would like to put in your mouth and on your hips. Except when you are not… and I’ll get to that in a minute.
Here’s some helpful strategies that can keep you on track if you going to “cheat”:
- Never cheat in the spur of the moment. Plan it in advance and put if off as long as you can. (On a side note, what really worked well with the Zero Meal, was choosing the same time every week that got used or not. i.e. Saturday night from 6 – 7pm. Period.)
- Choose only the best rendition of your treat. Don’t settle for some cheap facsimile of what you want. If you want chocolate, have the best
- Predetermine how much you will have. Again, this is not a spontaneous decision. Plan this beforehand. JJ Virgin has a “3 bite rule” which I love and use often.
- Enjoy every bite! Savor the look of it, the smell, the flavor, texture, even the temperature and notice the sensations in your mouth and in your stomach.
- Stop taking a bite when it no longer delivers that same heightened experience.
- Throw away the rest. (Beware Dumpster Divers: use the garbage disposal or toilet!)
- Let’s not call it “cheating”, shall we? Cheating is for cheaters and that descriptor is negative self-talk that is not empowering. You simply made a choice. Be a Chooser, not a Cheater.
Which brings me to those of you who don’t feel like you always get to choose what you put in your mouth. Sometimes you feel obsessed, even possessed, and you simply can’t help it. I hear you. Don’t worry, that’s survival hormone signals from your brain overriding every good intention and ounce of self-control you have. It’s completely natural when your signaling is a little out of whack. Your brain lives on sugar and will do everything to get it and then some.
How can you fix this? First, be kind and gentle with yourself. This issue does not make you a bad person. Secondly, get some help. The only way to straighten out your food signaling is with food, real food. Consistently. And by real food, I’m talking about no processed food – generally staying away from anything that has more than 2 ingredients on a label. Of course this is difficult when your brain has been hijacked, which is why support is a good idea.
If you need a hand figuring all this stuff out, please don’t hesitate to contact me for some free resources. I’ve been there. I get it and I want help you create a body and life you LOVE!
The term “Paleo” has gone mainstream and has gained a lot of traction as a hot new diet trend. But is it really effective or good for you at all? I would like to offer up these reasons why you should consider NOT trying this type of eating plan but first, let’s review what it entails.
Paleo is an abbreviation for “Paleolithic” which, in short, refers to a prehistoric era in history when we were hunter/gatherers. So are those wild “Paleo Diet People” trying to emulate the Stone Age? Are they running around in animal skins, clubbing their food and dragging it back to their caves? Well, some of them, perhaps. But those Cavemen and women are probably hanging out with some Breatharians who believe it is possible to live without consuming any food at all. It takes all kinds to make the world go round!
I was first introduced to Paleo by Robb Wolf. As soon as I read his book, “The Paleo Solution”, I got on a plane to Toronto to meet him and take a seminar he was giving up there. He made sense. It all made sense. I started to understand my own health issues in a new light and with renewed hope.
But Does It Work?
Most people I have met in the Paleo community are health conscious folks trying to do the best they can in our modern world. I have been eating this way for a few years now and it has helped restore my health and the health of my clients. However, I don’t often refer to the term “Paleo” much anymore. As with any great idea and movement, some people can’t help but squabble and focus on the differences. Yes, we are all unique snowflakes and yes, this eating plan can have some nuances that vary from person to person but most agree that there are some basic Paleo Principles that include eating vegetables, fruit, animal protein, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.
While the Paleo Diet explains what to eat, it is just as much about what not to eat: sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, processed foods, starches and alcohol. Whaaaaat? Now we’re talking crazy, right? But not to worry. For those of you who can’t seem to bear the idea of going without your favorite grindage, here are the top reasons why you should not even bother to try!
20 Reasons NOT To Go Paleo
- Your doctor is nice and you like to visit her on a regular basis.
- Dieting adds structure and purpose to your life.
- Having regular colds gets you time off work.
- You don’t like the idea of growing old.
- You make money on the Pie Eating Contest circuit.
- Acne makes you look younger.
- You don’t have time for sex anyway.
- You enjoy mood swings and participating in family drama.
- You don’t want to buy smaller clothes.
- Sleeping is for sissies.
- Your allergy symptoms make you appear more sensitive.
- You own stock in 5 ½ Hour Energy drinks.
- You can toot The Star Spangled Banner (not from your mouth).
- You need your wheat belly as a TV tray.
- Soft, puffy and doughy is how you like your food (and your body).
- Having a fuzzy brain keeps you from having to take on any more responsibility.
- You like spending hours on the treadmill to catch up on your magazines.
- Being addicted to sugar is better than being addicted to cigarettes.
- You want to make all your unhealthy friends feel better about themselves.
- You work at a bakery and get free donuts.
- Obsessing about food keeps your mind off of your other problems.
- Having a sugar rush is the highlight of your day.
- You feel it is important to support your local pharmacy.
- You love the Jell-O they serve at the hospital.
- You don’t need all of your teeth anyway.
- Beer bellies are super “in” right now. Seriously: http://www.people.com/article/dad-bod-body-trend
- Wrinkles make you look more mature.
- Having a heart condition keeps you from having to exercise.
- Counting calories and reading labels is just so much FUN!
Okay, so there were more than 20 but… I couldn’t stop. Please add yours in the comments below!
Vegan has gone mainstream. It’s not just for hippies, celebrities and politicians anymore – it’s become big business. Even Starbucks has had to buckle to the demands of the market, providing dairy free alternatives. And you can’t go down the aisles of the grocery store anymore without noticing “Vegan” proudly stamped on a growing number of products.
Why do Vegan and Vegetarian diets continue to gain traction? There is no one reason. There is an appeal that connects with people on a very emotional and core level whether it be for the sake of animals, the planet or our health. The arguments against all things animal also appeal to those who just want to eat “clean” and of course, lose weight. So is veganism a panacea or just another fad diet?
In the 90’s, I read a book that changed my life: “Diet For A New America” by John Robbins. OMG. I instantly stopped eating meat and dairy and thus began, what I now refer to as, the Vegan Years. I loved my new eating regime – the food was good but more than that, I felt as if I was saving animals while becoming healthier and hopefully, thinner.
Except I wasn’t. I happily ate my mock chicken tofu and veggie burgers and yet I could not lose the weight I wanted. It seemed I was always bloated, tired and having some kind of digestion issues. So I thought I needed to clean it up even more and for a short period of time I even went Raw. That was all a long time ago – before it was trendy – and now you can find Raw restaurants (which are awesome!) and plenty of Raw Food products at the grocery story. Just goes to prove that as demand grows, the market responds.
Although I still love me some Raw Food yumminess, I did reintroduce animal protein back into my diet. I work with a lot of clients who eat Vegan or Vegetarian and totally respect their choice; it’s just no longer my choice for several reasons. I would explain them all to you except I have a better idea – I’ll share a book with you that does a much better job called “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith.
After Lierre Keith experienced 20 years of poor health as a practicing vegan, she took responsibility for her own health and education on the subject. In her book, Keith takes on the widespread notion that vegetarianism is good for health along with the planet. She proceeds to dispute this belief and goes on to explain why a global shift towards veganism would have dire consequences. She focuses on three of the most common arguments people have for being vegetarian or vegan including moral, political, and nutritional.
Many vegetarians claim that the reason they don’t eat meat is because they’re against the killing of living things. Keith herself was a moral vegan who believed that living a life free of animal products was both meaningful and ethical. She decided to grow her own food but soon found that in order for her plants to grow, the soil needed nitrogen with blood and bone meal. As she humorously points out, even though she didn’t want dead animals, her garden did.
Even the natural pesticides Keith looked into to protect her plants from getting eaten by bugs contained insect guts. Instead of chemicals she could opt for using chickens, however, this too was a double standard, as they would kill the bugs. She finally accepted that in order to physically exist, killing is necessary and it’s absolutely impossible to eat something that hasn’t lived. Just because there isn’t a dead animal on the plate doesn’t mean numerous animals didn’t die for that serving of rice and tofu. In fact, farm machinery used for agriculture, kills numerous animals and destroys countless animals homes due to the land needed to farm these crops. She makes a case that a soy burger requires just as much death (if not more!) than the one made of beef… oopsie.
Keith also addresses the argument that the entire world could be fed if people didn’t eat meat. If we weren’t using all of that grain to feed the animals that we eat, we could feed the hungry in every nation, right? Not quite. First, Keith points out that animals aren’t supposed to be eating grain in feedlots in the first place. Instead, they should be eating grass in pastures, nourishing the soil with the nutrients from manure. Animals aren’t even designed to digest the corn that they’re so often fed. She also discusses how mono-crop agriculture is anything but sustainable. Pasture raised animals create necessary topsoil, while the process of raising corn destroys it. Not only does it use a ton of water and create soil runoff, but when topsoil disappears, fossil fuels are required to continue growing the crops. The world simply isn’t equipped for this much farming and with increasing crop yields we’re at risk for running out of oil to fertilize and transport them. See where she’s going with this?
Keith also touches upon the fact that if we were all to eat crops instead of animals, the grain based diet would only contribute to malnourishment, rather than feeding the hungry. Grains are unhealthy for so many reasons. They contain anti-nutrients, can rapidly spike blood sugar, are difficult to digest, and can lead to severe brain disease. Keith points out that altering the food chain by replacing animals with soy and grain not only destroys the circle of life, but simply isn’t sustainable.
Keith takes on what’s probably the most common argument in favor of veganism and vegetarianism; that it’s the healthiest diet. She writes about how her 20 year vegan diet destroyed her health and how she unfortunately still suffers some of the permanent consequences, such as a disintegrated spine. Many vegetarians argue that green, leafy vegetables contain all of the nutrients we need. After all, gorillas, elephants, giraffes, zebras, etc. survive on them. Actually, those plant-eating animals have the necessary bacteria to digest cellulose, something us humans don’t possess. Leafy greens are great, but they aren’t enough to sustain us. And as Keith continuously points out, grains and soy definitely aren’t the answer.
People who choose vegetarianism for the “health benefits” often seem to think that eating animal fats is unhealthy and will make them fat. In actuality, fat helps prevent fat, increases muscle, boosts our immune system, and prevents disease, along with a plethora of other benefits. When we lose meat, we lose those advantages. Keith also debunks the idea that all vegetarian and vegan foods are healthy. She gives us a terrifying statistic that food companies spend over 33 billion dollars a year in advertising things like margarine, whole-wheat products, and soymilk as “healthy alternatives.” There’s nothing natural or healthy about these modified “foods.” The bottom line is grains and soy cause physical damage to our digestive systems (along with other dangerous side effects) and our bodies need animals in order to live a healthy, nutritious life.
“The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith is emotional, political and personal, shedding light on some of the most prominent vegetarian/vegan positions. Her arguments are compelling and definitely worth the read even if you don’t agree with her.
To be Vegan or not is a personal choice about what you want to eat. Become familiar with both sides and make your own decision – don’t just follow what a Hollywood trade mag has to say about the eating habits of your favorite celebrity. And if you choose to eat meat, you can support your local farmers that raise their pastured animals humanely, without hormones and antibiotics. Together, we can raise the demand for healthy animals and healthy food.
What books have you been reading lately? Any suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!