Have you ever had a conversation with a woman (or man) who just spent the better part of a weekend eating and drinking whatever they wanted?
Or someone who is just coming home from a vacation where they also took a vacation from healthy living and eating?
Or who for no good reason has just been on an anti-nutrition kick and has been indulging in treats left and right?
Or have YOU ever been that person?
I’ll tell you something real here. I have been that person. Many many times. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably lying. Even the most healthy of people have gone a bit “off the rails” at some point. And even though “off the rails” might look different to some people, we all go a little bit astray from our nutritional plans and habits every once in a while because, well, we’re human!
I first want to say here that there is nothing “bad” about indulging, and there are certainly not “bad” foods vs. “good” foods. It’s all just part of life. I firmly believe that if you never allow yourself the foods and treats that you truly enjoy, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Treats and indulgences very much have a place in a healthy lifestyle, the key is balance and moderation, as you’ve heard a thousand times before. But for some reason, when people do allow themselves those treats, that logic goes right out the window often times, and people end up going straight into panic mode.
I was so bad all weekend! I can eat nothing but salads all week!
I’ve been so bad lately, I need to go on a cleanse RIGHT NOW!
I can’t believe how much I ate at dinner last night, get me on the treadmill now!
And these thoughts are not rare, they’re not the thoughts of an obsessive eater or necessarily a person who struggles with disordered eating. These are thoughts that so many of my clients have, that so many people have in general, and combating these thoughts is one of the number one things that needs to happen when making a shift towards healthier habits.
Take a second to go back and notice what I said there: It’s not necessarily the indulging that needs to be fixed, but the mental response to those indulgences.
What’s the number one thing that doesn’t need to happen after a weekend (or week) of overdoing it? The panic! So many women go into emergency mode, cutting out carbs, sugar, caffeine, and anything else that they deem “bad”. But all this does is create a cycle in which these foods are avoided like the plague, with such rigidity that their allure becomes even more enticing, thus leading to an eventual binge, beginning the cycle all over again.
Food/health panic has no place in a longterm plan for health and wellness. Panicking only brings about the negative feedback cycle above, and will almost never yield the positive, long term results you are looking for. It’s that up and down cycle that so many of my clients struggle with, the very thing that has been keeping them from reaching their goals, sometimes for years on end.
So how do we end the panic? By realizing that and focusing on the fact that indulgences are not bad, that we are not good or bad depending on what we eat, and that making peace with your “trigger foods” is about mental clarity around foods, not drastic emotional responses to binges.
So you had a weekend full of tacos, margaritas, and dessert (doesn’t that sound heavenly?) So what! I hope you enjoyed every second of it, and now you move on with your life. Panic will only serve to turn this positive experience into a negative one, so instead, just acknowledge and move on. There is no need to eat only salads for 3 days, there is no need for a juice cleanse (I mean, seriously. There is never a need for a juice cleanse), and there is certainly no need to beat yourself up over it. Move into the next few days with a “looking forward” mentality, plan out some healthy meals, maybe move a little bit more (but not some crazy, insanely intense workouts as punishment), drink plenty of water, catch up on sleep. This is your reset. This is your “cleanse”. This is how to move on after a day/week/month of “off the rails” eating.
The thing is, the panic and stress caused by indulgent days often only leads to more stress, and we know that stress is a major cause of over eating. So you’re literally feeding the cycle, piling on the negative feelings and creating a mountain of stress that can feel impossible to dig yourself out of. So instead of panicking, just breathe. Go back to your foundation of healthy living, the things that you know to be true and the things that you know help you to feel your best. Accepting indulgent days and moving on is a skill that can be difficult to learn, but once it is part of your mindset, it’s invaluable.
If you’re having trouble with this, try making yourself a good old fashioned list, complete with check boxes and all that jazz. A to-do list for your well being, as silly as that sounds.
- Drink more water
- Sleep >7 -8 hours at night
- Make sure to include plenty of protein at each meal (for satiety)
- Try to focus your food intake around whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.
- Walk/move more (dance party, anyone?)
- Smile, take deep breaths, and focus on the positive
And you know what? That last one is the most important, in my book. A positive mindset will do wonders when it comes to wellness, even when you have to force yourself to get there. And last but not least, don’t forget to remind yourself, (write it on a post-it and stick it on your mirror if you have to): stress over food has no place here.
There are so many things in life to be stressed about, a weekend of tacos and margaritas shouldn’t be one of them.