I was having a conversation with a friend at the gym the other day about the system I use to select and portion foods. I was describing how it’s based on the number of calories I need per day as estimated using an unpronounceable formula. My friend asked, “So what about cheat days?” I asked, “Do you have a checking account? How many checks do you plan to bounce in a given month?”
The notion of planning to bounce a check seemed as absurd to my friend as the notion of setting aside a day to eat without purpose now seems to me. Although there will come times when we want to choose foods that are not as healthy or nutritious as other foods, that doesn’t make those foods bad, nor does it make us cheaters for wanting to eat them from time to time. What is important, though, is to maintain balance while doing so, and to counteract those decisions with other decisions that will help maintain a balanced diet.
I think this goes back to seeing healthy eating as a lifestyle change rather than a temporary restriction. When you’re in the “diet” mindset, you feel like you’re somehow robbing yourself of food, tastes, or experiences. I’ve eaten more flavorful, diverse foods since changing my way of eating than I ever have before. Rather than withholding food from myself, I plan every meal based on what my body needs, and I find creative ways to deliver those nutrients through food selection and preparation.
“Is this how you’re going to eat for the rest of your life?”
To answer that question, I had to give a qualified yes. I will be selecting foods based on their nutrient values for the rest of my life, yes. At this point, with 30 more pounds to lose, I’m selecting foods that add up to fewer calories per day than I would if I were trying to maintain my current weight, but the idea remains the same — to eat what the body needs. I’m so fortunate to have a dietician who is also a foodie. I get to learn so many creative and unique ways to meet those needs!