For the past four months, I have been very strict with my eating. Nothing but whole grains, a lot of vegetables, and absolutely no junk food. Then, yesterday I went to a party where I broke down and had two slices of cake, turkey sandwiches made with white bread and mayonnaise, and a few glasses of Diet Coke. Did I just undo all my healthy eating?
-- Anonymous (per the writer's request)
Not at all! One day of indulgence does not undo months of healthy eating.
I have to be honest, though. It worries me when someone tells me they are following a diet "very strictly", because I know it inevitably leads to cravings that go unfulfilled and later manifest as binge eating. I don't know this from a book I read in one of my classes, but from my own experience.
Prior to studying and understanding nutrition, I would set up ridiculous goals for myself like "I won't eat sugar for a month" only to break down two weeks into it and devour three quarters of a pint of ice cream in one sitting.
Food is meant to be enjoyed and savored. If you are using it as a psychological weapon or punishment, you are engaging in unhealthy behavior patterns that will ultimately sabotage you.
I am a firm believer in the "one free meal a week" school of thought. Meaning, allow yourself one breakfast, lunch, and dinner each week where you can have whatever you please.
It is crucial, though, to plan these meals in advance. Knowing Wednesday is your "free dinner" day will make it easier on your body and mind than walking or driving by Coldstone on your way from work and making one of their concoctions your free meal of the day on the spur of the moment.
There is no reason to ban any food. Instead of dividing foods into "good" and "bad" categories, place them into "should have every day", "should have no more than once a week", and "should have no more than once a month."
If donuts are your weakness, allow yourself one small donut a week. If you're an ice cream lover, go ahead and have yourself a small cup of your favorite ice cream flavor every Friday night. Just keep the portions small and don't keep these foods in your house to avoid downfalls.
Definitely aim to have fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes every day. However, a small scoop of ice cream and a sandwich made with white bread should not be seen as the equivalent of arsenic.