The Art of Indulging Without Sacrificing Your Long Term Goals

How to eat healthy and indulge yourself at the same time
in Health by

Is it okay to indulge from time to time? 

One of the most common questions that all of us think about. I have to admit that my clients get surprised when I include free meals in their nutrition plans. Contrary to what most believe, indulging from time to time is a healthy practice. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that you should go around eating whatever you crave, whenever you wish. Not at all! Because in that case, you wouldn’t be just ruining your nutrition, you’d simply be throwing caution and your plans to the winds. What I’m saying is that if you normally take the time to plan proper meals for yourself, then it’s okay to opt for that bowl of ice cream, that slice of pizza or whatever your preferred treat is, as long as you’re watching your overall eating habits. The indulgent experience will give you a boost, motivating you to stick to your overall healthy meal plan.

Considering that eating is a basic human instinct, it’s perfectly understandable that we love to indulge in treats. Even though there are countless recipes for meals and desserts that are both healthy and tasty, our guilty pleasures still provide us with a unique feeling, and we often long for that experience.

To have pizza or not

Strictly following your nutrition plan and not having just one meal that breaks your nutrition plan from time to time would put your body in a state of deprivation. You may be getting all the nutrients you need from your healthy meals, however, you’ll be deprived of all your favorite foods. Unfortunately, this deprivation state comes with an expiry date; so when you’re fed up and decide to put an end to it, it turns into a rebound phase where you start eating all the foods you missed in much larger quantities than before. You unconsciously overeat to compensate for all the times you had to miss out on your favorite treats. Of course, overeating calorie dense foods, after a long period of clean eating is doomed to make you feel bad.

Being mostly healthy and indulging once in a while will make you enjoy your eating experience and also appreciate your healthy meals for how they make you feel and what they do to your energy level. You’ll also become a more mindful eater as you learn to appreciate eating your favorite foods, as opposed to taking it for granted.

Why do I feel guilty when I eat an un-healthy meal? 

Have you ever wondered why lots of people feel guilty when they eat foods that are not good for them? Why don’t they indulge in the experience guiltlessly? Well, they neither have the ability to say No to these foods, nor do they eat their favorite foods and just enjoy. Isn’t that pathetic?

Truth is, lots of people do not like their bodies and would really like to see a change. So, when they eat something they know is bad for them, they start thinking: “I already look chubby, now this is going to make me gain even more weight.” Those people are also the ones who do nothing to take care of their health. They go from one bad meal to the other, in addition to living a sedentary lifestyle and not working out in a consistent manner. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that every fast food meal they ingest is a reminder of the fact that they are overweight and are doing nothing to change it.

What about the people who pay attention to what goes inside their bodies, and are selective about their food choices? Those people are able to enjoy their treats with no negative feelings attached. They’ll even feel good knowing that they’ve earned it.

Whether you are a healthy eater or not, there are occasions when consuming certain foods would make you feel bad afterwards, such as when external factors disrupt your meal plan. For instance, you’re invited at your in-laws and all the food served does not meet your healthy standards. You had to eat out of courtesy, yet none of the foods on the table were your definition of guilty pleasures.

How often should I indulge a bit? 

That’s a tricky question. The standard rule, which you have probably heard many times before, is once a week. However, that’s not necessarily the right thing for you. That’s because people act according to their goals. For example, a male runner preparing for the Boston marathon would want to minimize eating an unhealthy meal during the few weeks leading to the event, in order to feel light on race day and be able to finish the course in good time. That same marathoner may be travelling for vacation after race day and may indulge very frequently to reward himself and of course, to not miss out on the local cuisine. Meanwhile, a girl who moderately exercises with the goal of staying fit may follow a flexible meal plan, be able to indulge often, and still maintain good health and achieve results that are satisfying to her. The moral of the story here is that the strictness of your meal plan as well as the frequency and intensity of your indulging should depend on your goals for the coming period.

Rana is a nutritionist. Originally, a holder of a BSc in Business Administration from The American University in Cairo. After four years of working for multinational corporations, quit to pursue a passionate career in the Nutrition field. The shift was inspired by her deep interest in nutrition, and a strong desire to elevate people’s quality of lives through food. A strong advocate of a one size fits one approach to nutrition. Rana studied Fitness & Sports Nutrition at the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). You can reach Rana by email at: rana.abdelnaby@gmail.com

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