If you haven’t read our Eating Dirty (Part I) post yet, do that now. You really do need the background to understand where the below recommendations are coming from. And one quick note – you know we don’t view food as punishment or reward, which means you simply make a deliberate choice to eat something less healthy, you don’t “cheat” or “slip”. However, for ease of syntax here, we’ll be calling things “treats” or “cheats”, mostly because writing “making a deliberate and conscious choice to enjoy a less than optimal food” takes up too much space on the page. So if you’re all caught up, let’s continue with The Whole9 Guide to Eating Dirty with our best tips and tricks for staying nutritionally healthy AND sane.
1. Eat treat meals or snacks throughout the week, instead of having a full cheat day. For one, it’s more practical and sustainable in real life. Opportunities for good food and socializing come up at different times. Two, you are just setting yourself up for failure by regularly scheduling cheat meals! So be flexible, and individually evaluate your actual, in-the-moment desire for a drink on Tuesday night, or a slice of your Mom’s cake on Sunday afternoon, or French toast with Nutella at Saturday breakfast. (See #2 below.) Finally, your sugar cravings, GI tract, energy levels and mental health will take far less of a hit if you eat clean, slip in a slice of homemade pie and then go right back to eating clean… versus an entire day of Carb-a-Palooza. You’ll recover from your cheat faster, and you’ll feel better about yourself if you surround your treat with good, clean eats.
2. Eat something because you want it, and because it’s special… not just because it’s there. Say someone brings donuts in to the office. You look at the plate and think, donuts are here. You could eat a donut. But you can have donuts any time you want. So if you really want one in an hour, or a day, or next week… you can just go get one. The fact that it’s sitting there does not make it special enough for you to go off-diet. But if your Mum (or anyone else, for that matter) shows up with freshly made snickerdoodles, go on and eat one. Or two. Those are special, and you will really probably really want one. So the next time you mindlessly pop a bagel, slice of pizza or piece of candy in your mouth just because it’s there… Pause. Think, do I really WANT this? If the answer is no, pass it up. If the answer is yes, proceed to numbers 3 and 4.
3. (To be performed in conjunction with 4). Eat only as much as you must to satisfy your craving. If you’ve been dreaming about your favorite snack – say, chips and salsa – bust out the corn chips and get some. But now go back to #2, because you don’t have to eat the whole bag just because it is there. In addition, if you are also properly working step #4, you should have plenty of notice that your mental fix has been achieved. When it has, stop eating. Maybe that’s four corn chips. Or maybe it’s half the bag. Both are okay, as long as you are mindful of the process.
4. When you do go off-diet, SAVOR IT. There’s nothing worse than taking a plate of homemade cookies and then hoovering ‘em mindlessly in front of the TV. That is a shameful waste of a cheat. So when you finally get that drool-inspiring, off-plan food in front of you, spend time with it. Take small bites. Share it with a friend. Savor the flavor. Make it last. Since we cheat as a means of providing mental satisfaction, squeeze as much satisfaction as possible out of what you are eating.
5. Finally, a more complicated recommendation – cheat smart. There are off-diet foods you can eat with little perceived negative effect, and there are others that will absolutely wreck you if you eat even the tiniest amount. The catch is, these things are different for everyone. Use our Whole30 program to figure out what foods are okay, and what are not. You will eventually figure out that the not okay foods are simply never, ever going to be worth it. Stay away from those cheats, and find other foods to satisfy those cravings.
So there you have it – our official and decidedly opinionated Guide to Eating Dirty. Post questions, responses or controversies to comments.