Habits

You Can Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

Yes, you heard me right.  I’m (Therese) giving you permission to eat that piece of cake, or chocolate, or cookie, or pizza, or, well, fried anything.  This probably sounds hypocritical since I’ve written about substituting such foods for healthier options.  And yeah, okay, it kind of does.  But, let me explain…Words Matter. 

What Happens When You’re Told Not to Do Something?  

Don’t, not, and no are some of the strongest words in any language.  Growing up, I’m sure most of us heard things like, “Don’t touch that,” “Don’t do that,” “This [whatever] is not for you,” “No, you can’t have that.”  When we hear the words don’t, not, and no, the brain focuses on that “thing” we aren’t supposed to touch, do, have, etc.  And it ends up being all we can think about.  

There’s a reason I’m telling this story. 

How many times have you been told to stay away from that metaphorical piece of cake?  The same thing happens that is described above.  When we are told NOT to eat “something,” that “something” is ALL we think about.  And that “something” is usually a food we crave for whatever reason, maybe associated with comfort, happy moments, or triggered by sight or smell. 

Now, I’m certainly not advocating going on a binge of eating junk food.  Neither am I saying to totally eliminate them from your diet so they never touch your lips again.  What I am saying is that you can allow for small or occasional indulgences, rather than completely denying yourself.  But, it requires some strategy so that 80 to 90 percent of the time you are eating a good, clean, healthy diet.

Strategies for Cheating (Cheat Meal and item…)

Here are a few cheating strategies so you keep your diet on track and avoid psychological guilt or feelings of failure while losing or maintaining weight.

  • Schedule a cheat meal.  Plan a favorite dinner of pizza, burger and fries, etc.  Refrain from doing this too frequently—1x/week max.  The more cheat meals that are eaten, the longer it can take to reach a weight loss goal.
  • Schedule a cheat day.  Plan only 1 day/month to eat whatever you like that day.  Avoid this strategy if it tends to cause a lingering return to unhealthy eating beyond the one day.  Also, after the cheat day be sure to eliminate those items from your kitchen.
  • Have one small “treat” during the day.  This could be one small scoop of ice cream after dinner, or a piece of chocolate midday, etc.  The key word here is small.  Additionally, only keep 1-2 of these items in your kitchen at a time and allow them to run out before another purchase.

The overall idea is to allow yourself to modestly indulge, which may help stick to an otherwise healthy diet.  The win here is that the cravings won’t control you anymore.  Rather, you control the cravings.  There is power in that!

TV & Junk Food: Are They Related?

I don’t know, maybe I was just burned out a bit from working too hard and needed a break, but yesterday was one of those lazy days for me.  I decided enough was enough and I was just going to relax for the day.  Now we all need those relaxation days to recharge.  But, on this particular day, I was glued to the TV.  And, for some reason, I took more notice of the many food commercials that we are bombarded with. 

It Made Me Wonder if TV Led to More Eating, and Junk Food in Particular.

To be completely transparent, some of what I have to say on this subject is based on my own experience, and some on research.  First, my own experience…

What I Know to Be True for Myself

I fight my food demons like I know a lot of others do.  Growing up, there were always sugary desserts and candies on hand.  While that’s another story in itself, suffice it to say, while we had to eat dinner at the table, dessert was served later in front of the TV.  I took this same practice into adulthood for many years.  Unconsciously, I associated relaxing in front of the TV with treat time.  During my own weight loss journey, it was one of the habits I became aware of that were contributing to my overweight.  (If you want to know what I did…I slowly began substituting for a healthier snack.

Back to Those TV Commercials.

To be fair, not all those food commercials I noticed yesterday promoted bad foods.  Some were certainly healthy.  But, on seeing them, even though I wasn’t hungry, it made me want to eat.  In sight, in mind, so to speak.  So, my natural tendency was to hit the kitchen and forage for food.  That meant extra calories I was consuming, healthy food or not.

What Some Research Says

In 2018, Cancer Research UK1 [United Kingdom], conducted a survey of teens between 11 and 19 years of age to assess if there was an association between TV streaming and ads on diets.  More specifically, on junk food and sugary drink consumption.  They discovered that teens who regularly streamed shows containing ads “were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.”

In another study, researchers looked into whether eating while watching TV increased the number of calories consumed relative to eating with no TV2.  The participants were women.  Interestingly, everyone ate more with TV.  If the show was a favorite, or one they were familiar with, the food intake was even greater.

I always like to leave with a bottom line.  After working with clients and my own experience, one of the ways to combat TV and food intake is to be mindful of it.  The more mindful we are of what we are doing, the more we can move to modify it in a healthier way.

1Cancer Research UK. “Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180115184342.htm.

2Braude, L., & Stevenson, R. J., 2014. Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. “Watching television while eating increases energy intake. Examining the mechanisms in female participants.” Appetite. Vol. 76, pp 9-16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.01.005.