Saturday, January 12, 2013

How to Enjoy Cheats in a Healthy Way

(My girlfriend Deirdre was having a cupcake one day at lunch and I snapped this for later use)

Earlier this week Clarie (from: almost skinny vegan food) asked a brilliant question about how do I enjoy cheats without allowing things to get out of hand or beat myself up. Since this is something that I have also struggled with I knew immediately that I had to write about this.  The question came up after I mentioned spending all day Sunday in DC which resulted in a 2.2 weight increase on Monday (BTW the 2.2 pounds was gone by Wednesday morning).

(liquid olives at Jaleo this past Sunday and boy were they delicious)

Why have cheats or treats?

I refer to my indulgences as treats and not cheats for a few reasons.   First, I don’t believe that you can cheat on food. Second, treats is a more gentle word which doesn’t sound like you are doing something wrong.   Third, I believe that life should be enjoyed and treats has a much more positive connotation to me.

(baba ghanoush at Zaytinya on Sunday)

In my opinion life is too short to avoid treating yourself occasionally.  I don’t know about you but if I didn’t know that I could indulge sometimes I would be a grumpy gal.  Now don’t misunderstand I don’t consider steak or cheese a treat, they are not on my list of acceptable treats. For me a treat is something that I know contains oil, salt, sugar or refined grains. In fact a little alcohol is also a treat for me.  But those are my indulgences and you need to define what treat means to you.

(Vegan white peach sorbet from Jaleo on Sunday)

Plan for treats

In the past I wasn’t as selective about when I indulged, this resulted in more me than I wanted.  Now I have very specific criteria to determine which treats I can indulge in.  These are just my rules and you should determine your criteria but here are mine:
  1. The treat must be consumed in a special place (this Sunday that was Jaleo and Zaytinya and those are special to me).  For example sweet potato fries at a local restaurant that I can go to anytime is not special so I would pass since that doesn’t meet my criteria.
  2. The food has to be unique, delicious and/or something that I can potentially recreate at home in a healthier way.  On Sunday we ordered baba ghanoush and hummus not that they are unique but I wanted to experience them as a creative chef would prepare them so I could recreate them at home.
  3. My company also has to be special and on Sunday I was with my wonderful husband who is very special to me.  A good example of not special would be the food at the Hopkins Women’s Health Conference this past November.  Since I knew the food would not be unique and the company was also not special I skipped the food at the conference completely by having a green smoothie at home and bringing my lunch.
  4. My final rule is that I can’t have any treats if I am still carrying weight from my last treat experience.   That means that Monday and Tuesday of this week after the Sunday “treat-apalooza” there were no treats for me.  I also make certain to eat very clean until the weight is gone to get it off as quickly as possible…..leaving room for more future treats.  LOL  ;-)
(mixed mushrooms, dates and slivered almonds at Zaytinya on Sunday)

What type of treats should you have?

This is a loaded question and one that I feel is very personal. Some people might consider treats meat or cheese and that is fine for them.  I think it all comes down to a personal choice.  My definition of treats is fairly narrow but it works for me.  This is something that I recommend that everyone give thought to.

How often should you indulge?

I think that it is important to put specific parameters on treats as I do.  Maybe you want to allow yourself a treat no more than once a week or once a month. If you don’t like that idea of not having them often, and you have marvelous self-control, maybe you want to have a treat daily but only allow yourself a bite or two max.  The choice is really up to you and what you think will work for you in terms of being both satisfied and healthy.

For example if you are at or near your healthy weight I think you can allow yourself more indulgences.  However if you have more than 20 pounds to lose I think you should be more strict. It is much easier to maintain a healthy weight than achieve one.  Once you reach your ideal weight you will be able to indulge more often as long as you do it responsibly.

You should probably also remember the post about a week ago where I showed how an extra 100 calories per day would result in gaining 10.4 pounds this year.  This means your treats could be the reason you don’t reach your goal weight.  Think of it this way.  Assume that you decide your treat will be a slice of chocolate mousse pie at your local restaurant once per week. That slice of pie can easily be 600-800 calories or more depending on how it is made.  If you have that pie once a week that will results in approximately 100 extra calories per day.   I wanted to put that out there for you to think about when determining what rules you will make for yourself in regard to indulging.

(beet and citrus salad with upland cress and walnuts from Zaytinya on Sunday)

How do I know if I am overdoing it?

This is an easy determination to make. Are you at your ideal weight?  If you aren’t at your ideal weight are you moving toward it by losing 1 to 2 pounds per week on average?  If you answered no to both those questions you are overdoing it and need to reduce your indulgences.

Why don’t you have a little meat or dairy?

In the past I used to follow Dr. Fuhrman’s option that allowed 10% of your food could be “off plan” and those included animal products if you choose.  However that option didn’t work for me.  After trying that for a while I realized that I felt much healthier without the animal products.  Not only did I feel better but I was healthier and it showed in my complexion and my blood work.  I realized that that by focusing on a whole-food plant-based diet I was able to be as healthy as possible for me.  As I have said many times in the past this was not the answer I wanted or expected when we first changed how we ate. But the results won me over.  I feel better now at 50 than I did at 30 and those are results that I can’t argue with no matter what I wanted to be the answer.

Many people I have worked with had the same misconception that I did.  They wanted to keep meat, dairy, eggs, cakes, cookies, etc in their diet but they also wanted to be healthy. They didn’t want a diet like mine to be the answer and really who can blame them.  The reason people eat unhealthy foods is because they taste good.  One thing I know after living like this for years.  As good as those foods used to taste to me that will never be enough for me to go back to them.  I feel so amazing now I would never compromise my health and how I feel for the momentary pleasure of unhealthy food. 

(spinach, pine nuts, raisins and apple salad at Jaleo on Sunday)

It really all comes down to what is most important to you.  Do you want the momentary pleasure of eating or do you want the long-term pleasure of health?  I promise you that after about a month of eating this way you won’t want to go back either.  Just know that taste preferences are learned.  The longer you eat unhealthy the more you will want unhealthy food. However the good news is that the converse is also true. The longer you eat healthy the more you will want healthy food.

Happy Thoughts:
  1. I am so grateful that Dan’s fever has broken.  He hit a high of 103.7 yesterday and Friday morning it was just slightly elevated (100.1).  Of course he hasn’t been sleeping well with the fever but we can fix that with a couple of good nights of rest.  It is wonderful to have him on the mend.  BTW if you are faced with a fever and don’t want to go immediately to meds try sipping a lot of cold water, cold juice and cold smoothies with cold compresses. By doing this I was generally able to keep his temp down.  It also helps to wear light clothing so that your body heat dissipates.  We were avoiding meds because of the impact they can have on liver function.  For those you who don’t know Tylenol negative impacts liver function. 
  2. Yesterday (Thursday) was a rough day.  However I am grateful to have made it through.  Some days the best you can hope for is that something ends and that is how I feel about Thursday.  Let’s hear a woo hoo for Friday.  J
  3. I was up every hour or so checking Dan’s temp for the last two days so today I am physically wiped out now.  This also means that I am extremely grateful for my juicers today. I seriously need the energy boost that I get from green juice today.
  4. A certain unnamed friend of mine is still making green smoothies in the morning and will getting back to juicing this weekend.  I so love getting those texts with pics of green smoothies from him.  It was great to chat with you last night sweetheart. Thanks for calling to check on Dan. You are the best friend a girl could have and I am so fortunate to have you in my life.  ((big hugs))
  5. I also want to give another shout out to Matt who is on day two of no cigarettes.  Go Matt you can do this!  Don’t you just love it when people you care about do things to improve their health?

Signing Out:

I have learned that I spend more time on photographs than I do anything else for the blog. For the time being it has really helped only adding one or two new photos to each post.  I wanted to share that tidbit with those of you who also blog.  I didn’t realize that the photos were more of time drain than writing the post.  ;-)  Like I often say I learn something new every day.  Maybe I should say every day I learn something that I should have known yesterday.  Oh well, at least I know now.   LOL

Signing out:

Today I am focusing on eating and drinking my raw veggies and it has really helped with my energy level.  In the past I would have turned to coffee when I was tired but I now know that raw veggies work just as well and possibly better to give me an energy boost. I certainly never thought that would be the case.

Breakfast today was a green smoothie and an orange.

I had a very late lunch of collard wraps filled with lemon marinated veg (kale, carrot, red bell pepper, cooked artichokes and roasted red peppers) and raw sunflower seeds.

Dinner had not happened when this post was ready. However I am thinking of something simple like frozen veggies tossed with marina and topped with nutritional yeast and hemp seeds or leftover veggie chili.  Nothing too excited planned for dinner tonight at our house, just fuel.

I hope that you have something fantastic planned for the weekend.  Enjoy yourselves whatever you decide to do. Ciao for now.


  1. Thank you SO MUCH for this!! I'm amazingly grateful that you listened to me and wrote a whole post about it- to be honest I would have been stoked with a sentence!
    I've been struggling with this for years and I think your rules are genius- especially making it special and not having another treat until the gain from your last treat has vanished. I'm going to try and come up with my own :)
    I never even considered a non vegan treat, but the other option I did consider was the 80/20 (or 90/10) rule, giving yourself that extra little bit of wiggle room all of the time rather than one special meal. The only thing that worries me about it is it would be harder to keep track of and potentially be less enjoyable?
    One more silly question for you- do you view over eating healthy foods as a treat? If I over eat nuts for example I tend to view it the same...
    Thank you again. You really made my day :)

    1. Good morning Claire,

      You are very welcome. I told you that I thought your question was brilliant and I meant it. Something tells me it isn't just you and me who struggle with this issue. I strongly suspect we have lots of company. ;-)

      I also tried the 90/10 rule with non-vegan treats and that didn't work well for me either. It seemed to give me "license to be bad" if you know what I mean. Allowing myself daily treats did two things. First, they stopped feeling like treats and consequently I didn't enjoy them as much. Second , I am sure that my 90/10 became more like 70/30. What I am saying is that I agree with you it didn't work for me.

      I do view over eating healthy foods like nuts a treat. That is something else that has happened to me. I will write about how I keep that in line too. Not sure I can make a whole post about it but I will try. You ask wonderful questions. I love that!

      Again you are very welcome. I am so happy that I could help. ((hugs))

    2. Morning Ali :)
      I hold that suspicion too, my line of thought is if we're open about it we might find a better way to deal with it... and help others realise that it takes us all effort to eat well.

      Thank you for replying about nuts and healthy overindulgences- I had a feeling you might be able to relate to that one too... but please don't push yourself to write a whole post on it- any little section would be most appreciated!

      Thank you for sharing your blog- it was one of the first I began reading and it has helped me so much on my journey. x

    3. Hello Claire,

      Healthy eating is definitely something that I have to think about. It gets easier every day but there are still "rules" I need to keep in my mind like those I have for my indulgences.

      I love nuts and will "snack on them" if I am not conscious of what I am doing. Snacking is definitely one of my demons. ;-)

      Thank you also for letting me know that reading my blog helped you early on. Since you also blog I assume you know how much that means to me. :-)



Related Posts with Thumbnails