Summary: Eat consciously – choose your food and enjoy what you chose. There’s no point in eating and feeling bad about yourself while doing it!
The picture for this post (credit: 4deserts.com) has nothing to do with it – but it contains a dog and that word is in the title of the post. If you haven’t heard / read about Gobi the dog, it’s a pretty great story – have a read when you get a chance.
On to the actual subject matter.
You’re not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food
I read this somewhere a few years ago – it struck me and stuck with me to this day. Before I had heard it, I would go for a run or go to the gym thinking “I’m going to burn sooooo many calories that I will earn the right to eat a muffin / chocolate / Pringles / insert any unhealthy food that doesn’t go together with a fit lifestyle”. It wouldn’t even have to be straight after the run / gym session – actually, more often than not, the urge for crappy food would come to me a day later or at the weekend. That’s when I would justify it to myself by saying “I earned it” and “I’ll burn it anyway”. Yeah, about that second justification – a muffin is a minimum of 300 kcal, a bar of chocolate is around 500 kcal, pack of Pringles about a million kcal etc. and when you add it all up, it turns out that you’re eating more than you’re actually burning (not to mention the quality of that highly processed, high-in-sugar food) and guess what, that’s pretty much the exact opposite of the goal “I want to lose some weight / fat”, meaning that you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Because at a very high level, it’s very simple: you want to lose weight, ingest less kcal than you’re burning. You want to gain weight, do the opposite (I am fascinated by how deep my insights are). If you want to do those things the right way, you need to look at the nutrients and the quality of what you’re eating. But maybe I’ll come back to that in a different post.
Anyway, back to rewarding yourself with food – don’t, that’s my recommendation. In my case, even when I rewarded myself with an unhealthy snack after a long workout, mid-through the feast I would start feeling bad about myself and the whole experience would turn more into a self-loathing one. I then decided to stop doing it to myself and began to consciously choose what I’m eating, when I’m eating and – what’s most important – thoroughly enjoy the food. I’ll share my meals with you in different posts, but the bottom line here is that e.g. when I decide that I want to eat some Haribos (Tangfastics are definitely my favourite, the cherry ones – marvellous, I get a Pavlov’s dog reaction just by thinking about them) – which does not happen often – I cherish each bite without pondering about how unhealthy they are. Because I know that they are unhealthy, I know that I won’t be eating them any time soon and I choose to completely enjoy them, which makes the experience pleasant.
We live in a world of temptations – flashy ads, sugar-fuelled drinks and snacks, social indifference to the quality of nutrition. This all might feel a bit overwhelming for those who choose to eat healthily and have to put some extra effort into finding the healthiest products on the shelves (involves a lot of reading!). This in turn might result in a certain fatigue and that’s what cheat meals are for – to get that metabolism going again and refuel your mental toughness. Trust me – if you start choosing your food consciously, you will not even want to finish that cheat meal, thinking “yep, I’m good, I actually prefer a banana and some roasted nuts”. But give yourself some time! (I’ll expand on that in a different post)
So next time after a tough workout, ask yourself: “do I really want to eat this chocolate / bag of crisps …? Will I enjoy it and not regret it later?”. If you deeply feel that the answer is yes, then JFDI (more on that here). If not – then don’t do that to yourself. And I can assure you that your self-control and eating habits will start to steadily change and the wonder of a delayed gratification will help you achieve your desired results.
Let me know your thoughts if you disagree / have anything to add.