Well, today marks a month since I started my wee project. So, what have I learnt from a month of trying to eat healthily to a timetable?
1. It helps to plan in advance how you’re going to get your healthy meals. There were two times when I totally missed my target because I hadn’t actually bought in stuff to make healthy meals or devised a plan for where else I would get them. Yes, planning is nerdy, but if you don’t do it you’re relying on luck to see you through, which is never the bestest idea. So I haven’t got time to make a healthy lunch from scratch in the morning? That’s ok, I can take in a couple of slices of bread to toast and a mini tin of baked beans, or buy a healthy ready meal on the way in to work.
2. I am rubbish at eating healthy meals when I’m hungover.
Shut up, sarky koala! I’m actually getting way better at it than I was when the month began, but I have to keep ready-made healthy meals in for the morning (as well as Nurofen Express).
3. I will absolutely use the softly-softly approach to justify having a whole chocolate cake as a snack. Not really in the spirit of the thing! For the last week I’ve been cracking down on myself a bit, making sure I’m doing my best to eat healthy as much as I can but only counting it as a failure if I don’t hit my minimum target for the day. But trying not to eat all the cake as well.
That old chestnut. You’re taking some faltering steps towards a healthier diet, but what does a Healthy Meal (™) look like? For me, it generally looks something like this:
I know, ok? I know. It looks like primordial ooze. It looks like that kind of black mould that grows in student showers. It’s actually a pretty tasty lamb stew I made yesterday, and polished off this lunchtime.
This is the kind of stuff I like eating. One-pan recipes, like stews, casseroles and curries, or anything involving pasta or rice. Total carb junkie. You might be more a meat and potatoes person, or all about the sandwiches. Everyone’s different.
Most diet-diets, however, have a pretty strict list of stuff you’re supposed to either eat or avoid. Eat more protein, avoid starchy carbs! Eat loads of veggies, avoid fruit juice! Eat carbs, but only ones with the skin on! Eat babyfood! (Seriously.) Drink some weird sodding combo of lemon juice, chilli and maple syrup and poo out your small intestine every morning! (Still serious.)
You definitely, definitely have to be weirdly specific in order to achieve some magical super-combo of macro- and micro-nutrients that will finally make you healthy and give you abs!
Well, you do have to be kind of specific, so here’s the Golden Rule. Ready? Ahem. Here we go:
EAT WHAT YOU LIKE EATING.
Well, not quite it. That’s not to say you should stuff your gob with 15″ pizzas and triple-maple-bacon-cheeseburgers and giganto-fries every meal. But seriously, if you like pizza and you try to avoid pizza, all that’s going to happen is you’re going to really, really miss pizza.
So work out a way you can include pizza but make it ok for your healthier meals. Maybe just have half or a third of a modest pizza with some salad. Or make your own pizza and keep an eye on the ingredients you use. Or if you really just want the stuffed-crust one that’s dripping in four types of cheese and pepperoni, keep it in as a once a week kind of thing.
There’s loads of ways you can be healthy and carry on eating your favourite things. Just don’t cut them totally out of your diet. If you’re tempted to because Mister Sweet-Gains-Bro down at the gym told you you’ll never lose fat if you don’t cut X-thing right out of your diet, think back to all the other times you’ve tried to do this. What happens?
You immediately want that forbidden thing way more. It becomes the Most Desired Thing Ever. Even if it’s something you don’t particularly eat that much. You’ll want it because you have decreed that you can never have it.
I’m a carb junkie and I tried following a diet a while back that was super high protein and quite low carb. And what happened? After the first initial rush of Hooray-New-Thing, I got bored of all these endless slabs of meat I was having to force down and went on a mega binge of pasta, cakes, biscuits, sandwiches and ALL THE THINGS. Then felt terrible, stopped trying to eat healthy… Blah blah blah. All the usual.
The point is, you will want your favourite foods. Full stop. If you learn how to cook them healthily, you’ll enjoy healthy eating way more than if you’re trying to shoe-horn in meals you’ve never been that keen about. And if you keep the option open to have the full-fat-cream-and-OMG-yes-I-want-extra-syrup version from time to time, you won’t feel deprived.
Oh, and don’t turn into Mister Sweet-Gains-Bro. He eats chicken breast and broccoli 24/7. Probably chia seeds too. I mean, come on. That’s no way to live.