If you're going to break some dieting rules, then there are some better ways to go about it than just straight-up cheating. Just for the record, though, I don't really like the word "cheat." If the unhealthy food you're eating is part of your game plan, then you're not really cheating.
I believe you should eat healthy 90 percent of the time, and the remaining 10 percent can be left for some fun stuff. When the time comes for you to eat that 10 percent, I don't want you to feel like you are cheating. After all, it's part of the plan. Cheating infers guilt, and there should be no guilt for that 10 percent.
Think of it this way: If you set up a budget, you are going to have different categories, including housing, clothes, health care, auto and so on. One category might be "fun money," and you can do whatever you want with it. You can buy a movie, socks, P90X2 workouts, etc.
When you go to spend that money, I wouldn't want you to feel guilty about it. You were disciplined and set that money aside. The "fun money" was part of the plan.
Same goes with the 10 percent from your nutrition tithe. It should be enjoyable. Here are some tips on maximizing that enjoyment:
1. Eat your favorite version of that food.
You want in on a little secret? I love doughnuts. Yes, I know how incredibly bad they are with all the sugar, carbs and fat. I know this, but I still love them. I'm not saying I eat them a lot, but I really like them.
However, I refuse to eat anything but my favorite version of doughnuts. For instance, I don't eat those little Hostess Gems. They're not worth it.
But, I do eat freshly made donuts from a landmark bakery here in Louisville, Kentucky called Plehn's Bakery. They make their doughnuts from scratch and by hand. You can literally smell them from the street. And they're fantastic.
I also enjoy a good Krispy Kreme, but you'll never see me eat the Krispy Kremes from the grocery or the generic doughnuts at the gas station. Why do this? The calories are going to be the same if you eat the fresh, good ones or the crumby, old ones. So, only eat your favorite ones.
2. Do not eat distracted.
Any time you are eating — but especially when it's the 10 percent — you should be thinking about the food as you're eating it, right? Don't participate in mindless eating.
Do you know what it smells like? How about the texture? Are you enjoying the flavor? Is this worth using toward your 10 percent of freedom?
You can't fully enjoy food if you're distracted while eating it. What does this mean?
Don't eat while driving. Don't eat while reading. Don't eat while watching TV. Don't eat while working at the computer.
You catch my drift? You wouldn't randomly spend fun money on something without thinking about it. Same goes for food.
3. If possible, eat the healthiest version of that food.
Let's say you're a cheeseburger connoisseur. You've been diligent all week, carefully planning for your 10 percent. The weekend rolls around, and you're ready for some of that greasy goodness.
I'd encourage you to drive right on past McDonald's and head to a joint that uses local beef. If local beef isn't an option, chances are, the other place is still using a higher quality meat than McDonald's (or any fast food joint, be it Burger King, White Castle, Wendy's, etc).
In fact, it's probably using higher quality everything. This way, you can still enjoy a delicious burger without the often accompanied ill-effects of fast food. This same idea applies to pizza, ice cream, cookies and most anything, really. The healthier the version, the better for you and the better it tastes.
4. Do not eat straight out of the bag, container, package, etc.
If you are eating ice cream, please take the time to scoop it out of the container. Don't peel off the lid and grab a spoon and start going to town. I promise you will overeat. Your 10 percent will easily turn to 20 percent if you're not intentional about this.
Same with chips. Don't just grab a bag and start pounding them. I'm not even suggesting you measure them out, but at the very least, pour some in a bowl and put the bag away.
It's just too easy to go overboard when you're eating straight from the package. Trust me, I know of which I speak. I nearly killed a whole bag of buffalo wing-flavored pretzel bits once, and my tongue sat on the DL for a good few days because of it.
The idea is to enjoy your 10 percent, not exceed it. Enough said.
5. Eat slowly.
Your brain and your belly are always talking. But sometimes, it takes a while for the belly to get the message. When you're eating, it takes the brain 20 minutes to send a signal to your stomach that it's had enough.
So, if you eat fast, you're likely going to eat more than you need to be satisfied. That's the first part.
The second reason to eat slow is so that you can actually enjoy it. It doesn't taste better just because you're eating it faster, does it? So, put the fork down after each bite. Or better yet, do what we did and buy chopsticks.
Not only will your eating speed come down to a more reasonable pace, but you'll also learn a skill and look like a boss the next time you have to use them.
Food doesn't taste better just because you're eating it faster, so slow down. I'm not here to be a fun-squasher. I'm not one of those nutrition sticklers who says you can never eat one type of food.
I say go for it and enjoy that 10 percent you worked so hard for. If your absolute favorite hamburger is McDonald's, then by all means, enjoy that 10 percent. I won't judge you. In fact, if one of your favorite things is to watch TV while eating generic Doritos straight out of the bag, know you've earned that 10 percent.
What I'm mostly encouraging you to do is to be intentional. Be thoughtful about it. Employ balance and smart practices.
That's what it's all about: maximizing the enjoyment while minimizing any unwelcome side effects. Do this, and you'll never hear me call you a cheater.