Last week I wrote about changing the way you eat by deciding upon just a few critical rules, and then followed it up with the idea of a cheat meal. I want to expand on these concepts just a little bit more today. Let’s call this the third part in an indefinite series.
First, a little background: When I was fifteen years old, I decided to become a vegetarian, for just about all the reasons someone would: animal rights, environment, and health (pretty much in that order). It was a clear-cut, absolute decision. I would stop eating meat. Period. I would not waver or need willpower; this was simply the way it was. A line had been drawn, and I never crossed it.
Sure, there were times when I really craved a pastrami sandwich — especially early on, and most especially if I was particularly hungry — but I still wouldn’t touch one. I’d eat something else, and find that the craving would quickly go away.
Sidenote: Considering my reasons for not eating meat, employing the “cheat meal” concept with my vegetarianism was pretty much unthinkable. But in the context of overall healthy eating, a cheat meal has many desirable aspects — some argue that it actually helps boost your metabolism (by keeping your body from acclimating), and others point out the psychological benefits of reducing cravings, the social aspect of eating, sharing in celebratory foods (like birthday cake), and the simple pleasure of an occasional indulgence.
Nowadays, I apply this “absolute” concept to all my healthy eating rules. I was about to write that these rules guide my choices each day, but that’s not quite right. More accurately: I’ve already made the choice, and now I’m just following through on my decision.
It’s easiest to apply the rules in the grocery store — since almost every food comes with a label and an ingredient list. When I pick up a food I’m considering buying, the first thing I do is look at the ingredients. If it contains grains that aren’t whole, I immediately put it back on the shelf without a second thought. If it has high fructose corn syrup, back it goes.
The thing here is that there’s no decision to be made. If it breaks the rules, it’s simply not an option. I won’t bring it into my house. This becomes a reflex, and willpower is no longer necessary.
This is what you need to do to change your life and change your health. Make a sincere, absolute, and unequivocal decision to do so. Decide once, and then just follow through.