By ALEXANDRA MATZKO
So, you’ve had the healthy eating game on lock recently.
You’re eating less and the food you are eating is whole and unprocessed. You’re consistent. You’re cooking delicious, healthy food, and you’re even enjoying it. Your appetite is regulated, and you don’t feel the urge to overeat.
Then, it strikes.
The event. The holiday. The weekend. You are no longer surrounded by the safety of your kitchen filled with sockeye salmon and a side salad but by sugar-laden, crave-inducing, crispy, crunchy, fatty, salty, creamy temptation.
And you succumb.
When I go in on unhealthy food, I go in. There’s nothing coy or half-hearted about it. Ice cream—check. Pizza—check. Bags of Doritos—check. Blocks of cheese—check. All kinds of pasta—all kinds of check. I know what it’s like to slide down the slippery slope of indulgence, and I know how hard it is to return to the amazing, healthy eating of days past.
You’ve put in such hard work to reach your goals, and you don’t want a small stint of debauchery to ruin it all. It’s really hard. For me, food is a drug. It leaves me ravenous for more and more to satiate my every craving.
How can you get back on track after cheating on your diet? Follow these steps that help to ease even a food addict like me back into my preferred, healthy lifestyle.
1. Eat the yummiest healthy food
That processed, engineered food stuff has hijacked your normal hunger and satiety signals. You aren’t eating for nutrition. You’re eating for pleasure.
To begin the transition back to healthy eating, I work with my current state of mind rather than fight against it. I eat for pleasure, but I do it with whole foods. The yummiest whole foods. Steaks. Lots of avocado. Grassfed dairy if I need it. Potatoes. Salt, acid, fat. There isn’t an abundance of vegetables during this stage. My only “limit” is that the food must be unprocessed and prepared by me.
I make it feel sexy and fun. I frame a meal as an “I get to indulge in a green smoothie. Doesn’t it look beautiful? Isn’t it gratifying to treat myself to this self-care through my diet?” My food is really pretty and exciting during this time. I take pictures of it and admire it. I try a lot of new and bold recipes to keep my palate engaged.
2. Eat a lot of healthy food
Again, your hunger and satiety signals have gotten out of whack and need a bit of time to get back on track.
I allow myself to eat as much as I truly need to feel satiated (and sometimes even more) while my appetite realigns again. Hungry? Eat that pear. Still hungry? Eat that handful of nuts or an extra bit of meat. This allowance prevents me from going off track again due to an enforced restriction.
If I break because I’m hungry due to a restriction on my food intake, then I’ll undo the whole-foods-implementation work I’ve begun and continue to eat the processed food that will manipulate my hormones, sabotage my hunger and satiety signals and upend my health goals.
3. Eat simpler healthy food
Once I feel I have a handle on cravings, I start to dial in my meals. I move away from a fancy, sexy cooking production and toward simplicity. I try to construct each meal with a combination of protein + veggie + healthy fat. The food is still delicious, but the meals are now much more about nutrition and wellness than about a visual or physical desire.
4. Distinguish between hunger and craving
The simpler meals really lock down my hunger signals. I can much better tell the difference between a craving and real hunger, and I hone in on identifying the difference before and during a meal.
Am I full? Am I adding more salt to this dish because I’m hungry or because my palate is fatigued, but I still want to eat more of it just to eat it? The first time I regained control of my appetite, I was amazed at how naturally this transition occurred. (Some people call this style of eating “intuitive eating.”) After years of struggling with constant feelings of hunger while in a calorie deficit, they all disappeared, and I was eating far fewer calories than I used to on my tracked calorie deficit days.
These healthy, whole, simple meals give your body the best fuel and leave you feeling satisfied. It’s incredible.
5. Consistent simple, whole and healthy foods
Congrats! You are back on track. Now, you’ve just got to keep it up. Personally, I like to stick to 30-day intervals and then schedule a day to fall off the wagon for a meal before getting back on it again. This interval is long enough that it truly becomes a lifestyle. You’re only having 12-30 unhealthy meals over the course of a year.
Unhealthy meals every week is way too frequent for me, and it wreaks havoc on my ability to withstand cravings. Once a month-ish is perfect and gives me the greatest results.
What weight loss hacks do you use to get back on track after a bout of unhealthy eating and unhealthy habits?