Clean eating and having a lifestyle geared towards health and wellbeing is absolutely essential for keeping ourselves fit, strong and free of disease. The trouble with healthy eating though, particularly strict diets (which I don’t condone), is that is can become militant, repetitive and boring. You need to mix things up once in a while, not only to see how you feel after eating different foods, but to ensure you achieve maximum wellbeing too.
This is where the concept of a treat meal (or day) enters the picture. We all have cravings for things that aren’t necessarily healthy for us. If we ignore and push through these cravings 80 to 90 per cent of the time, we can strengthen our discipline when it comes to eating and fitness and continue along our path of wellness. Indulging in foods and laziness from time to time however can actually be good for our health. Constant deprivation of one or more foods from the diet is only going to lead to a binging disaster. We have all been there – that time we went without our favourite chocolate for a whole month, only to wind up eating a block of the stuff at a moment of weakness and living with the guilt afterwards. By allowing yourself small treat meals or days of the week and letting yourself off the hook a little you prevent this restrictive behaviour from happening, while at the same time, allowing yourself to really enjoy the food it is that you normally don’t have.
The same concept applies to exercise. If you are persisting with the same fitness regime, week in, week out, not only do our bodies reach a plateau where we can no longer make fitness advances, gain muscle or become fitter, but we begin to loathe and dread exercise. If you train regularly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a day, or a couple of days off. As a result, you will probably find that when you do return to your exercise routine, you are ready and rearing to ramp things up, and enjoy your fitness all the more.
My treat meals/days are usually on a Saturday or Sunday, when I feel I can relax a little, have a few drinks with friends and enjoy say a proper pizza with all the trimmings and/or a dessert, without feeling bad about it. I usually take a break from strenuous exercise on a Sunday, preferring instead a gentle walk or yoga session to keep my body moving. Come Monday, it is right back to clean eating, daily sweat sessions and looking after myself.
Next time you feel guilty for having a lazy day, or indulging in your favourite Chinese, gelato or chocolate, be a bit kinder to yourself and remind yourself that it is ok to have these days and meals. Enjoy your down times, savour in your favourite unhealthy meal and live in the moment, then move on and get back on track at the next chance.