Being a health and fitness blogger, people are always surprised when I tell them I still eat pizza. They are even more surprised when I tell them that I lost 98 pounds and I didn't cut pizza out of my diet.
"What about the cheese?" they say. Or the wheat or the tomatoes (or whatever the latest food villain is).
It is not like I am shovelling giant slices of grease-dripping pizza into my mouth daily, but pizza is definitely a part of my diet. As are cake, ice cream, wine and most of the other things that people think they have to give up to lose weight.
Four years ago, when I decided that I was going to finally lose weight and this time it would be for good, I knew that the only way I was going to do it was to ditch the diet mentality and see it as a lifestyle. I needed to lose weight in a way that was sustainable, and my eating habits had to be ones that I could keep up for the rest of my life. This meant finding a balance.
If you are eating three meals a day, that is 21 meals a week. If one of those meals is "less than perfect," it is not going to ruin the other 20 clean meals you have been eating. A couple of slices of pizza a week is not going to make you gain weight, the same way that one salad a week will not make you lose weight. It is about consistent choices and habits.
I don't like to reward myself with food, as I think that creates an unhealthy relationship with food; however, if I have a treat meal planned at the end of the week, it definitely makes some of my more grueling workouts easier to get through.
Too many people have an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to weight loss, and that is the reason why most people don't stick to it, as it is too extreme. We have all been there before -- we restrict ourselves and tell ourselves we can't have anything that is not 100 percent clean and then we eventually give in (as it is not realistic to never give in) and end up eating twice or four times the amount we would have done if we had have just had a little bit when we wanted it.
How you can find balance, too:
- Keep a food diary: Every time you begin to feel guilty about having something off plan, take a look at your food diary and look at all the choices you have made overall that week. You will soon realize that the cupcake is a very small percentage of what you have eaten overall.
- Don't label food as "good" or "bad" or as a punishment or a reward: Clean eating is not a punishment for being overweight, and some ice cream is not a reward for working out all week. It is just food. Labeling food as such gives it too much power, and it can take over your life.
- Portion control and moderation are always important: No matter what you are eating, you need to be mindful of portions, but this is especially true if you are having something that is more of a treat meal. If you want some cake, have a small piece. If you eat a lot of it, then that is most likely why you would feel guilty.
- Remind yourself that healthy eating and exercise is part of your life, but it isn't your life: Sometimes we can become so obsessed with health and fitness that it takes over our lives and becomes an obsession. We are more than that.
- Don't binge: Just because you have a craving for a grilled cheese sandwich and you decide to have one doesn't mean you can then have two more.
- Remember that nothing is totally off-limits: That doesn't mean you can and should eat everything, but you could if you wanted to. Choosing not to eat it rather than telling yourself that you can't puts you in control.
- Eat regularly: Make sure you have a regular eating pattern to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This means you are less likely to binge if you do have a little bit of chocolate.
- Make a date with your favorite food: Plan when you are going to have your treat meals. I often found that spontaneous treat meals lead me to eating way more than I should and I tend to choose something that I kind of wanted, rather than what I really wanted.
- Know your triggers: Although I am all for indulging a little, there are some foods that people can't handle in moderation. I am not saying avoid it totally, but make sure you are not eating it for emotional reasons.
For me, the most important thing about losing weight was that I was healthy and happy at the end of it and that I still had a healthy relationship with food. This is why finding balance from the beginning is so important. It isn't something that happens overnight. It will take a while, and some trial and error for you to find a balance that works for you. But it really is worth it, as health and fitness should not become an obsession. You can still get healthy, lose weight and enjoy the foods you love.
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