Sometimes foods are super unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them.
In my opinion, the purpose of food should be to optimize quality of life. Food is delicious, it makes you healthy and brings you closer to friends and loved ones. At any given meal, I try my best to maximize each of these goals. And if it falls short in one, I try to make it up in another.
Inevitably there are situations where the best option is not particularly obvious. For example, how important is it to eat healthy when you’re on vacation?
Consider dessert. By no stretch of the imagination do you need dessert to live, and if we are being honest with ourselves most of the time we probably shouldn’t eat it. But sometimes (err, often) we want to anyway.
Ideally you should get your healthstyle to a place where you can occasionally go a little wild without it having a significant impact on your health goals. But getting there takes practice and a healthy dose of self awareness.
Here are 5 questions to help you make the right decision before letting loose.
5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty
1. What else have you eaten today? This week?
To be able to indulge occasionally, you need to understand what “occasionally” really means. Depending on your body size and activity levels, you can get away with maybe one or two treats a week. If you find yourself giving in once or more a day, it may be time to reevaluate your definition of special occasion.
2. Have you been to the gym?
Using the gym to justify a bad diet is a losing battle. But if you do eat a few too many quickly digesting calories, it’s much better that they go to fuel your muscles rather than your waistline. I’ve found that some of my best runs at the gym are on birthday cake days at the office.
3. Will you be drinking later?
Alcohol fuels weight gain in a number of ways. Sugary drinks add hundreds of calories to your day and should be considered an indulgence in their own right. Alcohol also has a way of convincing you to opt for late night burrito runs or greasy morning brunches. If you’re heading out with friends later, you might want to skip the after dinner cheesecake.
4. Are you trying to lose weight?
Believe it or not, asking yourself your health goals before you eat something can really help you make better decisions. I don’t recommend strict diets when you’re finding your healthstyle, but if you still have weight to lose desserts and heavy meals won’t make your life any easier. If you’d still like to drop some pounds, it pays to be picky with your indulgences.
5. Is it worth it? Really?
One of the best things about avoiding diets is you have the freedom to fit your favorite foods into your life. But one of the down sides is that you need to be able to make good choices for yourself, which isn’t always easy. It can be very tempting to consider every cupcake that is brought to the office a special occasion and lose track of the truly valuable indulgences that actually make your life better. Birthdays, anniversaries and great restaurants are things you will remember for your entire life. Junk food at the office is rarely more than an excuse to avoid work for another half hour. Be honest with yourself about the true value of a food before inviting it into your life.
What helps you make quality food choices?
Originally published September 20, 2010.