5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty

by | Sep 17, 2012

Photo by Aldo Fonticiella

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.

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29 Responses to “5 Things To Consider Before Eating Something Naughty”

  1. This is an awesome article and you bring up really good points Darya. A lot of times we assume that “just this once” will mean we won’t eat anything bad for a long time. But especially under social pressure “just this once” can turn into every day, and add up over time.

    I’m glad you put this to people in such an open and honest way. Woohoo!

  2. Neha says:

    This is a great article–I feel like printing it out and putting it up in my workspace! I have been trying to “be good” but it can be difficult when a high-stress moment meets junk that would quench my sweet tooth. I haven’t been able to hit the gym as much as I would like, which makes me feel all the more guilty and feeds the cycle. But, reading this reminds me that it’s my choice 🙂 Thanks Darya!

  3. Liz says:

    Great! Thanks for informing and educating me at the same time. I have a daily battle with myself not to give in to my baser instincts (mine taking the form of a chocolate croissant). My diet is high in fruit, vegetables, fibre, whole grains etc., but damn! do I love those chocolate croissants…….Do I need them? No.

  4. IPBrian says:

    Intelligent and reasonable. You will never sell. LOL! Good advice Darya. I find for me these days, aside from the dedication to healthy living my wife and I have undertaken, your number 5 is one of my biggest driving factors. There really isn’t too much opportunity to have truly great indulgences. When those opportunities rarely come around, I have maintained a healthy lifestyle that allows me to blow my calories for the day. I have started to wonder why people get so excited about the bad cookies someone brought in from the big box store or the doughnut that is just going to give me heartburn. I skip those experiences in favor or my healthy lifestyle and use it where it really counts.

  5. I’m with Brian, of all the great suggestions you make, it is number 5 that has been most effective for me in achieving my health and weight loss goals. If I am going to indulge, I want every delicious calorie to be worth it! I have become a food snob, especially when it comes to treats, and think it is the only way to go.

  6. kaye says:

    Thanks for sharing a nd for informing 🙂 Sometimes cant help eating without watching what we are eating

  7. Kris says:

    Great post! To be mindful…. What a concept!

    We had a great #healthbuzz chat last night on twitter and one of the questions was about “clean treats” – you should have seen the amazing things that come up!

    Thanks again – Kris @krazy_kris

  8. David Gans says:

    Great stuff, as usual. My mantra these days is: EVERY CALORIE COUNTS.

  9. Molly says:

    I try to consider how it will make me feel later. Whether it’s guilt, an overstuffed stomach, or a blood sugar crash, frequently something that looks too good to pass by will make me feel completely miserable in an hour or so.

  10. Dr Mojo says:

    I picked up some great advise from my mom to add to the ‘is it really worth it’ category. Is it a home made cake with real whipped cream and fresh strawberries…Worth it. A store bought sheet cake with sugar icing…forget it. I try to only eat sweets that are really special and not ones that are ordinary or simply sugars and carbs. I would rather have one dessert a week that I truly, throughly, enjoy verses one dessert a day that is uninspired.

  11. MsB says:

    There are too many special occassions out there. Whats with the weekly safeway birthday cake at work? I don’t consider the birthday of a coworker down the hall a special occassion. However, if someone brings in homemade cookies just for the hell of it… yeah, that’s special.
    I find that if I keep the treats out of the house, except for a bar of chocolate that is, then I feel okay about having good ones elsewhere. I am a huge sweets lover but since I have been keeping fruit around for the sugar cravings, I have been able to loose weight!

  12. Patrick says:

    Free food at the office is never free. Just keep reminding your self that. You may pay nothing for it now but you will later (extra time at the gym, skipping better desserts later, etc).

    Crappy grocery store cookies, cakes, etc or questionable “home made” treats are not worth it.

    I would rather pay for premium desserts at a nice restaurant or bake my own treats at home so I know what is in it.

    My mantra, if you’re going to sin (i.e. desserts), sin big, don’t waste your time on these petty crime treats.

  13. Theresa says:

    i LOVE point 5) – definitely food for thought!

    more often than not we (or i) use food as a distraction to help cope with whatever it is (boredom, stress, anxiety, comfort, etc.) but reimagining food as something that complements good moments to create a positive attitude towards food is a better way to think about ‘treats’. rather than as a tool to get by whatever task it is we happen to be facing in life.

    I LOVE YOUR SITE! totally into museli now btw. my take on it is with almond milk, fruit, and/or ground flaxseed/unsweetened coconut/wheat bran. plus cinnamon!

  14. Summer says:

    Funny you should post this today, as there were treats at work today. I knew there would be before I got there, and told myself I would not have any. But I had some. Not only a little bit but A LOT. It’s like I go crazy and can’t just have one and I kept going back and getting more since I knew there were leftovers. So frustrating that I can’t get the moderation part down. I like your other article with reasons not to eat free food, or like Patrick said free food is never really free. But my frugal upbringing makes me think “I have to have some!” “It’s free! Take advantage and have extra!” Available food at parties and the office is defiantly my biggest stumbling block at the moment.

    • Darya Pino says:

      It’s a really tough habit to break, I know. What has worked the best for me is to really, truly not be hungry or not be around (e.g. have an “appointment with Jim” aka gym). Having more protein at breakfast can help with keeping hunger away, as can keeping tasty, filling, healthy snacks around at work. If I have a big, juicy summer peach to enjoy, Costco cookies aren’t the least bit tempting. You’ve made a huge step by identifying a problem area, now just keep experimenting and figure out what works for you. Then come back and let us know!

  15. bluebonbon says:

    I just finished 12 weeks of an online program called shrinkyourself that helps with emotional eating habits. Your advice on social pressure to eat desserts was exactly what I needed. I love your advice that some family and social gatherings are worth calling a special event and having a treat. And sometimes turning it down is ok too. I will take your advice, “is it worth it?”

  16. Rachel says:

    You know, it looks like point 5 was the most popular in the comments, and it’s very important, but for me, the hardest thing is point 3. I’ve lost 20 pounds since May without really dieting or extreme exercise, but I’ve hit a sort of rut, and I think a lot of it is not changing my drinking habits. It’s hard to think of drinking as dessert!

  17. Chris says:

    These are really good suggestions. One that is critical for me is to evaluate whether I actually enjoy the taste of the treat after I’ve taken the first bite. It is easy to be lured in by treats and they don’t always taste as good as I expected – maybe they lack the flavor I anticipated, for example. I like to take a pause and decide if the item is really worth it.

  18. Joe says:

    I think this is spot on.

    These are among the right questions to as oneself; moreover, simply taking a few moments to pause before diving into the “naughty” food exercises the mindfulness muscle.

    And, while we review this list of 5 in our mind whilst the cupcake stares longingly at us, gulp down a tall glass of water to add some hydration and fullness.

    Then, once you realize that you’re about to succumb, do like Tim Ferriss does to binge without gaining weight, as here described: http://bit.ly/SuCNyN

  19. Mugician13 says:

    Miss Pino:

    You have some great information, and some interesting perspectives on food, nutrition, and the human body. My own personal views tend to mirror yours, in that all foods are good; just that some need to be moderated, and the less highly-processed crap we put into our bodies, the better off we are.

    As a blog reader, though? I’m slightly offended when you re-post old information. I have no problem if you link to old posts while presenting new information, as a way of reinforcing your point [and yes, sometimes old material is worth reviewing]. But three posts in a row which are simply unedited reposts of old stuff? You’re not a pop musician. I’m not looking to listen to your CD over and over again.

    I’m not trying to be a “hater,” and I’m not discounting what you’re trying [and succeeding] to accomplish here. Just saying that for myself, in my own personal opinion, I’d rather see several days of no new posts and move on to the next blog on my list, than to see a “new” post, and realize halfway through that I’ve already read it.

    Much love, and best wishes.

    • Joe says:

      Hello Mugician13.

      I’m not a designated PinoDefender, but I will nevertheless step forward to do so because as a fellow blogger, I empathize w/ the challenge to consistently produce new content.

      Am unaware of your assertion — three identical posts in a row — but assuming you’re correct, this doesn’t deserve excoriation.

      Pino may be working on something and has less time for original content, and you aren’t forced to re-read something already read… just wait for new stuff or plumb the depths of the archives here for subject matter to your liking.

      My 2 cents.


    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Mug,

      I appreciated and totally understand your comments (and thanks Joe for being sympathetic). Joe is right, I’ve been republishing older posts because I’m under a tight deadline for the next few weeks (I announced this over Twitter/FB last Friday), and have put off all my new writing and freelance obligations until then.

      The reality is most readers are new, so the content is new to them. Also, some people appreciate being reminded of older material they may have liked but forgotten about. But either way, I feel ya. Trust me, I’m dying to write some new stuff. I have about 5 articles that I’ve outlined but haven’t had time to complete.

      In the meantime please bear with me, and keep in mind that this is a free resource to use as you please.


  20. Dee says:

    Very good article. Thanks for provoking thoughts to keep me on track. It’s VERY difficult to resist temptations… I try Beck’s method to take me away from performing diet crimes. I say specific things to myself like ‘what sweet in goat mouth does sour in d bum bum’… Etc

    And btw I appreciate the reposts of old articles because I’m relatively new to Summer Tomato, and you bring awareness by highlighting the depth of info in this site and the superb work and thoughts you’ve had in the past.

    Thanks Darya.

  21. halima says:

    hi Darya.
    i have just come across your articles and wow they are great. they are just what i neede right now as my family and i are undertaking to change our lifestyle to a healthier one. thanks for the super information. will be following you from south africa.

  22. andrea says:

    i totally agree with your post.
    My personal philosophy is that ” we are what we eat”, which means that if we eat junk food and trash, eventually we will feel that way, luckily it works on the opposite way as well.

    We have the opportunity to feel good every day, but out of habits we always think tomorrow is a better day to start improving our choices about food and nutrition.

    i do suggest to start the day asking 3 very intimate and direct questions.
    1 Am i willing to eat healthy today?
    2 Am i willing to slightly change my habits today?
    3 Do i need junk food in my body today?

    It might take a while before it’s get natural but my personal experience is that after a while you really listen to your inner voice, which by the way it’s always on your side

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