One of the greatest challenges to living healthier is the little devil on our shoulders. You know the guy, he’s the one who tells you:
– One little doughnut won’t hurt you.
– You can skip today’s workout, there’s always tomorrow.
– Go on, stay up and watch another episode, sleep in a little and you’ll be fine.
– Oh, go one, what harm could one more pint do?
The worst part is, he’s right. One doughnut, one missed workout, one extra episode in your Game of Thrones Binge, one more pint when you’re out with the boys…each one, in isolation, won’t ruin you.
Of course, one more doughnut, and then one more, and yet one more, is bad. All those bad fats, all that sugar and refined flour? They equal fat, and fat is bad. Really bad..
Missing one workout leads to missing another, and another, and you’ve fallen into the New Year’s Resolution trap. Start strong, taper off and eventually quit.
One poor night’s sleep, okay. Chronic sleep deprivation, seriously not okay. Unless you want cognitive decline, mood swings, weight gain, heart disease, lowered sex drive, and more.
And alcohol? I haven’t written on the health dangers of alcohol, but like I mentioned recently, I’m a teetotaller. I should get to that someday, but then again, since you’re reading a health and fitness blog, you probably already know.
So what the heck do I mean by “give in to your cravings,” given that doing so seems to always result in something bad?
Simple, really, “to err is human,” and we’re human, to robots. I mean, it’s possible to live a life, free of temptations, cravings and giving in, that’s what the monastic lifestyle is; self sacrifice, self denial, meditation, prayer, a search for the divine. But who among us, reading this little blog, really want to be ascetics? I know I sure don’t.
So, if we’re not going to be monks, but we want to live better, and healthier, what do we do about that little devil on our shoulders? Say yes once in a while.
Yes, I said it, say yes to the little devil and give in. Once in a while.
Give yourself a treat. Allow yourself to indulge your craving. Once in a while.
Low carb diets often have “cheat days,” one day a when you are allowed to eat as you want. Carbs taste gooooood, and trying to go off them permanently is a bridge too far for the vast majority of us. So, rather than seek the impossible, allow the indulgence, once in a while.
Remember the rest of the quote, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” In allowing ourselves a cheat day, a chance to indulge, once in a while, we are allowed to forgive ourselves. One of the biggest problems of giving in to food cravings is guilt.
Once you give in, you’ve broken a pledge and fallen into the trap of another saying, “Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.” Hey, you’ve broken the promise. You’re just as guilty if you break it huge, as if you break it tiny. So instead of having a little piece of cake, you go out for 2 for1 night at the local Symposium Café and chow down. This might or might not have actually happened. I admit to nothing.
That’s one aspect of giving in to your cravings. There is another; find healthier alternatives that satisfy your cravings.
I’ve got a thing for chocolate. Thing is, cacao is healthy. Really healthy. But most chocolate (I’m looking at you, white and milk chocolate) contains only a small amount of cacao, and a whole lot of sugar. On the other hand, dark chocolate (the higher the cacao percentage the better) is really good for you.
So, what did I do with my chocolate craving? I retrained it. Instead of milk or white chocolate, I eat dark chocolate. I started at a relatively low cacao percentage, maybe 60%, and worked up to 85%. Now 70% and below taste too sweet.
Try this with your cravings. Find a healthier substitute, and slowly train yourself to it.
- Sub whole grain bread for white bread
- Swap whole grain pasta for white pasta
- Try brown rice instead of white
- Sub skim milk for whole milk
- Lose the frappamokachinolattes for a cup of black coffee
- Ditch sugar for stevia
- And on and on
Your taste buds are mutable; your humanity is not. So, rather than try to be a robot, or a monk, try accepting your humanity, and train your cravings into something healthier. Then allow yourself to give in, once in a while, so you’re not cheating. You won’t have to forgive yourself, and the temptation to over indulge will be reduced.