This past weekend I got to spend Friday night to Sunday afternoon with two of my best friends from college in one of their hometowns, Memphis, Tennessee! It was an awesome trip with great memories made and like any vacation in a new city, full of DELICIOUS food!! Known for their barbecue of course, we had to indulge in their saucy meats but also enjoyed drinks at their local breweries and nightlife and finished off the trip with some homemade Jack Daniels infused ice cream.
Reflecting back on the weekend, I felt much less regret and guilt than I would have in the past before really understanding mindful eating and flexible dieting. I would have been guilt-filled with every bite instead of truly taking the time to enjoy the special, unique treat. I would have regretted feeling full and bloated the next day and try to bargain with myself that I won’t eat for the next 6 hours to counter-balance all the “damage”. But none of that is productive towards building up yourself physically or mentally!
First, indulgence is GOOD. It is completely necessary and healthy to treat yourself occasionally especially during a special trip or event! An indulgence is enjoying more foods/calories/sugars/fats than usual; *key word ENJOYING. Some people may consider it similar to a binge, but I would define a binge as mindlessly vacuuming in unlimited amounts of food (not so good), whereas being indulgent is taking the time to savor and enjoy the treats that you’re conscientiously allowing yourself to take part in. Just by changing our mindset around what and how we are eating, we can channel ourselves into a better and healthier lifestyle.
Just by taking a couple extra moments to appreciate, enjoy, and truly taste what we are eating, it improves our entire food experience that much more. When we get to enjoy the process, we are able to avoid extending our “treat-yourself” event because we’ve had the food, enjoyed it, are fulfilled by it, and can move on, back to our usual, healthful track. It only takes the tiniest of changes in our thinking around food to create a healthier relationship with eating and ourselves. It helps us feel in control of our bodies and the things we are putting into it, builds confidence in our life by maintaining a positive dialog with ourselves about our bodies and our actions, and even improves the experience we are having surrounded by friends, family, and food!
On top of reflecting and appreciating how much I enjoyed this weekend, I thought about what I can do on the next day to start my week off strong and to set myself up for success right off the bat. Here are my 4 rules for coming off of an indulgent weekend:
- Eat a big breakfast: I know you might not feel like even looking at food again (actually, I usually wake up REALLY hungry after a weekend of eating a lot, weird), but how you start your day is so imperative to how the rest of your day will unfold. So many people will skip breakfast in an effort to decrease their caloric intake for the day to off-set the weekend. This will NOT work, research shows…especially if you are a usual breakfast eater! Restricting calories early in the day is directly correlated to eating an abundance later in the evening, therefore not eating less than usual, or the same amount as usual, but an increased number of calories again. Start your day with a big (healthy) breakfast of foods like eggs, toast, vegetables, oatmeal, fruit, in order to kick-start yourself back on track!
- Drink lots of water: Of course with eating excessive amounts of calories and especially high-carb and salty foods, weight will be gained. I weigh myself regularly (not recommended for everyone but it works for me!) and I put on 5lbs since Friday. This does NOT mean I gained 5lbs of fat and am a horrible person who deserves to only eat burpees for the rest of the week. It just goes to show my body is doing it’s best to deal with all the food components I stuffed it with! With every gram of carbohydrates the body stores, it also stores 4 grams of water with it. With excess carbohydrates eaten, more have been stored, therefore more water has been held onto – so I’m heavier. Salty restaurant foods on top of that cause even more retention. So drinking more water than usual for the next couple of days will help flush out the excess and return my body back to it’s usual homeostasis.
- Eat lots of fiber: Following our big breakfast, the remainder of the day’s meals should consist of high fiber foods such as beans, broccoli, berries, greens, whole-wheat, oats, flax and chia seed. Eating new, different foods can definitely mess up with our digestive health, but fiber, especially non-soluble, helps to plow through and clear things out! This will also help that bloat-y feeling we have. The recommended amount of daily fiber from real-food sources is 25-30 grams (the national average intake is about 15g so we could use more in general anyway!)
- Use the calories for good: Calories = energy, so when we really top off our tanks, we should have plenty to fuel a great workout! As mentioned above, our bodies will have stored some extra carbohydrates, which is our main source for fuel. Prioritize hitting the gym or going for a run or swim. This is NOT so that you can burn away your additional calories, exercise should never be about *breaking down* our bodies (burning calories)…it should always be about *building up* ourselves (increasing strength, improving work capacity or cardio). Those extra weekend calories may help you PR a lift or a mile time, last a little longer during a conditioning workout, or hit a few extra reps in your weightlifting. Use the calories to fuel your body’s health, strength, and fitness!