We all have days where we feel like just letting go. You know – the ones where you want to stay in your pajamas and eat ice cream and potato chips all day while binge watching Netflix.
Yeah, those days.
The ones where, no matter how hard you try to counter it, you’re not in the mood to eat healthy.
I’ve been there too. Believe me.
Remember, health is not built or destroyed by one day’s food choices. But uncovering why you feel so resistant to making better food choices is a great way to learn something new about your body, so you can more consistently eat healthy (without the struggle).
So the next time you get into that mood, use it as an opportunity! Here’s what to do when you’re not in the mood to eat healthy.
Simplify your meal prep
If eating healthy seems stressful, complicated, or time consuming, know that it doesn’t have to stay that way. Perhaps you can consider a salad for dinner so you don’t have to heat up the house (using pre-washed bagged greens, healthy salad dressing, goat cheese, avocado, and maybe some grilled grass-fed steak). Or bust out your slow cooker, so dinner is ready by the time you get home from work (pulled pork, maybe?). Maybe you can buy sausage or pre-marinated meat and stir fry it with some chopped zucchini and bell peppers (hopefully in a cast iron pan). Or pre-make some roasted vegetables, so you have half the meal prep ready by the time you get home from work.
(Psst – there are many tasty roasted vegetables recipes in my ebook “Veggies: Eat Them Because You Want To, Not Because You Have To”! Snag your FREE copy at the end of this post!) When we believe healthy eating is too much effort, it is. It takes a little practice, but I assure you it doesn’t have to be hard.
Get curious about what’s driving your cravings
Did you have a stressful day at work? Problems with friends, family, or loved ones? Did you make the healthy breakfast mistake again? Do you feel addicted to certain foods? Feeling lonely, upset, or depressed?
Eating food to change our state of mind is a natural drive. We know eating can lead to a surge of dopamine and serotonin in your brain that makes you feel good and feel loved – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we also know that food can be used to cover up and distract ourselves from feeling our true emotions. Temporarily masking emotions with food only perpetuates its power over us and the feeling of being helpless. This can lead to binging and feeling out of control. Seek support, counseling, and other ways to soothe yourself beyond food. And of course remember, it’s natural to have days where you need a little (or a lot of) cake and chocolate. Just remember to tune in and recognize the source of those cravings.
Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry
After you’ve considered the source of your cravings, it’s important to check in and see how hungry you are and what you’re hungry for. You want to know if it’s physical hunger or your mental appetite running the show. Are you craving salty or sweet? Crunchy or soft? Hot or cold? A little bite of something or a full meal? You can practice the Hunger Awareness Exercise to help tune in to those cues. Oftentimes we are so driven by habit that we forget to check in with ourselves before diving in to our food. This is especially true with junk food that’s literally engineered to make us want to eat more.
Listen to your body
Denying yourself the pleasure of food just because it’s “good” or “bad” by someone else’s definition doesn’t work in your favor (I call it the nutritionism trap). Unless you have a solid reason (such as a diagnosed food sensitivity or are on a guided elimination diet for restoring your health and digestion), denying yourself certain foods often results in binging on them later. So go ahead and have a little. Enjoy that piece of chocolate. Savor every little morsel! (Full disclosure: there are always treats in my house. And no, kale chips or spinach chips don’t always satisfy a desire for chips. We all need the real thing sometimes.)
Remind yourself why you usually eat healthy
Staying tuned in to how your body responds to food is some of the best self discovery work we can do. For example – you may notice sugary foods make you feel lousy, low energy, or even crave more sweets. I certainly notice that after the holidays and have indulged more than usual. Without shaming my indulgences, I simply observe that I don’t feel great, and find ways to overcome those post holiday sugar cravings. After a certain amount of practice, you may notice you naturally gravitate towards healthier foods because you enjoy feeling good! Again, while there’s nothing wrong with the temporary satisfaction of a treat, honoring your body’s preference to feel good is both sustainable and gratifying.
Make a health(ier) swap
While I do not believe in denial, I do believe that our taste preferences will only change if we make an effort. I like to think of them as incremental changes. For example, if you really want hot chocolate, maybe you can make it yourself with unsweetened cocoa powder and a smaller amount of sugar. Or if you want chips, maybe you can choose the ones that are made with fewer and simpler ingredients (again, I fully realize and agree that kale chips, although delicious, are not the same thing). Or if mac & cheese is calling your name, maybe you can learn to make it at home with real food ingredients instead of resorting to blue box (I think you know exactly what I’m talking about).
Now that you’ve heard my approach to managing those days where eating healthy is the last thing on my mind, I’d love to hear what works for you.
Tell me about it in the comments below.
Until next week,