My dear friend Sherry’s recent blog post inspired me to write this post. She talks about the reality that not everything we will eat will be 100% paleo. Her husband EJ also writes about “cheat days” and I liked how he refuses to call them cheat days. Both of their posts resonated with me because if you get it in your head that you must be 100% compliant, you are doomed to fail. Every bite that passes your lips will most likely not be all compliant and that is perfectly OK.
That being said, this does not give you the leeway to go off course in radical ways. Rather, you can adjust and make the best choices possible. Our trip to Las Vegas proved to me to that I had the tools to do just that. We had some some non-paleo meals (and cocktails) but we did not go completely overboard. We had reasonable portions and made better choices (wine & cider vs. sugar loaded cocktails) that may not have been strictly paleo but aligned with some of the same concepts. If you are sticking on the diet pretty strictly most of the time, you can have these non-paleo treats without major consequence and it helps satiate some cravings.
Let me clarify though: don’t treat these meals as rewards but rather occasional treats. Treating these as rewards is not the right mindset. Eating paleo should not be seen as a chore or punishment, therefore following your paleo lifestyle should not involve a treat-based reward system. Eating paleo should simply be part of your healthier lifestyle and non-compliant meals are just the reality of living in a world that is not all eating paleo like you are.
Just as you should not call these non-compliant meals “rewards”, I agree with EJ that they should also not be called “cheats”. The term is negative and does not help in your mindset. It sounds like you have lost control but you don’t have to. Like I said above, you can make better choices and mitigate the consequences of the non-compliant meal. Ways to do this include:
- Make sure the rest of the meal is as compliant as possible and don’t let the entire meal be non-complaint.
- Think about how rare a treat this is. Is it a unique meal or food you can’t get anywhere else? If not, maybe resist the temptation for another day.
- Add extra activity (for example, we walk way more than we typically do when we are on vacation).
- Limit your portions or quantities – have one cookie or glass of wine, not several.
- Have just a couple of bites or share the dessert/appetizer instead of eating the whole thing.
- When you go non-compliant, try to follow some paleo rules like eating freshly made food with high quality ingredients you can still pronounce.
- Avoid back to back non-compliant meals or treats.
Finally, never say never. If I had to say “I’ll never eat this”, I’d be pretty discouraged. Now, I don’t say “never” but rather “some day”. This helps me be way more patient and it helps me make better choices knowing that if I stay the course, I can take a paleo-break every now & then. For example, I miss popcorn at the movies but have not given in yet. I will someday though, as a treat. *
* I’ll let you in on a secret – I love candy corn which is the embodiment of everything paleo is not. I have allowed myself ONE piece of candy corn a week through Halloween. And I savor every tiny bite, LOL.