"I've worked really hard, I deserve a wee treat. Mmmm there's crisps in the cupboard, or ice cream in the freezer. Oh I've been really good I could have a wee bit of both."
Escalates to ...
"I've had a really hard day, can't be bothered cooking, i'll just treat myself to a wee takeaway!"
Escalates to ...
"Life is shit I need a treat. This 1kg jar of Nutella followed by the family size share bag of crisps should do the trick, and if I don't feel better after that there is the slab of chocolate in the cupboard!"
It is a slippery slope. I know, I've been there, sat on the sofa surrounded by the crumbs of evidence!
One treat can quickly lead to the downfall of not just one week but all of my efforts. For me, what I eat is the biggest mental battle when it comes to trying to lose weight or break years of bad habits. The temptation to slip back to your old ways is easy. In the past I did it because it was comforting. The problem is that I don't have an emergency brake in my head to slam on that tells me when enough is enough. I am a self confessed glutton. It's been like that for as long as I can remember, even as a kid I didn't know when to stop.
For the last two decades my life has revolved around dieting, losing some weight, falling off the wagon, put more weight on, diet, lose some weight (but not everything I put on), fall off the wagon.... you get the picture!
And it is always the damn treats that escalate and push me over the edge! SO how do you break that cycle?
I'm not a professional nutritionist or psychologist so I can only tell you what is working for me. These are my 5 steps to breaking the treat cycle.
Tip 1 - Remove temptation!
I removed all of the food from my house that I would use as an emotional crutch or reward, this included crisps (lots of crisps), white chocolate, biscuits. My husband loves his munchies so I make sure to buy him the things that I don't like!! This is more about prevention rather than cure.
Tip 2 - Include 'treats' in your nutrition plan
Removing temptation does not mean going cold turkey. If I start to feel a hankering for a treat coming on I will plan to incorporate it into either that day or the next. Knowing that I have a treat coming up generally staves off the temptation to over indulge. Planning what I am eating over the next couple of days is a good way to avoid straying and keeping me on the straight and narrow. I also make sure that the treat is something I really want and will enjoy to make sure it will really hit the spot. I also make sure to buy one or two of something rather than a multi-bag/pack.
Having a more balanced, planned and consistent nutrition plan goes a long way to staving off the 'treat-pangs', I find that I have fewer cravings for the bad stuff these days.
Tip 3 - Self Rewarding
I am totally aware that I always used to reward myself for doing something good/well with food. Something that I think a lot of people do. As a child I was rewarded with treats (sweets) for good behaviour and it is easy to see where the habit has stemmed from. I know this is where I have always failed in the past when it came to changing my eating habits. I would have a great week of good eating and exercise, have the odd treat at the weekend, unfortunately that would usually spill over into the next week. It would quickly spiral and I would be back in the cycle.
For me, finding a new way of self rewarding is the the key to breaking this habit. Nowadays, rather than stuffing my face with a Krispy Kreme doughnut if I have a good week or if I have achieved something, I will buy myself something new to wear, a new mascara or a new kitchen gadget.
Tip 4 - Stop comfort eating - just stop it!
This is the hardest challenge for me. As well as using food to treat myself, my default was also to comfort eat when things were not going so well. If work is stressful, if stuff is going on at home, if life is challenging in general, my default is to make myself feel better with food. Which is crazy. Having something 'nice' might make me feel slightly better initially, but as soon as I am finished I know that I will feel crap afterwards. Guilt will creep in and I will feel rubbish for caving, plus I know I will need to compensate by depriving myself of something to balance it out. Not good.
I don't think there is an easy fix for this one. For me it is more about recognising that stress is my comfort eating trigger, knowing that I need to be strong and reminding myself that food is not going to make me feel better in the long run.
Tip 5 - Eat food you actually like!
A sure fire way to failure is making myself eat something I don't like...continually. Especially if I subject myself to it 5 days a week. If I do that I want to splurge at the weekends just to make myself feel better.
Eating fresh, healthy and nutritious food does not mean subjecting myself to eating foods that I don't like. As part of planning what I will eat to hit my daily macros I always make sure that each meal is something that I actually enjoy, is tasty and filling. I used to make the mistake of eliminating carbs and fats from my diet but I am quickly learning that I need a balance of each to satisfy my hunger, make my food taste good and me feel good.
That's it, my 5 easy peasy tips to getting and staying on track. Finally and most importantly, I no longer crucify myself for the odd treat here and there, or use the odd slip as an excuse to throw everything out the window.