How to eat “off plan” without giving up, feeling guilty or stressing about it

balloons and title: how to eat off plan without giving up, feeling guilty or stressing about it

Tis’ the season for joy, for cookies, for parties. What does that boil down to in your life? In real life? Today we’re talking about how to plan for these things in your life without stressing and, on the back end, without feeling bad afterwards. We’ll talk about why healthy eating isn’t an all or none situation, the different ways we consume foods and how to incorporate eating for fun into your plan.

Healthy eating is not black or white, all or none

As we will learn through the points below, being healthy is not a black or white situation. So many times we want to put health on one side of a line and unhealthy on another side. That works for a short time for some people. That is the two weeks or 90 days or what have you that they are doing fill-in-the-blank diet. And, it can lead to some good things. But it cannot last forever. What we want to do is adopt a lifestyle mindset. What is really possible and probable when it comes to the rest of your life? What do you want to be possible?

For example, we’ve known folks who have done fitness and body building competitions that require quite a strict protocol. What you may not hear from these folks, but we have, is the sad state of affairs it put their families in because mom never wanted to bake brownies with them or how they could never have a glass of wine with their spouses on date night. While these specific examples don’t necessarily define happiness, you can see how trying to stick to something very harsh and specific is probably not the goal in the long run. Instead, we want to adopt a lifestyle that values being healthy and eating well but that can ebb and flow with life for years and years. That will be different for each individual to define. The takeaway is that there is a gray area and that’s up to each person. Treating being healthy as black or white is what gets so many people in trouble. On one hand, it can lead to food disorders. On another hand, it can lead to us giving up before trying or even a little ways in because we find out all-too-soon that life requires margin and gray areas.

Emotional eating, mindless eating, eating healthy and eating for fun

There are four general categories that describe the way we eat. These are all credited to our coach, Brooke Castillo but also widely recognized in the health industry as true.

The first is fuel eating. This is when we eat food that fuels our body. It’s intentional, it’s because we are hungry and it’s hopefully healthy & nutritious food, as best as we know and understand.

The second type of eating is storm eating. Storm eating is when we eat in response to an emotion. This can be stress, boredom, disappointment, anger or sadness to name a few emotions.

Next up we have fog eating. Fog eating is when we eat without even knowing we’re doing it. This can happen when we’re watching television with a bag of chips next to us, when we are cooking a meal for a family and “taste” testing or at a potluck and grazing while chatting. In this instance, we’re not making the conscious decision to eat, it’s just sort of happening.

Finally we have joy eating. Hooray! This is when we’re acknowledging that we’re just going to eat and have fun and not stress about it. Food was meant to be enjoyed, we definitely believe that. When you’re eating for joy, you’re eating perhaps as part of a birthday, a wedding, a date night or something like that.

If you click the link below, we go into a wee bit more detail about these types of eating. The main takeaway today is just to know that there are different ways we consume food and we want to stick primarily to fuel eating, sprinkle in some joy eating and avoid storm and fog eating.

Related: The 4 Types of Eating (which to do & which to avoid)

Eating “non-healthy” food is okay

Now that we know what joy eating is, let’s dig a little deeper.

First, there is a distinction to be made between joy eating and “cheat” meals. Cheat meals send the wrong signal to your brain. First, we’re promoting cheating. If we truly believe in a lifestyle or habit, we don’t want to promote cheating on it. That mindset can lead to some bad thoughts and then bad behavior. Cheating implies a negative connotation to your “non-cheating” meal plan or protocol. It also implies you’re being made to do something that you don’t really want to do. Also, when we’re preparing to “cheat” we may go much bigger and badder than we need to. If you’re waiting all week to get your “cheat” meal, then you’re just white-knuckling through life and that’s not maintainable. You’re also likely to splurge much more than if you use the mindset we’re going to talk about.

Eating for joy is okay. Eating for fun is okay. It is something we sort of have to retrain our brains for however. If we liken it to our clients who use cash when they begin budgeting it might help you to understand. Eventually our clients can get to the point where they are using digital accounts and not handling cash quite as much. That happens after they’ve gotten into the discipline of budgeting, spending every dollar intentionally, denying frivolous spending and more. Once they have that on lock, we can transition to using that debit card for gas and so forth. But without that discipline, they will inevitably bust their budget with small, little missteps.

Likewise, when it comes to joy eating we have to get the head knowledge of what healthy eating is, why it’s important and how it’s a lifestyle change that is doable. We also have to get into the habit of eating to fuel our body and of making it second nature to eat healthy, nutritious, delicious food according to our goals on how we want to feel. Once that is going swimmingly, we want to make sure it’s understood that eating for fun, for joy is totally okay. Your life is not one dimensional and neither will your eating. But, if we don’t make that head & habit change first, joy eating is either done too much or never. The lesson, though, is that joy eating is okay, it’s not shameful, it’s not a bad thing. But, it’s also not something you’re living for or holding your breath until you get to do it. It’s just part of the natural ebb and flow of your life. We don’t ever want to eat food to reward, punish or comfort ourselves, that’s the key.

Make eating for fun a part of your healthy meal planning

Now, joy eating is something that is going to be planned. That’s what differentiates it between storm and fog eating. With joy eating, you’re saying, “This birthday party is coming up Friday, I’m going to enjoy a piece of cake.” Planning it means you’re being intentional, not reacting to events or emotions. Planning it also allows you to remove the stress of “will I or won’t I,” which typically results in more bad choices because it keeps your brain in decision anxiety. On the other hand, if you plan to eat a little something or even a big something, your brain can let it go.

So, consider the ebb and flow, the fun and exciting parts of your life when you’re planning and plan to be a part of it, if you so choose.

How to reset your healthy eating when things didn’t go the way you planned

Sometimes you’ll plan your joy eating and it will go exactly as planned and you’ll feel decent about it. Sometimes you’ll feel bad about it. Sometimes it won’t go as planned and sometimes you won’t plan it at all. Sometimes you might realize you’ve stormed or fogged into eating. Regardless, your job is to reset.

Related: It only takes one moment to get back on track

It only takes one moment, one meal, one thought to reset and get back to your previously planned plan. Your job is to understand what happened and then let it go. Do not dwell on what, why or in shame or guilt. None of that is useful or helpful, it just makes you feel much worse. Instead, just reset. And, when you do reset, don’t use negative language such as:

  • I screwed up, now I have to start all over
  • I failed
  • I have to get back on my diet
  • I’m not allowed to eat that stuff

All of that is negative language and you’re just not going to be successful at hating yourself into being healthy. Even if you do make some progress, you’re not going to love yourself when you get there. Instead, just choose to see anything unplanned as a lesson learned and, with grace, get yourself back on the so-called wagon.

If you want help applying these concepts to your daily life, habits and goals then fill out the form linked below and we’ll be in touch. We would love to work together!

Ideal Balance is The Life Coaching Facility in Navarre, Florida that focuses on Fitness, Family & Finance. We help our clients create the discipline & habits they need to strip off what’s holding them back from living the life God created them to live. We work with clients in 1-on-1 sessions in person, virtually and in small groups. We offer life coaching, financial coaching, health coaching. We also offer personal training and home organization locally here in Navarre, Florida.

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