Last night my husband and I went to our annual State Fair. It has been a tradition in my family to visit the fair every year since I was a little child, and I have strong emotional attachments to being there. The lights of the Midway at night, the sounds of games being played and prizes won, the amazing exhibits, the people watching; but the best thing about the State Fair has always been the food. Deep fried everything, cotton candy, pizza, candy apples, smoked turkey legs, pulled saltwater taffy. The smell of all that food as you stroll in from the parking lot is enough to make me a giddy 10 year old again, begging my Dad for some tater twisters or deep fried twinkies. Let’s face it – the food is part of the experience.
My husband and I are very clean eaters. As educated as we are about trans fats and processed foods, it is pretty hard these days to get us to get past it and just eat junk food. We make almost all of our meals at home, and are annoyingly picky about the restaurants we will eat at. I call it the curse of knowing too much.
We discussed our plan for the State Fair ahead of time, as we normally do in these situations. Could we make the fair about just the other things it has to offer, without partaking in the junk food? We decided to just make the best choices possible and at the point where it was causing an issue or keeping us from enjoying ourselves, we would reassess.
This may seem a bit over the top to the average person. But hi, my name is Deanna, and I am actually a recovering processed food addict…and one wrong move can send me down a very slippery slope. Plans and strategies are very necessary for someone like me to navigate these situations.
We were starving and decided to stop at a place serving red wine and grilled chicken sandwiches. The sandwiches were laughable as one can probably imagine. What would you expect from a grilled chicken sandwich at a booth that also sells deep-fried cheesecake. We finished them, lamented to each other about how much they sucked, and decided to stroll with our wine and check out the lights and people of the Midway.
After awhile we both realized that we were still starving and were at that point of reassessment. We reminded ourselves of what Bob Harper says: “Eat healthy 90% of the time, then don’t beat yourself up for the other 10%.” It was time to enjoy some junk food.
We made a point to not go crazy, splitting small servings of a few items. We enjoyed every bite and both left feeling neither stuffed and regretful, nor hungry and resentful. Once home, we got right back on track with our normal meals immediately.
Learning How To Balance
Learning to live with balance and not extremes has been a lifelong lesson for me. I seem to either be totally on one end of the food spectrum or the other. I have had to learn to be strategic and thoughtful about food instead of impulsive and emotional. I have to weigh the consequences of every action. The result is a balanced life where I stay in shape, can reach the goals I’ve worked so hard for, but enjoy myself when it’s worth it too.
If you’re having trouble with balance and find yourself in a situation like we were in, ask yourself the following questions:
- How will I feel about this decision tomorrow?
- Will this set me back in my goals?
- If so, is it worth it?
- Is there a better option or a compromise that I haven’t thought of?
- Will avoiding the meal cause so much resentment that I can’t enjoy myself?
- Can I stay in control if I do indulge?
- Can I get right back on track afterwards?
Weigh your answers carefully and make an informed decision ahead of time so that you are not out of control or impulsive when the moment arrives. No, one meal or day off your normal diet won’t hurt you! Unless a) you’re saying this to yourself everyday or b) going off your plan will send you into a tailspin. Be honest with yourself. Don’t rationalize your thoughts.
Being mindful and intentional when it comes to your diet is the key to leading a balanced life, staying healthy, and enjoying indulgences from time to time.