Couple of days ago, the day before Good Friday to be precise a normally quiet lady at work remarked as I was preparing my typical lunch salad that she has never seen anyone eat so clean and healthy. And she’s never seen me having the occasional doughnuts or muffins. I quote “It’s really very impressive, I have never seen anyone eat such healthy food, every single day.” I thanked her for the compliment and this post is not to toot my own horn. 2 days later it’s made me ask a bunch of questions about my lunch and food in general and I believe this enquiry will be helpful to the readers of this post. How do I manage to eat clean and nutrient-dense lunch every day? For that matter, how do I manage to eat clean nearly all the time? Less than 2 years ago, I used to love high-sugar processes foods and junk-foods. There is something that has definitely shifted?
Let’s talk about my typical office lunch which invariably gets health approval from all and sundry. If I could get a cent for every time I heard the world ‘healthy’ to describe my lunch.
So as the photo suggests, it’s typically mixed salad leaves, some colourful vegetables like purple cabbage, carrot, a big avocado. If I want a bit more colour, I will put half a beetroot. Sometimes I put goat milk feta. So the foundation of salad is plants based. On this I will add meat of some sort: canned wild caught salmon or canned sardines or organic chicken livers or lamb curry or wild goat or steak cut into pieces. I will sprinkle some sunflower seeds and pumpkin kernels and maybe a spoon of MCT oil – this is my dressing. I absolutely don’t use any commercial salad dressing. So, all in all, I am getting a lot of plants and proteins and fat into the first of my 2 meals of the day. More importantly, I am getting a lot of live enzymes. Everyone intuitively knows this is a healthy meal (well, some may frown upon the meat), yet most find it very hard to eat this even once a week let alone every single day.
How have I managed to be so consistent day in and day out with my lunch? It’s not the tastiest lunch in the world you know. It also takes a bit of time to eat it unlike a sandwich or a scone or a quiche which passes off as lunch these days. Is it just my will power? Is it just that I feel awesome about how the food makes me feel and so I keep eating the same way? That’s a bit chicken and egg.
One of the secrets to my success with eating healthily has been has been my dislike for the concept of “cheat days”. I don’t think of my meal as something I only need to do for 5 days a week and then for 2 days of the week, anything goes in the name of lunch. Of course I crave variety and I almost never have salad again in the night. The weekend lunches again are a bit different from the 5 weekday lunches, but they are again whole food based as well. I don’t cheat over the weekends or I don’t treat the whole day as a cheat day. ‘Cheat days’ is a slippery slope. Human beings have a tendency to get away with as much as they can. If we can get away with less sleep, we will keep doing it. If we can get away with eating ice cream every night without any apparent health impact, we will keep doing it. In fact, before you know it, you will start doing it twice a week and worse. In my opinion, ‘Cheat days’ takes the control away from you and eventually weakens your will power overtime. It may sound a bit subtle but it breeds the notion that what you day 5 days a week is a bit different from what you do other 2 days of the week.
So, what’s the alternative? What are we supposed to do?
I am definitely an 80/20 guy. In food terms it could mean that you eat well 80% of the time and 20% of the time, you cut yourself some slack. My 80/20 is more like 95/5. The important point is that I don’t considering eating less than optimal cheating or failure. It is what it is. I am aware of the choice I am making and I understand the impact of my choice. Orange cake with cream on the side or kumara fries are two of my weaknesses. I don’t indulge in them 95% of the time but when we are out by the waterfront and it’s a clear day, I find myself ordering a slice of orange cake. I am aware of the consequences – it’s going to raise my blood sugar, turn of fat burning, I am getting some gluten too. But like I have often said and I don’t know who to credit for this quote ‘Eat the most restrictive diet you can enjoy, not the most restrictive diet you can tolerate.’ So eat the damn slice of cake or pizza and get done with it and don’t look back or worry about it. Here is another trick I have learnt – often we only need one quarter or half of what you are pining to eat to get over the craving. You don’t need to eat the entire pizza or entire doughnut – you will find that half or even quarter of doughnut would get you over the sugar crave or the junk-food delight.
|To cake or not to cake? If a little slice will help you eat the salad…|
Food is not just about nutrient density. Sure it fuels our body and brain and provides vitality to our cells. But we have also have emotional and spiritual connection to the food we eat. There is a reason why some foods are called comfort foods. Foods your mother made lovingly for you as a child. It’s also important to be at peace with the food you are eating. I could give you the best grass fed steak in the world, but if it’s odd with your world view and you don’t want to consume meat, what good is it?