What I Ate: Avoiding Perfectionism

I feel like a common struggle among those who embark on a new healthy eating journey is dealing with a perfectionist or “all or nothing” mentality. You’re either eating healthy or you’re not, with no middle ground.

I admit, I fell into this category for years. If I slipped-up during the day and had a cookie or a bagel at the office, I felt like I had blown my whole day– so I might as well keep going and keep eating junk food for the rest of the night! (Or even for the rest of the week, in some cases.)

Crazy logic, but I know I’m not the only one who’s felt that way.

diet-quote-1

The truth is, a cookie, or a piece of cake, or a bagel isn’t going to ruin anything when enjoyed in the context of an overall healthy diet. It’s what you do the majority of the time that counts, so if you’re filling your day with lots of nourishing whole foods, some occasional less-than-perfect foods just aren’t that big of a deal… unless you make them a big deal by beating yourself up about it.

I mention this because yesterday I had to buy a big, chocolate birthday cake for a photo shoot for work. My old “diet-mentality” self would have stressed over working with that chocolate cake, and one of two things would have happened: I’d either skip tasting the cake and think about it for the rest of the day, only to binge eat something else later, or I’d eat a slice of cake, and maybe even several slices, and continue to pig out for the rest of the night because I had already blown my diet for the day. As you can see, nothing good happens when you’re in a diet mentality. No matter how long you last on a diet, if you restrict foods that you love, you’re bound to wind up feeling deprived and in a binge at some point.

So, I hope the take-away message from this post that is that it’s okay to indulge in less-than-perfect foods every now and then. In fact, I think it’s a pretty healthy and happy way to enjoy life– and that’s the point, isn’t it? Food is meant to be enjoyed; it shouldn’t be an additional source of stress.

Here’s a peek at how I like to handle things now:

healthy-meals

Breakfast: I think I’ve had a chocolate shake for breakfast almost every day this week. Usually I try to switch up my smoothies to give my body a variety of nutrients, but lately, I’ve been going with what I’m craving– chocolate! This smoothie included chia seeds, hemp hearts, cocoa, dates, collagen, vanilla, and lots of fresh spinach.

Lunch: I’ve been enjoying lots of Caesar salads for the past few days, thanks to a big batch of vegan dressing I made this past weekend. (Recipe is in my cookbook.) I topped this one with leftover organic chicken from the previous night’s dinner.

Snack: I don’t drink coffee very often, but I was craving it yesterday when I knew I’d be working with chocolate. Chocolate + coffee are just a match made in heaven to me. So, when I picked up the chocolate cake for my photo shoot, I also picked up a coffee from Starbucks. (I order 4 shots of decaf espresso, and add my own organic heavy whipping cream when I get home. It tastes like a latte, with only about a tablespoon of cream added.) After the photo shoot, I dug into the chocolate cake, because it looked so good!

But, it wasn’t that good.

I did eat some of the chocolate frosting, because that’s my favorite part, but then I realized I’d actually rather have one of my homemade cookies, instead. So, I pulled one of my almond flour cookies from the freezer and enjoyed it with the rest of my coffee. Sweet tooth satisfied, and I felt zero guilt about having enjoyed the chocolate frosting, too.

Dinner: This was one of the best dinners I’ve had in a while. Not only was it delicious, but it also left me feeling so good! We started off by splitting the No-Fail Kale Salad from my cookbook, followed by a huge bowl of cauliflower that I roasted after tossing it with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and garlic-infused olive oil. I think we consumed over two pounds of veggies in a single meal!

Dessert: I finished my evening with several pieces of mint dark chocolate and a warm mug of herbal tea.

Reader Feedback: How do you handle less-than-perfect food choices?

Comments

  1. says

    I used to be all or nothing and now I enjoy the food i eat, make sure the choice to eat it is coming from a positive and powerful place and just make sure my next meal is full of veggies and natural goodness – or i make a green juice to remind of how good it tastes so I don’t get hooked on the sugar train again:)

    • says

      The sugar train is exactly how I’d put it too! Sometimes I do feel like sugar is a drug. But thank you Megan for reminding me that’s ok to indulge and not to be so hard on myself! Maybe it’s a woman thing, I don’t know, but it seems so unfair that my husband can eat 3 pieces of cake, not gain weight and feel no guilt. But I’m so short that I eat a piece of cake and gain 10 pounds! (Or feel like I do). I need to take a chill pill.

  2. Lauren says

    Love this! It’s so true!

    I know a while back you mentioned that if we pre-ordered your cookbook–we send you the receipt and get a special bundle of recipes! Did that happen yet? Just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it!

    Thanks.
    Lauren

    • Megan Gilmore says

      Sorry for the delay– the preorder bonus is completely in my publisher’s hands, and they are running late with releasing it. They have promised me it will be available by the end of this week, so I’ll make a BIG announcement once it’s available– you won’t be able to miss it! :)

      • Erin L says

        I pre-ordered on iBooks– but they don’t give us a receipt until we receive the book in June. Please tell me I can still qualify for the preorder-gift! So excited!!! Thx, Erin

  3. Maegen says

    This is a great post as you make great points! I think it’s important to try to not feel like you have to eat 100% healthy all the time. However on the flip side, my taste buds have completely changed since I gave up flour and sugar 3 years ago then gluten and dairy 2 years ago. Now I much rather prefer making treats from your recipes. To me, maple syrup is a treat, and an ingredient I still enjoy without feeling sick from. So if I have maple syrup, or other items I like which don’t make me sick are gluten free corn tortillas, sweet potato fries, kielbasa or sausage, or Erewhons cereal- thankfully I still enjoy them nor feel guilty about eating it. Once in a long great while (like once a year as I normally don’t want it!), I’ll have Frosted Flakes or Honey Nut Cheerios with dairy milk or cheese or ice cream – since these were childhood favorites. But the cravings are very rare because I don’t like that refined product taste any more. Id much rather make banana almond butter ice cream or have Erewhon cereal with almond milk (heavenly! My favorites as a kid were ice cream and cereal). Also I think I’ve developed an allergy to refined sugar, gluten and dairy so it makes me sick if I do eat much of it. To avoid feeling sick and to enjoy this when I want- I do feel it’s important to not feel deprived (I’m just fortunate I’m like you in wanting a treat like you mentioned vs a cake made with refined products), I’ll have a few samples until I feel satisfied of the refined product with a meal I’m used to eating so I don’t get sick. My wish is for bakeries to start making paleo treats or find a friend who likes to make them- I wish I didn’t have to make them for myself all the time! :) my question is, is anyone else allergic to refined sugar now that their diet has changed? A couple of my friends don’t understand that I don’t like refined products now and how it makes me feel sick (like a hangover). I’m very interested to hear from others! Thanks all! Megan, please let me know if you have any other thoughts.

  4. Nora says

    Megan ! I really needed to hear this. I beat myself up yesterday and have been continuing today because of indulging in food from a friend, including bread. I don’t eat bread anymore, so eating this made me feel bad and I didn’t go to boot camp this morning. Aww, too many emotions ! I’m feeling a bit better after reading this. Thanks

  5. Maegen says

    As a side note, my heart goes out to anyone that feel guilty about eating a treat not within their diet. Life is short and if we eat well 80% of the time, we should enjoy a treat on occasion- it’s a reward for working so hard in being healthy. I hope everyone can learn to enjoy a treat going forward. This really is a great post, Megan!

  6. mamajama says

    Hi! I’m so glad you decided to do a post like this b/c people like to idolize food bloggers and make them into these perfect food goddesses that have never been tainted by “normal food” and even the more sinful ingredients and treats. :) Lol!

    I admit sometimes I think you’d never have some of the foods I have in my house–foods my hubby enjoys on a regular basis. I usually break down and have a bite of what he’s having, b/c who can resist a freshly toasted bagel with butter, made into a sandwich with scrambled eggs with melted cheese on top? (And then he adds the tator tots!! Lord help me!) But even if that’s how I start my day, I do add in more veggies and healthy fats and no or less processed foods. That’s just the reality of living with others and their varied tastes. :)

    Its good e
    ncouragement to not be an extremist either way! Thanks for being open and not pretending to be “perfect.” :) It might sound silly but I think a lot of us do look up to you and its nice to know that even people who are so dedicated to healthy, healing foods take a break and relax every now and then. :)

  7. says

    I have definitely been hard on myself for slipping up on my diet. I know how the thought process can go — “I’ve already messed up today so what does it matter if I finish out the day in the same way?” One day turns into two, two into three, and before I know it, I’m off my healthy diet plan entirely. That’s when feelings of guilt really kick in.

    I think it’s important that we do not deprive ourselves while on these diets or “eating healthy.” We must be forgiving and patient with ourselves because no one has an entirely perfect diet. What counts is the effort that is made. If a person strives to stay consistent in eating a balanced and whole diet, they are already on the right path. Spending a moment indulging in a not-so-healthy snack every once in a while is OK. In fact, the indulgence may not be as enticing as it was before you had it (like your situation with the chocolate cake).

    Dee | http://www.daundra.com/blog

  8. Ruth Dickmann says

    Thanks for the great post! I am pregnant now with my second and struggling with body-image more this time than with the first. I have good days and bad days nutritionally and this post was the one I needed. I may not be perfect everyday but keep trying and don’t give up. Thanks!

  9. Sophie says

    MegAn,

    Do you give your toddler collagen or gelatin? Just wondering because I have a little one too and have wondered if he could benefit from these supplements (and others). Thanks, great post!

    • Megan Gilmore says

      I’ve just recently started putting the collagen in his smoothies, too. I started with a small amount at first, to make sure it didn’t negatively affect him, and he seems to tolerate it just fine, so now I add 1 tablespoon to his big batch of smoothie most days. I like the added amino acids for him, since he tends to be a very picky eater these days!

  10. Maraia says

    I just love your What I Ate Wednesday posts!

    I have a question about the amount of vegetables you eat every day. I’ve been struggling with GI issues for a while, and my doctor finally decided that I need to cut down my fiber intake. As someone who normally eats a lot of fruit and vegetables, this is a real pain. I would love to sit down to a gigantic salad like you seem to do, but apparently I shouldn’t. So, I’m wondering if you ever have a problem eating such a large amount of vegetables at once. Does it every upset your stomach? I know you’re studying to be a nutritionist, so I’d love any insight you might have. Thanks!

  11. says

    This is great. I was just about to write almost this same post. In fact, the same thoughts creep in sometimes and I have to talk myself out of them. I wanted a somewhat indulgent dinner but I’m in a super healthy pattern right now, and almost worried about “ruining” it. But I knew I was craving what I was craving so sat down and ate it and said, “great, that was good.” If I’m eating 80% healthy, resisting the one indulgent craving always backfires because I’ll just eat something (or 4 things) more crappy later. Balance, balance, balance…

  12. says

    Such a great post! It is so true that so many people think it is an all or nothing deal. It’s not! So many people get taught this and it is so terrible, it just sends people into awful eating spirals that are never good or healthy. Thank you for posting this!

  13. Sara says

    Thank you for addressing this issue! I used to live like this on a weekly basis. Eat super healthy for a few days, get tempted by a treat, eat treat, throw the towel in and binge eat the rest of the day, which turned into days and weeks. Such an unhealthy way of living. I love that you said the chocolate cake looked good but didn’t taste good so you treated yourself to something you knew you’d enjoy. It’s refreshing to see that you have temptations as well! Thanks for the honesty.

  14. says

    Excellent article – people so often self punish because of simple slips ups in their diets or daily routines. I’m a keen believe that you should avoid certain foods as much as possible (for me coffee is a no go) but that healthy nutrition means enjoying what you eat, as well as fueling your body. Look forward to more great reads now I have found this site :-)

  15. Tara says

    Thanks for posting this. It’s good to know I’m not alone in occasionally feeling frustrated with myself and my food choices. At the beginning of this year I went on a very strict diet with zero cheats for 3 months straight. I started easing up on things, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve actually been overindulging a little and gained 4 pounds. I’ve been feeling fat and mad at myself, but those feelings aren’t going to get me anywhere. I need to work on finding a better balance for myself and try not overanalyze everything I eat. It’s not a fun way to live!

  16. Amy says

    Wow what a great post. I needed to read this Sunday past. I was visiting my mom for Mother’s Day and she gave me these lovely homemade buns. 20 of them. I haven’t had white bread in sooo long and I couldnt stop eating them. I think Sunday night the grand total was 5 :/ … so yesterday I put the remainder in the freezer and cut them so i can thaw ONE at a time. Hopefully this will curb my tendancy to overeat on less than healthy food. I find white bread makes me unbeleivably bloated..and it wasn’t until I started playing around with my diet that I noticed this. Now if I eat something gluten free I do not get that bloated feeling. I’m starting to wonder if I should cut out gluten…but I’ve always been a huge supporter of it! It annoys me how some people will go on a gluten free diet “just because” because people without celiac or gluten intolerance actually need gluten for their bodies to function properly. I always thought I “needed” gluten. But after trying so many recipes sans gluten and feeling great I’m starting to second guess myself :/

  17. sara says

    How long have you been using the collagen? Have you experienced any benefits? Would love to know your experience as Amazon reviews have a handful of reviews about some experiencing migraines and other negative side effects. Thank you in advance! PS: Pre-ordered your cookbook and look forward to it’s arrival.

    • Megan Gilmore says

      Thanks for your support with the cookbook, Sara! In regards to the collagen, I’ve only been using it consistently for a little over a month, so I haven’t noticed any huge improvements yet, but I definitely haven’t experienced any of those negative side effects, either.

      • Sat says

        Thank you for your feedback…giving it a try with fingers toes and eyes crossed . PS: love the PB crispy treats…i press them in mini muffin tins set, then add a top layer of dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt to finish . Or for more chocolate I roll into PB treat into balls and cover in dark chocolate with again a finish of sea salt . Thank for the inspiration!!! Mahalo/Aloha!!

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