Now you might be reading that title and thinking, “Theresa, have you lost your stinking mind? What do you mean cheat on your diet?” And I assure you…not yet! But when we’re trying to figure out how to eat or how to lose weight to better manage our blood sugar many of us often think about exactly this – how to cheat!
We research every diet and “good food” vs “bad food” top 10 list we can find online. Then when we’ve chosen our brand new diet we almost instantly start trying to figure out how far we can push the boundaries. Or in other words, how you can “cheat” on your diet and get away with it!
So here’s my first suggestion to combat that self-sabotaging way of thinking…
Don’t call it a diet
Diets don’t last! I bet you’ve heard that one before. I mean the word “diet” has the word “die” right in the name. If that’s not a bad omen, I don’t know what is!
Instead, change your language to change your thinking just a bit. Try calling it an “eating pattern” rather than a “diet.”
Why? Because our perception of the word diet can bring up a whole host of negative connotations. Thoughts like restrictive eating, denial, cravings, loss, lack of choice, and so much more. An eating pattern, on the other hand, presents itself as more of a guideline. A path or pattern that you can follow and adjust to suit you. It’s a flexible term and allows for a feeling of freedom, but freedom with boundaries.
Progress not perfection
Diets are restrictive in nature. They have rules. And breaking the rules is a bad thing. We’re all taught that from our earliest years – bad people break rules, right? So the concept of sticking to a diet gets you thinking that if you can’t be perfect – if you break one of the diet’s rules, then it’s not worth it.
My challenge to you is to ditch that “all or nothing” way of thinking. Because it only sets you up for failure when you’re behavior or choices are less than perfect.
And they will be. Because we’re only human!
So make an effort to embrace an eating pattern that allows you to get to where you need to go without a requirement for perfection. Strive for progress as your end goal instead.
Because if you remain stuck in that all or nothing mindset, you’re not gonna get where you need to go in the long run. And that’s not what anyone wants. Get comfortable with progress, imperfect, messy progress.
The 80/20 rule of healthy eating
Part of me didn’t want to share this technique because as a Certified Diabetes Educator I sometimes feel the pressure to encourage you to strive for the best behavior and the healthiest habits you can manage.
But having dealt with my own prediabetes, I know first-hand that chasing that perfect day of eating can be a dangerous path if you’re constantly beating yourself up for falling short – for being human. So if I really want to walk my talk and allow myself to embrace progress, not perfection, I MUST share this with you…
I call this the 80/20 rule. It’s certainly not a concept that I invented by any stretch, but it is something I personally apply to my own chosen eating pattern and personal health and wellness care.
In a nutshell, you want to aim for an 80/20 split in your habits, choices, and behaviors. With healthy eating, 80% of the time you aim to eat well and do the things that are going to help you achieve your health goals such as lower blood sugar, weight loss, or whatever.
The remaining 20% can be more flexible. This can be where you thoughtfully choose to eat outside of your eating pattern. Just make sure you keep it to that 20%!
So if we think about a typical day of eating, most of us probably have 3 meals and maybe 2 additional snacks. That’s a pretty standard approach for people managing conditions like diabetes. In this scenario, you might choose to eat super healthy for breakfast and lunch and your 2 snacks are also great choices. But on that day, you’re going to loosen up the boundaries a bit at dinner since it’s “Date Night” and you’re going out to a really awesome restaurant with your honey.
Or maybe it’s Sunday and you and some friends want to go out for brunch. Or it’s a holiday and the family has gathered at Aunt Sarah’s house for a big meal and you don’t want to be left out of the fun and home-cooked food favorites that are legendary in your family! Just make sure the remaining 80% of your eating is on point for that day or week.
The 80/20 rule is about real-world living. About enjoying all kinds of foods, in moderation, while still staying focused and accountable for the majority of your meals. It’s a great approach if you’re the type of person that is always beating yourself up for a “slip up” or chasing perfection and falling short. (Isn’t that all of us? 😉 )
Now if you find yourself upside down in the 80/20 ratio where you’ve indulged 80% of the time and stayed true to your goals only 20% of the time one day, well put that bed when you go to bed. Then start again in the morning.
Difficult days happen to us all. We have horrible bosses, stressful commutes, broken plumbing, nothing in the fridge prepared for dinner, and a million other things that can contribute to a “bad” day…just be mindful that they remain difficult “days” and don’t stretch into difficult weeks, months, or years!
What’s coming up in Part 2?
I hope these thoughts have got your juices flowing. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. To only make progress and to fall short of perfection. Stop beating yourself up for being as human as everyone else – even those of us in the medical profession!
Coming up in Part 2, I am going to explore the When, the Where, the Who, and the Why of the 80/20 rule for healthy eating when it comes to consistency and ease. Because let’s be real, we’re not likely to do this if it’s gonna be too hard, right?
Stay tuned for that..or click the video link above and get the full story!