Recently, I have seen a lot of negativity concerning the word ‘treats,’ and some bloggers have lashed out at this terminology, claiming that it makes us comparable to dogs, it’s unhealthy and that we should abolish treats for good. I completely disagree. If you enjoy food (who doesn’t?), then it is perfectly OK to have a treat every now and then. In fact, I would argue that calling it a ‘cheat’ is possibly more harmful, because of its very negative and dishonest connotation. Eating super healthy can be pretty hard, especially when there are temptation foods all around us. If you eat clean or low-carb like I do, or are on a diet, then treats can actually help you stick to your healthy eating regime and help you retain your sanity. I meal prep and pre-cook large amounts of green vegetables, as often as I possibly can, because otherwise, I would struggle with temptations on almost a daily basis! I have a sweet tooth and I constantly have to try and control it! Preparation and organisation is the key to success when it comes to clean eating. If you cook your meals all week, stick to your diet, avoid all temptations, and at the weekend, for just one meal or one snack, you fancy not being so strict with yourself, don’t worry, this is totally normal! If you have military-style self-control and can stick to a 100% clean diet then I commend you, but most of us are not blessed with such extreme self-restraint. If I didn’t have a treat once a week or once every two weeks, I think I would go insane. To quote a sign that I saw recently, “there is food which is good for the body, and there is food which is good for the soul.”
Let me clarify, in my opinion, what a ‘treat’ actually is. A treat is all about staying healthy and sticking to your eating plan all week, then enjoying something that is not part of your normal eating routine. It could be a chocolate smothered protein bar, banana ice-cream, some sweet potato fries, candy, red wine, sushi, or maybe some waffles. Just don’t go too overboard, and I speak from personal experience here. A treat becomes dangerous when you completely obliterate your diet and undo all the hard work you’ve done during the week. In fact, when I was just getting started with my weight loss, I was having an entire ‘cheat day’ when I would completely default back to my old eating habits for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. This resulted in my calorie, fat, and sugar consumption sky-rocketing for one day, and I felt like crap afterwards, which affected my training for the next couple of days. So, this ‘cheat day’ was actually undo-ing at least three days of hard work. A treat can also become a ‘binge’, where you over-consume foods that are not good for you, resulting in guilt and shame. This is something I still struggle with occasionally, because of the ‘sugar monster’ (as my boyfriend has so kindly named it) who lives inside of me! Sometimes, I tend to have two or three candy bars instead of just one, and then I feel mad at myself afterwards. A treat is also not so great if you’re having one every single day. If you are trying to lose weight or give up foods that are bad for your health, then I find it is best to cut them out completely for at least three weeks to help curb your cravings. Then reintroduce them into your diet if you wish, but do so very sparingly.
What about alcohol? Well, the reason that many gym-goers skip the booze is because it actually impairs something called protein synthesis, which is necessary for muscle development and maintenance. However, alcohol is also a diuretic so it causes the body to lose the fluids and electrolytes that it needs for exercise, leaving you dehydrated and weakened. Right now, I am enjoying alcohol in small amounts and only when I truly want it, which is once every fortnight or maybe less. This is a very personal thing though. Some of you may not want to drink at all, and some of you may enjoy a couple of social drinks with your friends at the weekend. All I can tell you is be careful not to binge, because not only is it bad for your health but it can seriously weaken your immune system, which can leave you more susceptible to getting ill. I haven’t been ‘drunk’ since December 2014 and I feel so much better for it.
So, my advice is to have the occasional ‘treat’ and if you can make it yourself, then even better! Don’t go overboard and turn it into a binge, and make sure it’s really worth it so that you will find it easier to stick to your eating regime for the rest of the week. I will share a recipe for some incredible Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Muffins on my Instagram, which was my treat this week, and you can try making them yourself. Have a great weekend, enjoy yourself, and happy springtime!