No matter how much you plan, no matter how many great recipes you learn, and no matter how motivated you (or your patient spouse) are to live a new, healthier lifestyle, sooner or later there will probably come times when the urge to eat the old way is just too much. Or a holiday or special occasion will come along, and you’re not ready for the temptation it places on you. No worries, your Diabetic Heart Lifestyle System™ can be built to handle these challenges.
Before these occasions arise, be as prepared as possible by starting with your core meals, continually expanding your range of healthy options to include new variations, and planning for special occasions with healthy makeovers and substitutions. If you will be cooking for a special occasion, keep an eye on this site, and look online and in health-based cookbooks for new options to make that famous stuffing or casserole of yours low sodium, or to create a new, healthier dessert, gravy, or whatever you’ll be preparing. Your great new recipes might even win over family members who don’t have the same food limitations.
But when all else fails, it might be time for an exception or splurge. The main difference between exceptions and splurges is frequency and control.
We all find ourselves in food situations we didn’t get to plan for. Maybe it’s a business trip or a meal prepared by friends or family. Or maybe you’ve just run out of time, or got a sudden craving for a filet-o-fish sandwich from McDonalds. An exception today might prevent resentment and burnout in a few days, so it might be worth it. Remember that the patient is the ultimate decider of what is “worth it” and when an exception is necessary.
Exceptions, as we’re defining them, are a bargaining process. Your body says, “who moved my cheese?” (maybe both figuratively and literally). You want to keep saturated fats, sodium, sugars and starchy/refined carbs out of your lifestyle but the meal you’re planning just seems incomplete, or the restaurant you’re at doesn’t really give you a completely healthy option.
Some people might call Exceptions “cheats.” Unless you are actually cheating at something else while eating, we would not use that term. But we do urge you to keep a tight enough control that “exceptions” do not become “rules.” If you’re making exceptions almost every day, they are not exceptions anymore!
Limiting the damage
Whatever the reason for deviating from the plan your doctor has suggested, you will want strategies for limiting the damage. Here are some ideas:
- To every extent possible, mentally prepare yourself for the temptation of just giving up. Have some healthy, shelf-stable snacks nearby if possible. If you have thought out your potential challenges and how you’ll handle them, you’ll be ready when they come. This even includes friends/family trying to talk you into reactivating an old habit. When someone says “C’mon, one drink (one piece of cheesecake) won’t kill ya!” be ready with your reply! For example, “No, it won’t, but I’ve made a decision to change that habit. I think today I really want a sparkling water (or fruit cup, or whatever) instead.”
- If you’re eating out, choose the least harmful options available to you: most restaurants have options for salads, some vegetables and lean meats without added sauces.
- Limit quantities of what you eat, whether it’s at home or away. If you’re home and you’ve had the kind of day that demands comfort food for dinner, try preparing just a single serving per person of that noncompliant food, like your favorite macaroni and cheese or scalloped potatoes loaded with cheese and cream. Then you can at least start with a clean slate with the following day and meal.
- Eat your vegetables first. This might at least reduce the amount of your “exception” food that you end up eating.
- Know yourself. When stress pushes you to want to seek comfort in food and even potentially harmful behaviors, have an arsenal of other things that comfort you and utilize them as fully as possible. For instance, if it calms you to lay down when you get home from work, take a hot bath, listen to your favorite music in the car, or even just take a whiff of a calming essential oil, use those tools to the fullest. If food does become your next refuge, that might still be less harmful than some other options.
Occasionally you might just want to throw caution to the wind. Maybe it’s your anniversary or Thanksgiving. Or maybe your Mom makes her special pineapple upside down cake only once a year now, or it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re with friends. Whatever the reason, splurges will happen. It might be planned or maybe it sneaks in unplanned.
A “splurge,” as we refer to it here is an occasion when you choose to eat whatever you want without regard to any rules. Within the boundaries of your new lifestyle, this would be something that happens only once in awhile, like your birthday or other yearly occasions. If you are having a “splurge” twice a week, it is probably not a splurge anymore, but a change to your habits that is taking you away from the path you really wanted to follow!
Whatever the reason, if you can stay with your new, healthy habits the rest of the year, we think you deserve a splurge once in awhile.