Little and often

Yes yes it’s been two weeks since I last posted… moving on.

So by now anyone who’s ever done any research on diets and weight loss will have heard that it is recommended you eat six small meals a day rather than the traditional breakfast/lunch/dinner routine. Anyone who’s done any research more recently may have been confused by the large amount of writing out there claiming this is, in fact, a myth.

What, however, most mainstream writing on the subject of weight loss and nutrition ignores, is the psychological element of food intake and diet. Which is a shame as it’s pretty obvious it is a pretty large part of the equation. Why do people give up on their diets, veganism included? Not because they got ill or had any physical difficulties with the diet, just because they didn’t have the discipline. Eating is such a social thing, and its patterns are so engrained in us from a young age, that breaking habits and re-evaluating commonly accepted ideas and myths should be the first step in recommending any new diet.

So although I am fully aware that eating 6 to 8 smaller meals a day will do nothing for my metabolism, I will continue eating every couple of hours.

Moreover, I will allow myself a treat every day, or pretty much whenever I feel like it. I still have so many treats left over from my birthday that I will still be eating them next year if I try to space them out. I have been doing this for a month now and my weight hasn’t changed. In fact, I am generally about 300-400g lighter in the mornings than I was before. What has been happening is that increasingly in the evenings, which is when I like to have my sweet treats (again, I know this is the worst time of day to have them but it’s just what works for me), I look over at my box of snacks and think hard about which one to have. If I only had one bar of chocolate I would pounce on it immediately and have devoured half of it before thinking about whether I really wanted it or not. But as I have to choose, it makes me think really hard about whether I want it or not (the answer is always yes, by the way, this isn’t some fairytale ending where I decide I would rather have nothing at all), and when I choose a particular item, I enjoy it so much I only really need a little bit of it to satisfy me.

Plus, by eating a small piece of chocolate which totally satisfies me, I will often eat fewer calories than if I try and have the more “healthy” snacks – yoghurt, nuts, fruit – which I might eat more of because I think they’re healthy. And I know most people out there do it too, because I see it or hear people talk about it every day.

If you’re still sceptical, take mine and Ben’s impromptu dinner at Manna on Friday. Normally months go by – once almost a year – between visits to my favourite restaurant, so when I get there I am overwhelmed by the choices and the desire to try everything. The result is I eat until I am uncomfortably full, and it ends up being quite expensive. Despite my protests that “it wasn’t a special occasion” and that “I wasn’t dressed well enough”, we got ourselves a last-minute table for two at 9pm, which we made just in time after training (for me) and work (for Ben).

And a funny thing happened – as we stared at the menu, I sort of realised I didn’t actually want a starter, I just wasn’t hungry enough. I then had the pasta of the day – a creamy penne dish scattered with roasted aubergine, zucchini and sundried tomato – really incredible. Again, this is quite strange for me, normally I would have talked myself out of it because “you can get pasta anywhere” (not really good pasta, not vegan creamy pasta, yes I know all of this is true). But I just really wanted it. And it was really good. And that level of intense satisfaction meant that when it got to dessert, well, I’d have honestly been happy to go without. However, that would have been preposterous, but I did find myself just asking for the ice cream instead of the cheesecake or the sticky toffee pudding. I have never done this before… And it was totally the right decision.

Result; I left feeling comfortably full, having not really over-indulged, and the bill was manageable. And both Ben and I agreed that we really do need to go more often.

That’s what so many people struggle with when it comes to their diets – they put their treats on a pedestal, and as soon as they “break” and have some of their chosen “forbidden food” they see their achievements crumble in front of their eyes, they feel worthless and weak, and they give everything up and usually end up bingeing. I know I’m not telling anyone anything new, but what I was to emphasise is that disordered eating is on a spectrum. None of us are immune to it and almost everyone I know has struggled with a less-than-healthy relationship with food at some point. Healthy eating is something we all need to do consciously, and we need to take the time to figure out what works for us, physically and mentally. If only more personal trainers and dieticians could recognise that…

And so the more exciting part of my post: the November UK Vegan Food Swap! As my swapper Justine sent off my parcel she emailed me to say that she wasn’t sure how appropriate the treats would be for a personal trainer… I hope if you read this post, Justine, you will see just how important my treats are to preserving my healthy body weight, low body fat, and ability to train hard!

Justine couldn’t have put together a more perfect box of treats for me!

I got a bar of white chocolate with raspberry, a carton of soy whipping cream, a jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread, a hemp flapjack, a Jokerz nougat-caramel-peanut chocolate bar, and a pack of peppermint tea. I have actually never seen those products apart form the Soyatoo whipping cream and the Jokerz bar (which I have wanted to try for about 3 years now) so I’m very excited!

So far I have tried only the white chocolate, I will put a review up in my Chocolate section soon, bringing my total of reviewed chocolate products up to 38! That’s a lot of chocolate…

I have plenty more to post, including a delicious dinner than Ben made last night, so do stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope this post inspires you to treat yourself, and if it does, please let me know in the comments below what you go for!

And if you haven’t signed up for the UK Vegan Food Swap yet, whether you are vegan or not, do it!