For many of us, today is the first day back after a wonderful 4 day weekend. Whilst a few extra days off work brings us a chance to relax, for those trying to lose weight festive celebration like Easter can be a challenging and stressful time. With temptation at every corner it can be difficult to stick to our usual healthy eating routine. So should we be take a break from our diet too? Should we plan, prepare, ration and resist during these notoriously difficult weight loss challenges? Or is it OK now and then to take a break from your healthy eating routine and just enjoy it?
Many of us here in the UK will have just spent Easter weekend enjoying big family dinners, an excess of chocolate, and a few extra nights on the fizz. For anyone trying to lose weight or eat a healthier diet this can be a huge challenge with temptation everywhere. Like many people trying to eat healthy, I spent most of last week carefully contemplating my strategies for dealing with Easter weekend so not to sabotage my current healthy eating efforts. Should I limit my chocolate consumption to just one day, or ration it out over the weekend? We planned to have a BBQ Saturday night, there is destined to be alcohol. Should I just abstain altogether, or I could alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks to make sure I don’t over consume. That way I won’t get too merry and then fester in a carbohydrate filled hangover on Sunday, accompanied with the last of any abandoned chocolate. I anguished over the thought of ruining 9 weeks hard work with one blow out weekend. But would it undo all that hard work? How much damage would it cause to really just take the weekend off? Or would it do me a bit of good taking a break?
Being a complete sweet tooth with a penchant for mini eggs, the odds I would resist all weekend were slim to absolute zero. (The option of having just one or two mini eggs is not possible, those little hard shelled babies are like smack, no quantity will ever be enough). My second vice being gin and social gatherings, the chance of getting through a BBQ at home (where I have enough gin to tank up a hen do) were also somewhere in the region of: don’t bother trying and you wish! The odds were stacked against me. And the truth really was, I didn’t want to ration it out, I didn’t want to resist, I wanted a weekend off. I wanted a break, I wanted to just let go and have fun. Does that make me a terrible personal trainer and a failure as a Weight Watchers leader? Does that mean my eating regime has been too harsh? Or does it just mean I am a normal human being, looking to enjoy life a little.
I really believe that taking a break from your healthy eating routine can be a good thing, both physiologically but more importantly psychologically. Even if you think you are enjoying a pretty strict regime, taking a break now and again will do you some good, and could see you return to your usual healthy ways with boosted esteem and enthusiasm. Think of it like taking a holiday from work. Even if you love your job, and you like your work colleagues, you still need to take a break from the place now and then. And when you do take some time off work, you are usually pretty happy and even excited about getting back to your usual routine.
So somewhere around Thursday morning last week I decided, sack it, I am taking the weekend off. I have worked hard for 9 weeks, and I leave for my dream holiday Cuba 3 weeks from the bank holiday Monday. Three weeks sounds like a nice realistic little time frame to step up my game and go for a real, all out, fat attack! I could really cut back the treats, up my training a bit and make sure I am feeling absolutely tip top in my two-piece on the beach. But was I really up for that sort of effort? After 9 weeks hard work I was getting a bit of ‘diet fatigue’. Not caring as much, sneaking in a few more treats, and a bit less gym time. The thought of stepping it up and making it harder wasn’t appealing.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t hating every minute of the last 9 weeks, far from it. I have been loving feeling more in control of food choices, more energy, improvements in my fitness, definite changes to my body. Plus in keeping with my promise to myself of not being extreme or heavily restricted, I have been enjoying some treats and not being too strict with myself. So why the need for a weekend off?
Well as I said, this was going to be no ordinary weekend, there was going to be additional temptations at every corner, and I knew that trying to resist would just stress me out. What I don’t need with a nice long weekend off (my first in many) is excess stress. For me excess stress= much more likely to make rubbish choices. I knew if I tried to resist mini eggs I would stress myself out, then if caved to even just one, I would soon find myself in a self-deprecating pile on the floor, surrounded by shatters of mini eggs, begging my other half to rub my insanely bloated tummy in the hope it would ease the pain of 4 packets of the crunchy wonders shovelled down my throat in less than 3 minutes.
The second reason I decided to take a break- opportunity to spend time with loved ones. Let’s be honest; healthy eating can consume quite a bit of our time and attention. Meal planning, food tracking, cooking from scratch, working out the best choices, they all take time. Sure it becomes habit and it gets easier, and in the grand scheme of things it is definitely worth it, but there is no denying: it does take time out of our lives. I don’t get to spend enough time with friends and family, and I decided a weekend not concerning myself with my food choices would allow me to enjoy some precious free time with the people I love, focusing entirely on them and enjoying the moment.
A quick check with Mr B (my partner) confirmed that he was more than happy to take a weekend off, and enjoy it together. Together we agreed to take Good Friday, Saturday, and Easter Sunday off our usual healthy eating and exercise, and despite it being a bank holiday we would get back on it Monday. So how did it go? How many million calories can we consume in 72 hours. Well actually, nothing like.
A busy day of cleaning planned, so started with a breakfast crumble. Yes you read that correct, we had crumble for breakfast.
I had seen some recipes for healthy breakfast crumble and fancied it for a while. I based ours on this recipe from the Healthy Chef. Through not a breakfast crumble, it fitted what we had in. It was every bit as delicious and satisfying as we hoped. I was then so busy cleaning and food shopping I just about stopped for a protein bar and a ham snack in the afternoon, then collapsed at about 7pm. My brother and his wife were coming around for dinner, and we decided to get a takeaway, but opted for a takeout curry from Prashad in Drighlington. It is completely vegetarian, and all cooked from scratch using fresh top quality ingredients. They also handily mark some of the healthier options with (HO) on the menu. All the food there is always amazing, so we were happy to opt for the HO options. Normally Mr B and I would avoid the heavy sides like naan bread, onion bhajis and Prashad’s amazing special chaat. This can be difficult if sharing with others who are not following a healthier lifestyle. People often offer to share, and even very politely refusing can make people feel uncomfortable. It was nice getting to enjoy the meal with my brother and sister in law and not be secretly eyeballing their delicious sides in ever so slight envy. We even enjoyed a nice bowl of ice-cream and some chocolate sauce for dessert. Guilt free, no worries.
Being up at 5am Monday-Friday means I don’t often sleep in at the weekend. As usual, I woke up early Saturday, and by chance it looked to be a nice sunrise. So I decided to make the most of it and head out for my first run of the season, but decided I wouldn’t set a distance or a time, just head out and see what happened. I quickly got back in the flow and before I knew it had done 7km in 40minutes. I then had a lovely healthy recovery protein shake and some fruit before my Weight Watchers meeting at 9.30am, then a not so healthy bacon and egg sandwich after it. Again I was busy all day, rushing around getting everything ready for our BBQ with friends in the evening.
This ‘getting everything ready’ did involve a bit of food sampling, general picking, and when it came to making desserts- a lot of bowl licking! We had ordered all the meat fresh for Leeds Market using Markets Delivered. (If you live in Leeds and haven’t checked them out then do) As usual, all the meat looked amazing and we had ordered so much. I hate seeing food go to waste, so I decided
I would enjoy more meat, and no bread at the BBQ. Not as a healthy choice, but why waste room on bread when there is steak to be eaten. And eat steak I did! Along with lots of chicken and a home-made lean beef burger or two. The joy of hosting is being able to control the food options and other than a few sausages it was all lean meats. The evening was lovely, with plenty of gin, a few big chunks of homemade peanut butter rice crispie squares, and a lot of sweet and salty popcorn. I did get a bit mindless with the popcorn and felt pretty bloated and a little sick at one time. I was secretly already starting to look forward to getting back on plan. Then something happened that totally surprised me. Mr B seemed to be really enjoying his diet break with beers flowing, so I was very surprised when he admitted to actually quite fancying a gym trip on Sunday. I almost chocked on my 4th chocolate out of the lovely box someone brought us. But secretly, I pretty fancied it too. I didn’t tell him that, I just agreed to go if that’s what he wanted (don’t tell him).
Sunday I woke up still feeling full from the night before, and a little disappointed at how much I had eaten. I was happy to be enjoying some different foods, but I had gone a bit overboard with portions, eating way past feeling full. That wasn’t an enjoyable feeling. I was also starting to feel pretty bloated and a generally a bit rubbish, so I was glad to be hitting the gym.
Despite starting to feel a little out of sorts, I wasn’t going to give up my diet break early. There is a Five Guys burger place right next to our gym. After hearing a lot of good things, we have often said that we should smash a heavy gym session then try out there
meaty delights. A diet break was the perfect opportunity. Mr B and I agreed to set ourselves a gym challenge which would help us earn a nice burger. Again, not really a healthy choice, just because everything tastes better when it’s been earned and then served with a side portion of smug victory. 25 minutes of hideous rowing intervals later and a burger was well earned. I am not a
bread fan, so opted for a bunless hotdog with all the trimmings. I helped myself to a few generous handfuls of their in the shell peanuts, and a few of Mr B’s chips. In honesty it wasn’t as amazing as we hoped, so we decided our heavy gym session also deserved a crème egg McFlurry (it was Easter Sunday after all).
My mum had just retuned that day from 3 weeks in Australia, so I decided to call by her house to hear the stories over an ice-cream (I took her one, I didn’t sit there and make her watch me eat mine). I find sugar to be slightly addictive, so once I got the taste for it I wanted more.The flood gates were open. Over Sunday afternoon I enjoyed a mini-egg cake bar, a Cadburys crème egg (just to check if they were smaller and if the chocolate had changed, so science not greediness) and a nice piece of Hotel Chocolat Supermilk chocolate.
By Sunday evening I was positively feeling a bit sick, and when Mr B asked what I fancied for dinner, the thought of anything else heavy made my stomach churn. I knew he was feeling the same as he offered to whip us a couple of veggie omelettes. He implied he fancied omelettes because they were quick and easy, but we both knew it was our bodies starting to crave something good. By the time we went to bed Sunday night I was genuinely looking forward to getting back to our usual routine of cooking fresh, lean proteins, lots of veg with some healthy carbs and good fats. I was thinking: bring on the chicken salads!
Back on it
I have returned to my healthy eating routine with renewed enthusiasm. Even just a few days of eating rubbish has reminded me how sluggish and bloated I used to be, and how I really don’t want to feel that way again. Taking a break has reminded me why eating healthy is important to me, not just aesthetics of getting in my bikini, but my health and well-being are massively effected by my food choices. I did slip up a bit Saturday night and went overboard, so that will be a clear lesson for next time: even when enjoying a diet break, listen to your hunger signals and just eat until you feel comfortably full. It wasn’t the food choices, but the loss of control that concerned and upset me.
Taking a break from your healthy eating routine can be a positive and healthy choice, but it shouldn’t be a green light to shovel excessive amounts of anything in our faces. It has to be done with sensible logic still in our minds. If you are reading this and thinking, yes!!! I soooo need a break, I can’t go on much longer with dieting. Then maybe your usual routine is a bit too strict. Eating healthy, even when trying to lose weight, shouldn’t feel like a daily challenge or a struggle, it shouldn’t be about total deprivation, but a sensible balanced diet you can sustain long term. A diet break should feel like a welcome change to help with difficult situation like festive celebrations and holidays, it shouldn’t feel like your only opportunity to enjoy yourself.
So take a break. Enjoy the foods you want to enjoy, but don’t over-consume for the sake of it. Enjoy the freedom but use the extra free time wisely, and make the most of focusing on loved ones.
Healthy bikini body challenge update
9 weeks done, 3 to go. This week’s pics were tough to take! After 3 days of eating what I please I was feeling pretty rubbish, but here is the podgy bloated evidence. These pics will serve as a nice reminder and motivation for the last 3 weeks of my healthy bikini body challenge. As I said in the article, I am planning to step it up a level over the next 3 weeks, but I will not be resorting to any magic beans. I will continue to eat a balanced diet, and nothing will be completely off limits, maybe just a bit more awareness until I get to Cuba.
I am Jennie, founder of set U free fitness, and Weight Watchers leader in Leeds. I lost 7 stone with Weight Watchers and transformed by body through exercise. I always dreamt that life after goal would be easier, but the reality is- it’s not. This personal blog is my ongoing journey to stay healthy and happy. It is a collection of my thoughts, tips, lessons learnt and mistakes made in trying to create a balanced healthy lifestyle that I can follow for life. I always love to hear your thoughts, and hear from people undergoing similar journeys, so please comment or get in touch.
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