One of the biggest reasons people are afraid to eat healthy is because they are worried they will feel deprived. Of course there are several ways to eat healthier foods without feeling like you are punishing yourself. For example, handling sugar, salt, or dairy cravings so you aren’t having to struggle against them, eating for stable blood sugar to limit cravings in the first place, or having more fun so you are less stressed and crave less sugar. It also helps that over time your taste buds will change and eventually you won’t want the unhealthy option anyway.
After all, you can’t feel deprived by not eating something you don’t want.
To illustrate my point I’m going to tell you my chai latte story. What I hope you learn from this is that yes, our taste buds change, and yes, that takes time, but please don’t give up on the process. No matter how many times you “fall off the wagon”, give yourself another chance and get back on. Just see it as another step in the process.
My Chai Latte Story:
When I left graduate school my sugar tolerance was pretty high thanks to all of the binging I had been doing on sugar and carbs. So my go-to treat when I went to Starbucks became the chai latte, and at the time it tasted pretty darn good to me.
As I continued to heal my relationship with food, my binges went away and my sugar consumption dropped as well. The chai latte, which once tasted good to me, started to taste too sweet and left me with a heavy gross feeling.
As we already know, a huge part of easily eating healthy is paying attention to how you feel after you eat.
Still, I wasn’t willing to give it up, so the first thing I did was to just buy the smallest size. After a while, even that was too much.
You might wonder why, if I didn’t feel the best after drinking something, I would continue to order it. Well I think this happens to all of us. Have you ever eaten so much that you felt uncomfortable and were kicking yourself for it afterwards? Yet for some reason you still did it again?
I was attached to having a treat at Starbucks. Sure, I could have ordered something else sweet, but that would have left me in the same boat. The problem was that I had this idea that I would feel deprived if I didn’t get myself a treat. And anything unsweetened didn’t sound very exciting. Unsweetened ice tea, for example, sounded….well….boring…and not a lot of fun.
My mental conversation went something like this: “I want that chi latte, but every time I order it I don’t feel the best afterwards and always regret it. It’s too sweet! But an ice tea doesn’t sound like fun, and I don’t want to feel deprived!”
Finally, I did order an unsweetened ice tea. And guess what? I felt so much better afterwards! It was refreshing! I felt awake and alive and ready to go!
I tried to hang onto that thought (“Remember this for next time!”). Despite that positive reinforcement it still took me a few times of ordering a chai latte, not even finishing it, still feeling gross afterwards, having to use willpower and convincing myself to order the tea next time (“Remember Rachel? You always wish you had ordered something unsweetened!”), and cycling through that a few times before finally I was tired of the crappy too-sweet feeling, and happy about the alive-awake feeling. I was ready to give up that ’treat’ which now seemed less like a treat and more like a gross coating-on-my-teeth.
When I told a friend about this she thought I was being too hard on myself. As a Christmas gift she gave me a large tin of chai latte mix. I could tell she had missed my point. It wasn’t that I now had willpower of steel, it was that I no longer wanted the chai latte. It no longer made me feel good. I had accepted the fact that ‘treating myself’ at Starbucks didn’t mean I had to order something sweet. It just meant ordering something that made me feel good. I gave the tin away.
I think about this story a lot.
I think about it when people tell me that they don’t want to eat healthier because they don’t want to feel deprived. I think about it when other people watch how I eat and assume that I am depriving myself.
But mostly I think about it when I see my clients go through this process. I see them paying attention to how they feel after they eat, struggle with the decision to grab the healthier food (even if it would make them feel better), and more often than not cycle through a few “falling off the wagon” moments. I see this cycling as part of the process. Recognizing that they feel better when they eat better, and building up the evidence that they don’t need that other food, is part of the change.
Small steps taken consistently over time yield huge results.
In the financial world the ‘latte factor’ is the fact that if you took the $5 you spend on a latte every day (or whatever the ‘latte’ is for you) and invested that money, your investments with the compounded interest could add up to surprisingly huge results. The same idea applies in the world of health and wellness.
Have you ever chosen the healthier option, even though you wanted something else, because you knew you would feel better afterward? Did it get easier over time? did you eventually start to want the healthier option? Share in the comments below!