Last weekend it was my mother’s 60th birthday and she threw a party where the spread was basically cheese, cheese and more cheese. She bought about 12 different delicious cheeses and laid on loads of crackers and chutneys and gourmet loaves of bread, and then of course there was cake and chocolates. I decided before the evening begun that I would go out and buy some rice-cakes and the one compromise I would make to the evening is that I wouldn’t lift a cracker or a piece of bread to my mouth. I still had cheese, I still drunk and I had a delicious evening. But I felt ok in the morning. I made that choice because I knew that if I had a bit of everything on offer, I would feel bloated and a bit sick the next day. However, if I just at least decided not to eat any bread, I could have a bit of cake, and have some cheese, and feel alright in the morning. I love bread, but on that particular night it wasn’t the highlight, so I was happy to forgo it.
A couple of days later I remarked to my mother that my nails were weak, which is odd because that implies a calcium deficiency and I definitely get enough calcium (I eat plenty of yogurt, leafy greens and almonds). But it created an opportunity for my mother to tell me how she was a little worried about my diet, that I’d gone a bit “OTT with the food choices” I was making (according to her). I, of course, got incredibly defensive. The changes I have made to my diet in the last year or so have shocked my family a little I think – but they are just well chosen compromises here and there, and in most ways I still lead an indulgent, enjoyable foody life. The fact that I went out and bought rice cakes before her party and then refused to eat bread seemed to have disturbed her! But for me, it was a choice made so that I could then have cake and crisps! And it meant I felt happy and perky the next day.
I then read an absolutely brilliant blog post by somebody talking about nutrition compromises – the idea that there are certain tips and tricks for leading a healthier life-style, but if you do them all you will have a very boring and miserable life. So, it’s about picking which of those compromises you can inject into your lifestyle, and knowing which ones are not worth it. That is what I do.This is the original article here.
It made me want to compile my own list of compromises, so here they are!
Compromises I approve of:
1. Go T-total unless you really want it – I love a glass of wine as much as the next girl, but I don’t need a drink all the time. I’m quite happy during the week to just have a diet coke, or a cup of tea with dinner out, rather than tucking into a bottle of wine or a G&T unless I’m properly in the party mood.
2. No eating late at night – This is a wonderful way of staying healthy and happy. Eating just before bed isn’t kind to your digestive system or your body. I often find that once I’ve brushed my teeth or just walked away from the kitchen, I consider my day’s eating done! So I’m quite happy to do that at about 9:00 and tell myself “no more”.
3. Eat healthy when you eat out – I remember my fitness instructor friend once telling me “Whenever you eat out, it’s a treat, because the food is almost always cooked with twice the amount of butter, salt and oil than you would usually use at home. Everything will taste richer and more delicious, and will probably be slightly less good for you. So you don’t need to go wild on what you order as well. Enjoy the delicious piece of salmon and the buttery bits of brocolli. You don’t have to have the triple-patty burger with extra cheese and chilli fries on the side!” Obviously there are times this is not true – if you’re taking a trip to Meat Liquor, or going out for Pizza, just enjoy the indulgence. But if it’s just dinner out for the sake of it, I’m quite happy to stay relatively well behaved with my choice. (I will soon do a post recommending my top tips for delicious, healthy meals at the more popular chain restaurants in the UK.)
4. Porridge half water – I spark up my porridge by adding delicious spices like cinnamon or ginger, drizzle a bit of honey on top, or add fruit and raisins. Check out my carrot cake oatmeal recipe. But I don’t need to make it with full-fat milk!
5. Glass of water trick – If you’re feeling a craving to grab something to snack on, have a glass of water first. Research shows that cravings only usually last about 5 minutes, and by the time I’ve finished my drink I often find that I’m not even that hungry. Also, it has been proven that when we think we are hungry, we are often just thirsty – we are dehydrated. So having an extra glass of water here or there is never ever a bad thing.
6. Bulk up meals with veg – I am quite happy to make 90% of my plate vegetables. In fact I’m quite happy for the whole meal to be vegetables. I love meat, and I love rice and pasta. But that is one compromise I can deal with. I can push aside those things for the majority of my meals and just enjoy a mound of brocolli covered in chilli and garlic (for example). But that’s just me.
7. Avoid white foods – long ago I stopped buying “white carbs”. I just don’t have them in my flat and generally I don’t even eat them out at a restaurant. I will always pick the brown bread, the quinoa, the sweet potato fries, the oats and lentils over the pasta, white bread and potatoes.
8. Drink green tea like water – You know, when I first started drinking it about 2 years ago I wasn’t sure. Now I love it and drink it like it’s going out of fashion. And even if you think you don’t like green tea, remember china tea? Delicious jasmine tea is a kind of green tea. Indulge on that.
Compromises I don’t have time for:
1. Always eat breakfast – I personally don’t find that skipping breakfast makes me binge at lunchtime. In fact I have the total opposite. Once I start eating there’s often no stopping me! So if I have a large breakfast, I then want to keep eating and thinking about food every 5 minutes as the day progresses! But each to their own – it’s a very good tip for a lot of people.
2. Downsize portions – I love eating. I absolutely love it. I love the process of seeing the food, smelling the food, and biting down on the food. I love chewing and swallowing. I love eating more. I would far rather eat a giant’s portion of lettuce leaves, than one cornish pasty. See my Lucy Salad post to prove it.
3. Only put half a teaspoon of oil on your salad – I’m sorry but this is bullsh*t. If I’m putting oil on my salad it’s for flavouring, so I need to put enough on to be able to taste it! And anyway, olive oil is one of god’s gifts. It is wonderful for our health and I ain’t giving it up. See my post on well-behaved fats.
So generally, I’m happy to make compromises. But shoot me, tonight I went round my brothers and had 2 bowls of delicious oily spicey meatballs and a whole plateful of chocolate biscuits. I was tired and hungover. But tomorrow I’ll wake up, do some weights, go to yoga and be back on it.
Life is about compromises.