A while ago, someone mentioned to me that they were struggling with moderation.
This came after us having a discussion about the 90/10 approach to health and fitness where 90% of the time, you stick to nutrient-dense minimally processed foods (such as in the Sleekgeek Food List), and then 10% of the time, you give yourself a bit of flexibility to enjoy some of your favourite foods OR adapt to less than ideal food situations.
She gave me an example where her husband will just suddenly decide that they are going for pizza on a Sunday and she doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter. She said that this is difficult for her to deal with or plan for and she feels that it’s derailing her goals.
Always something versus all or nothing
In my opinion, this is where the concept of having an “always something” mindset as opposed to an “all or nothing” mindset comes into play.
This is a key mental strategy that we teach in the Sleekgeek Healthy Habit Coaching Program.
Here’s how it works: When you are in the “always something” mindset, it means that no matter the situation, you are always trying to improve something or make the best of something. You recognise that progress is better than trying to be perfect (which ultimately leads most people to fail).
In contrast, an “all or nothing” mindset happens when you think to yourself “This meal isn’t perfect or part of my plan, therefore I’m now off the wagon and might as well indulge completely”. It’s when you go an order a large pizza, gobble it down angrily, feel guilty afterwards, binge on chocolate, and then struggle to get back on track on Monday. It may even snowball into something worse for a couple of days or weeks.
10 Ways to eat a pizza without “falling off the wagon”
I personally find myself eating pizza fairly regularly.
It’s probably one of my favourite foods and it’s usually eaten while spending much-needed quality time with my friends – which is definitely healthy.
While my diet is in general super healthy, I find myself eating pizza maybe once a week or at least once every second week. However, I feel that it has little to no negative impact on my health and fitness because of how I approach it right an “always something” mindset.
Here are some examples of my “always something” approach to eating pizza:
1) Order less than you ideally want.
I’ll order a medium pizza rather than a large. As much as I would love to eat a large pizza, this simple action is a massive step in the right direction that immediately cuts the number of calories in just about half.
2) Focus on veg and protein.
I’ll order a pizza that is more veggie and protein based rather than one that is loaded with high-calorie things like avo, extra, cheese, creamed cheese, olives, feta, etc. That way the pizza I eat is a good 200-400 calories lighter than some of the others, and I also get more protein and veg in. This also applies to other restaurant meals like swapping your burger fries out for a side of veg or ordering something chicken-based rather than pasta-based.
3) Try something new.
I tend to eat pretty routine meals at home, so when I eat out I’ll use it as an opportunity to expand my food choices and food variety. Or, if I do want something more familiar, another strategy is that I’ll deliberately avoid ordering my ideal choice and instead order something that’s a little bit less palatable and I’ll be less inclinded to eat as much.
4) Avoid the liquid calories.
I’ll order water or a coke zero or a coffee with my pizza. These are calorie-free beverages rather than wine, beer, regular soda, or a cappuccino that tend to be loaded with calories and can add up quickly. Alcohol can also impair your decision making and lead to further indulgence such as ordering dessert unecessarily.
5) Eat slowly.
I’ll eat my pizza very slowly – this is a key Sleekgeek habit and you can read more about it here. I’ll use a knife and fork to cut it up one bite at a time. I’ll put my utensils down in between bites. I’ll drink multiple glasses of water if needed, I’ll get up halfway through my meal to go to the toilet, I’ll talk and be social. Eating slower makes you feel fuller and more satisfied as it can take up to 20 mins for our brain to send out signals telling us we are full. If we eat too quickly then we tend to eat more than we need to.
6) Eat to 80% full.
I’ll aim to eat to “80% full” – this is another key Sleekgeek habit and you can read more about it here. So when I say 80% full, I mean I’ll stop when I am no longer ravenously hungry and before I am completely full or even stuffed. This usually means leaving one or two slices behind. Or I’ll “generously” give some friends / family a slice of my pizza to try and not want any of theirs in exchange.
7) Add a salad.
If at home, I’ll make a big low-calorie but filling salad to eat along with my pizza. This again makes me eat my pizza slower, fills me up, and usually means I only eat about half a medium pizza. If I’m out at a restaurant, I’ll look for a friend that would like to share a pizza and a salad with me.
8) Plan ahead.
If I know ahead of time that we will be eating pizza later that night, I’ll eat a little bit less during the day leading up to it. I might even have a protein shake and salad right before we go out and then immediately ask the waiter to box half of my pizza for taking away. I know that half a pizza plus the protein shake and salad before hand will be enough to satisfy me, and I remove further temptation before it even gets chance.
9) Just deal with it.
Ok, so not everyone plans their plans. Sometimes a friend just gives you a call and next thing you know 5 minutes later you are heading to a restaurant or they rock up on your doorstep with pizza (that’s how you know who your real friends are!). If I have to eat a pizza that I didn’t plan for, then I’ll simply do as much of the above as possible, and then aim to eat slightly less throughout the rest of the day or the following day. Note, this is not about starving or punishing myself. It’s about recognising that I probably ate more than my body’s energy requirements recently, so it’s OK if I get a little bit less energy for the next 24 hours. However, if you find this is not a winning strategy for you and leads to further binge eating when you try to restrict yourself, simply forget about the pizza and focus on getting right back into normal routine as that is what will help you the most in the long run.
Exercise always goes well with over eating. I don’t believe in trying to out-exercise or “undo” those extra calories, but when you eat a lot it means you have more energy than normal ready to be used. Put it to good use either that day or the very next day. I get most of my personal records in the gym the day after cheat meal because I have more energy and I’m also more determined to put that energy to good use. Use it or lose it!
Do you have a problem, or do you have an excuse?
I’ve found it quite useful to re-frame every obstacle I face in life as either a Problem or an Excuse.
If it’s a Problem then that’s FANTASTIC!
- Because problems can be solved and you can ALWAYS take a step forwards in some way. No matter how small that step is.
- If your problem is time, you can manage your time better. If your problem is money, you can refine your budget. If your problem is energy, you can eat better foods and get more sleep. Whatever it takes to get more time, money, or energy. Always be trying to solve your problem and taking the next step forwards.
If it’s an Excuse then that’s the REAL PROBLEM!
- Excuses lead to inaction. They justify why something is so without requiring any additional steps to be taken to address the issue or prevent it from happening again.
- Excuses protect you from failing. They stroke your ego and save you from embarrassment. But that’s it.
- Failure is feedback. You can’t get better if you don’t fail and learn. Let go of your excuses and take responsibility.
If something like eating pizza unexpectedly is a REALLY important problem for you to address, you will find a way.
Whether it means having a serious talk with your husband as to how he can support your goals or even sitting there drinking your protein shake and eating your salad that you always have ready in case of something like this while watching your husband eat his pizza.
I’ve been out plenty of times drinking water and eating a chicken salad while watching my friends and family enjoy pizza and beer. My goals are different to theirs, so of course, I’m going to eat different things to them.
But, when you are able to be responsible and take ownership of your decisions, it actually gives you the freedom to enjoy a bit more flexibility in your diet.
What does the Sleekgeek Community say?
I asked in the Sleekgeek Facebook Group “What are some strategies that you use to still make an effort to eat healthily when out at a restaurant?”
Here were their responses: