The perfect diet is NOT 100% clean

As someone who runs a health food company, there are a lot of eyes on me and what I eat. Most people assume I eat a 100% clean diet and have willpower of steel. And many of these people come to me for inspiration and tips on how to do the same for themselves.

That’s why I think it’s so important for me to show that I DON’T eat 100% clean, 365 days a year. Just a few weeks ago, I gave a sneak peek on our Instagram Stories of all the new desserts coming to Methodology pretty soon and then proceeded to eat a bunch of them in one sitting. Though our desserts are cleaner than most, they’re still desserts.

Most importantly, I didn’t beat myself up afterward because I have a structure that allows me to indulge occasionally in unhealthy foods.

We live in a society that preaches “all-or-nothing” practices, but I often find “all-or-nothing” mindsets to be more detrimental to a healthy lifestyle than small but regular indulgences. I’ve seen many people decide that “nothing” is too hard and so they might as well eat whatever they want because they’ve failed to maintain a perfect diet.

But there’s a better way.

The truth is your body is capable of handling a small amount of food that doesn’t serve any purpose except to taste yummy. You just need to find balance between keeping yourself from feeling deprived and eating enough healthy food to still feel amazing.

Of course, this balance is going to be different for everyone. But there are some guidelines you can keep in mind to stay within this range.  

1. Don’t cheat; have treats instead

The first step to indulging in a healthy manner is to stop thinking about your indulgences as “cheats.” A funny thing happens when we think of indulging as a bad thing: we feel guilty about it, don’t enjoy the experience, and then find ourselves wanting more as soon as we’re done.

When cheats become treats -- something you’re allowed to enjoy -- suddenly you relax, you savor the experience, and you feel satisfied by what you’ve eaten. That’s also what makes it much easier to stop and keep yourself from overeating.

It’s a subtle mindset switch, but try it out and see how much of an impact it can make in how you feel after your next treat.

2. Find the right quantity

When you decide how many treats you’re going to have each week, two things happen:

  1. You’re defining where the “overboard” line falls so you have clear parameters of how much is too much

  2. You get in the mindset of counting your treats so you know how many you’re consuming during the week; often we get into trouble because we’re blindly eating what we’d like whenever we feel like it without realizing we did the same thing four other times that week

You can even go so far as to define which days you’d like your treats, which adds a third benefit: you’re better prepared to fight off a craving because you know exactly when your next treat is going to be.

I like to have two treat meals a week most weeks (which can include dessert), and this is what I recommend as a starting place most of the time. But this can change.

When I’m preparing for something like a beach vacation or Burning Man, I move to one treat meal a week to make it easier to shed a few extra pounds and might even cut treats out completely 1-3 weeks before the event. I’ll also cut off  treat meals when I’m looking to reset my microbiome. When I’m somewhere like Paris or New York, though, I eat whatever I want until I get back home because vacation only happens a couple times a year and so a week or two of poor eating won’t be detrimental to my overall health.

As your needs change, your eating habits can change as well. However, I always like to go back to my original two treat meals a week because that’s the balance that makes my body happiest.

3. Know where things rank for you

Not all indulgences are created equal! Some people would die for a plate of pasta, while others can’t get enough of a particular pastry from the coffee shop on the corner. Whatever your favorite treats are, make note of these.

Then when you’re faced with a potential treat during the week, you’ll have some guidance as to whether you’d like to indulge or not.

For instance, if your coworker brings in homemade cupcakes, you can decide pretty quickly whether you’ll partake or save your treat for something better during the week based on where cupcakes rank on your list. If cupcakes are one of your favorites, you should take one and enjoy guilt-free. If cupcakes rank in the middle or toward the bottom of your list, you probably want to politely decline so you can use that treat on something that will make your tastebuds sing.

Take quality into consideration too. A $0.99 bar of chocolate might not taste as good as a gourmet bar of chocolate (or maybe the $0.99 bar of chocolate is what really hits the spot for you). So use your treat on something that’s also the quality you love so it always hits the spot. It’s okay to be picky when it comes to your treats.

4. Note your “never indulge” list

It’s also good to set boundaries on what you’ll never indulge in to make it even simpler to enjoy your treats without regret. I like to reserve this list for items that make you feel terrible or cause some reaction, even in small quantities. Because when you’re treating yourself, you should be feeling good, not worrying about whether you’ll be feeling sick for the rest of the day.

For me, this list includes coffee and dairy, which give me acne even in small amounts, cashew and avocado, which I’m allergic to, and soy which gives me eczema.