By Robin Silver
Maybe the trigger is chowing down on nothing but salads or hearing your alarm going off before your sunrise yoga class, but whatever it is, you feel desperate, hungry, and tired. You have cravings that you can’t stop thinking about. Sometimes, you give in—
you order a cheeseburger and a calorific cocktail, you choose to sleep in and watch TV all day. The following day you feel guilty like you’ve completely failed all your ambitious health and wellness goals. So you throw in the towel.
On Instagram, wellness bloggers present seemingly perfect lifestyles that can make us feel like we’ll never measure up. But progress, not perfection, is the real goal. We are all just human, after all, and those social media influencers have to pose a certain way for their bodies to look like that. You better believe they’ve filtered and enhanced the colours of their acai bowls and the sunrise behind it. Imperfection, indulgence, and fun are an essential part of a happy and healthy lifestyle and can help you achieve more lasting results.
Pobody’s Nerfect— Allowing Yourself to be Gentle with Yourself
Accepting slip-ups is an integral part of self-acceptance, and self-acceptance is a necessary part of holistic wellness. Taking a balanced approach to lifestyle change means eschewing an all-or-nothing attitude. If you see your goals as black or white, your motivation can become inconsistent. You may start to feel discouraged after a rough day or two, which can affect your willingness to stay the course because you already think that you’ve failed.
A natural approach to wellness means allowing for frustrating days ahead and recognising them as part of the process. In fact, having a tough time or a lapse without giving up on your overall lifestyle change can, in the long-term, strengthen your commitment to the ultimate goal.
It can also help to realise, that while sometimes you will make mistakes, you can keep moderation in mind and still satisfy your biscuit craving without chowing down an entire pack of Oreos. Instead, maybe you choose to split a packet among a few friends with some coffee, bake a healthier version at home, or search for a whole foods-based alternative, such as the vegan brownie offered by Wild Tribe Super Food Cafe.
The science side: breaking through plateaus
For evidence that cheat meals can be a part of even a professionally fit person’s lifestyle, look no further than The Rock’s Instagram account. If his chiselled physique sitting in front of giant stacks of peanut butter pancakes isn’t enough to convince you, there is science that supports adding cheat days or cheat meals into your diet.
Weight loss will lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is stored in fat cells. Leptin helps the body maintain its weight by regulating long-term food intake and energy expenditure. So when the levels fall, you can experience increases in appetite and cravings. Research has indicated that temporarily upping your calorie intake can increase your leptin levels by up to 30% for 24 hours following a cheat meal.
A 2018 study separated obese men into two groups and put them on restrictive diets for four months. The first group stayed on a restrictive plan for the entirety of the study, while the second group was allowed intermittent breaks from the diet. Surprisingly, the latter group not only lost more weight during the trial but also gained back less weight afterwards.
When it comes to natural detox, the famous adage by Hippocrates is often cited: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” So by choosing good healthy food, you can help heal your physical body, but it can also have mental health benefits.
Nobody wants to feel deprived. Integrating some occasional indulgences into your lifestyle change will not only lead to a healthier body—that framework may actually let you enjoy those treats even more because you can enjoy them guilt-free.
Balancing your mind, body, and spirit is a delicate dance. Sometimes you need to take time away for a natural detox with assistance from supportive professionals. Sometimes life’s responsibilities won’t allow it. In those moments, all we can do is try our best to treat ourselves with kindness—in our bodies with diet and exercise, as well as our minds with acceptance and relaxation.
The bottom line is, we benefit more from listening to what our bodies tell us they need than we do from crossing items off a to-do (or don’t) list. Even the most disciplined among us can’t perfectly envision what an “achieved” goal will actually look like. As Disney’s Dory would say “Just keep swimming,” and you will get there eventually.