We all know that eating healthy has never required guzzling lemon juice mixed with honey and cayenne pepper (but for reals, WHO STARTED THAT NONSENSE) or cutting out carbs in their entirety. The rules for healthy eating are relatively simple: lots of green stuff, lean protein, and some starchy goodness to bring it all home. It’s not that the rules have changed over the years, but it seems that people are always looking for a “get out of unhealthy habits easy” card. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t exist. The thing is, it’s not the healthy living that’s hard, it’s the decision-making that is tricky. Staying true to your goals can be complicated by simple things like a busy schedule or if you’re me, an overactive sweet tooth that is legit trying to give you diabetes. We all know what we “should” do it’s just pulling the trigger every time that makes it difficult. When confronted with the choice of a salad or a burger I think we all hesitate. So, from one healthy-ish girl to you, I’d like to share some tried-and-true tips for making good decisions when all you want to do is faceplant in a massive cheesecake.

BE MINDFUL (Take a minute and remember your goals)

This is literally the hardest part in my opinion and the one instance where I am going to argue that taking Instagram-worthy pics of your food are useful. That moment where you pause to filter out bad lighting and the guy’s elbow next to you can mean the difference in quite a few calories if you take the time to consider the meal in front of you, so I am an adamant advocate of slowing down. I think one of the most important things to remember is to take a moment to look at your plate and decide what you’re going to eat. If your pizza delivery just hit your front door, this is when you put two slices on a plate, the rest in the fridge, and guzzle water like you’re lost in the desert. Seriously though, take a moment before you dive in to remember what you’re trying to accomplish and set yourself up for success.

DON’T LET YOURSELF GET HUNGRY (Be like the boy scouts and prepare yo’self)

Look, the you that had something for breakfast and then followed up with a snack is a lot less likely to order cheese fries (is butter a carb?) than the you that hasn’t eaten since last night. Starving is a good way to toss all of your hard work and mindfulness out the window, so always be prepared. The fashion industry has been a dear and made pockets in just about everything we wear these days so fill them with snacks. My go-tos? String cheese, Kind bars, mixed nuts, and sliced cucumbers. My most recent obsession is InnoFoods coconut clusters (check them out here or find them at your local CostCo) or apple slices with low-sugar peanut butter (options here and here). You are way less likely to swallow an entire guacamole burger if you’ve been keeping up with your snacks, which means that burger could last you two meals if you choose to go for it.

COMPROMISE (Give two, take one rule)

“I can have ______ if I _____ and _______” is my go-to template. Usually it’s something like, “I can have french fries if I have a salad and a full glass of water first.” (#frenchfriesarelife) I also make deals that include workouts like, “today is my day off from the gym but if I want a blueberry cake donut that my coworker brought, I have to pick up a class tonight.” This idea that eating healthy (I refuse to use the word “diet” just because I find it so problematic) means you have to forgo things you once loved isn’t actually the case, you just need to cut back on the things that are bad for you and increase those that are good for you. Teaching yourself to compromise like this means that you trade those, “omg I have wrecked my eating plan for the week I am such a loser” moments for, “hahaha I ate a donut today, time for spin class.”

BE PURPOSEFUL (If you’re going to splurge, make it count)

THIS DOES NOT MEAN EAT THE ENTIRE CHEESECAKE. What I mean is, save your treats for things you love. If you’ve been dying for a cupcake, go get a cupcake that makes your heart (and Instagram) happy. Those snap decisions you make in the conference room may satisfy your need in that moment, but if you’ve been eyeing something really special at your local bakery or you have a friend’s wedding coming that you planned on challenging that open bar at, keep those things in mind. Treat it like a budget. I have this much allowance where sugar/salt/alcohol is concerned and I need to spend my allowance on the best things possible.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF (Would you talk to a friend that way?)

This whole, “I ate three cupcakes and then skipped kickboxing so now my life is ruined” mentality is ridiculous. Sometimes you deserve those dang cupcakes and sometimes your couch is just more enticing than that super fit woman who yells at you during rounds. I get it. We get it. The thing is, don’t let it ruin your week. So, you skipped on Tuesday? Instead of beating yourself up about it, just regroup. Tomorrow is a new day and you can get back on the wagon then. You’re human and humans love cupcakes. Don’t be so hard on yourself. We think you’re fabulous just the way you are.

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