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{01/09/2012}   The problem with healthy eating is unhealthy rewards

Last night, feeling virtuous for having eaten and enjoyed a salady lunch, I allowed myself to eat two chocolate éclairs for my evening dessert.  I didn’t feel guilty at all until I remembered that I hadn’t had a particularly healthy breakfast (toast and peanut butter) or dinner (crème fraiche and smoked duck pasta sauce).  According to the somewhat inappropriately labelled “Nutrition” information on the éclair box, it would appear that in my dessert alone I over-consumed my daily fat “of which saturates” GDA and had 30% of my calorie intake.  What point is there in healthy eating if you can’t then have a guilt-free treat/binge?!

My friend who stayed from Monday to Wednesday is both vegetarian and pregnant.  With ease I had two days of healthy food, with emphasis on the vegetables.  I didn’t drink alcohol, I didn’t snack and I even heroically let her have the last ginger biscuit and the last bit of fruit and nut chocolate.  She left and I turned to éclairs.  My unscientific and unresearched conclusion is that it’s all in the mind.

A year ago a friend of mine did a fortnight of detox as a holiday.  I thought this a most ludicrous proposition, until I discovered how easily she lost weight and enthused about her vegetable-water based diet and then the (I perceived) novelty and aesthetically pleasing food she was gradually introduced to after the virtual fasting phase.  She had vegetables made to look like noodles and dishes of many colours and somehow nuts mixed with that seemed truly decadent.  I was thus introduced to the spiralizer, a contraption that I have as yet deemed too expensive and potentially faddy to buy.  However, making healthy food look exciting appears to be a recurrence in the progression of my mindset of food being largely cheesey/buttery/meaty to a less fatty, more virtuous diet.  I always used to scoff at vegetarians who ate, for example, quorn shaped to look like chicken chunks or mince, but I can now see that that paves the way to following recipes for meat dishes, of which there are trillions, instead of just opting for the far fewer recipes for vegetarian food.  It’s all about the psychology of eating.  Probably.

I have decided to call it the Cocktail Effect based on the fact that pretty and unconventional things to consume are far more appealing than familiar and bland things.  I once went a night out without drinking a drop of alcohol but working on the basis I was on a binge drinking session, thus enjoying myself thoroughly and feeling I could get away with being a bit of a mouthy prat, as can occur when I have a drop too much alcohol.  While not as expensive as I’d expected, I ordered my way partly through a cocktail menu.  I vaguely recall the odd comment about it not seeming like there was much alcohol in my cocktails, but I think I got enough of a buzz from the syrups and E numbers (this was a while ago when people weren’t as fixated with freshly squeezed juices and somewhere abroad where syrupy things were poured into my cocktails with a flourish – probably liquid sugar in a lot of cases!) to keep me contentedly “drunk”.  It was only towards the end of my evening that, on being passed a cocktail list by the person buying the round, I realised it was different … and there were various spirits listed.  On inspecting my cocktail list, sure enough I had the virgin cocktail list and I hadn’t even noticed there weren’t spirits listed!  But I had enjoyed my evening, had kept up with everyone else on the cocktail front and felt ludicrously sober-smug!

So my next attempt at a healthier diet is going to involve trying to trick myself into thinking my food is really exciting and risqué!  But how on earth do I find a chocolate éclair equivalent?  I have a particular soft spot/sweet tooth for Marks & Spencer chocolate éclairs.

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