Getting ready for my last competition, I would make my daily trek to the supermarket and head straight for the fish counter once inside. Unfortunately, to get there, I had to pass through the bakery with its aroma of fresh breads and desserts, the overflowing cheese cases and all sorts of other food displays that called to me as I hustled by. As much as I tried to stay focused, there were days I couldn’t resist browsing and making mental notes of what I would splurge on once my dieting phase came to an end.
When my diet was finally over and I returned to the store, I found myself standing next to a table of desserts, trying to decide which treat to buy. I realized that I was no longer interested and that I was talking myself into choosing something “just because I could” eat it again. Isn’t it amazing how as soon as we tell ourselves we can’t have something, we want it?
Feeling deprived is one of the worst parts of dieting. When you’re following a strict plan that allows little flexibility, sticking with it long term can be a real challenge, both mentally and physically. What happens is you end up slipping or ditching the diet altogether, leading to feelings of guilt or failure.
To diet successfully, making healthy food choices is essential. But you also need to include options that don’t leave you feeling deprived. Here are a few foods and techniques that will help keep you on track while still allowing you to enjoy meal and snack time throughout the day:
Eat a balanced diet – To provide your body with the nutrients it needs and reduce cravings, try to build your meals to include 55% complex carbohydrates, 27% lean protein and 18% healthy fats.
Satisfy cravings with creative substitutions – You may not be able to eat a candy bar, but a protein bar is a healthy option that still lets you get your sweet fix. I like to make a mock dessert out of Quest Nutrition Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Bars. Cut the bar in half and flatten each side, then top with a tablespoon of almond butter or chocolate powdered peanut butter. Put the pieces together to make a sandwich and broil for about four minutes. Yum!
Another easy Quest treat is a mock cookie. Microwave a Cinnamon Roll bar for about 10 seconds, then roll into 6 “cookies.” Bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Mix protein powder with coconut milk and a little vanilla Greek yogurt to make an icing glaze.
Fill up with fiber – If gritty, awful-tasting powder comes to mind when you think of adding more fiber to your diet, think again. There are plenty of enjoyable ways to up your fiber intake, which will keep you feeling satisfied while also supporting healthy digestion. Sprinkle white chia seeds onto yogurt. Make a smoothie with high-fiber hemp seeds. Pour yourself a bowl of Barbara’s Bakery High Fiber Flax and Granola and top with dried fruit.
Take a multivitamin – When you’re dieting, calories aren’t the only thing you’re cutting from your daily food intake. You may be missing out on important nutrients your body needs to function at its best. Make a daily multivitamin part of your routine. I like Vitacost Synergy Once Daily because it contains antioxidant nutrients such as CoQ10, green tea and resveratrol for added protection.
Allow yourself a “cheat meal” – Every two weeks or so, allow yourself a good cheat meal—not a cheat day (which can easily turn into two or three!). Let yourself splurge on a burger and fries, steak and potato, Mexican meal or whatever you have been craving. Then get right back on your diet plan.
Remember, practice moderation in everything and you will feel more balanced and excited to stick with your healthy eating plan and fitness lifestyle.
NPC National Figure competitor Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.