Ice cream? Tacos? Bacon cheeseburger? Birthday cake? Can I eat [insert perceived bad food here] and still lose weight?
Yes! Absolutely. Please do.
Does this surprise you coming from a Registered Dietitian? I hope not.
So here’s the thing – no food is inherently good or bad. Yes, the nutritional compositions of all foods are different, and our bodies respond accordingly. Some are mostly protein, some have a lot of fiber. Some have very few micronutrients, others are almost pure sugar. Does having one serving of any type of food automatically make you healthy or unhealthy? No.
Look at it this way: eating one salad doesn’t improve your metabolism overnight. Just like eating one cookie doesn’t wreck it.
If you need more convincing, here are 3 reasons why you can still eat the “bad foods” and still lose weight:
When you implement blood sugar balance and eating PHFF consistently into your week, spiking your blood sugar once a week or month with some ice cream is simply not going to erase all the other good practices you’ve done. It just doesn’t work like that.
Focusing on being consistent rather than perfect is also so amazing for the sustainability of your lifestyle changes. There’s no way we can be perfect with our eating (what does that even mean really?). So rather than avoiding all the fun foods as much as we think is possible, think about how you CAN fit them in and still be consistent.
This can look a little different for everyone depending on your preferences, routine, personal goals, etc., so take some time to figure out how you can feel your best and still enjoy the foods you love. This takes practice to find a balance that makes sense for you. It’s not one-size-fits-all.
If you don’t do this, you might find yourself in that “all or nothing” mentality. This is a very common obstacle and it’s just not something we need to do to ourselves anymore. Weight loss will never happen if you wait for everything to be perfect 100% of the time.
If this area is difficult for you right now, working with a coach 1-on-1 here at MM could be a really good idea. Having some guidance and accountability can be a game-changer.
2. Metabolic flexibility
When we talk about “making over your metabolism” here at MM, we don’t just mean increasing your calorie burn each day (although we do love this). We are ultimately striving for a state of “metabolic flexibility.” This means you can have tacos & margs on a Saturday night without gaining 5 pounds the next day. It means your body can take some minor changes to the routine and not freak out.
Focusing on your metabolic health and flexibility allows you to still lose weight while having the “food freedom” everyone talks about. It means you can live your life without stressing about having a freaking piece of cake. It means you can vacation for a week and not gain weight when you come back.
It’s honestly the best thing. Diets with quick fixes do not help your metabolism to get to this point and it will make having the “bad foods” once in a while feel like you’re “falling off the wagon.” Ew, David.
3. Calories aren’t king
If you’re still not sure how you could possibly eat a cheeseburger once in a while and still reach your weight loss goal, I want you to consider ditching the calorie mindset for a minute.
The truth is, weight loss is not just the game of calories in vs. calories out. If it was, wouldn’t we have all met our goals by now? Most of us have at some point proven that we can be really good at tracking our daily calories and sticking to the limit for at least a few weeks or more.
But in the end, it just doesn’t lead to lasting change. We aren’t able to stick with it. Our bodies aren’t calculators. It would be easier if that’s how it worked, I agree, but it just isn’t.
We are complex biology projects with a unique metabolic ecosystem. There are many key areas that need attention and love (gut health, sleep hygiene, hydration, blood sugar management, regular movement). Only thinking about calories (which the labels on our foods can be up to 30% inaccurate on, by the way) is just missing the big picture honestly.
So, when we zoom out and think about having a fun treat, it’s not going to throw our entire metabolic system off balance like we think it will. When your metabolism is operating as it should, it’s actually really good at using extra calories for energy. Think of it like a sink that isn’t clogged. Pouring more water (or calories) in your “metabolic sink” will not plug things up if everything is running smoothly.
So, in summary, this is your unofficial approval for you to enjoy your fun foods without guilt while living a balanced lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you do this while still pursuing a weight loss goal and feeling good both physically and mentally:
1. Include them in your balanced meal
Did you make a baked good over the weekend and want to enjoy a piece? Have some in a portion you know keeps you feeling good and consider that your starchy carb in your PHFF meal. Pairing this with your protein, healthy fat, and fiber will help keep your blood sugar more stable and avoid a spike and crash.
2. Don’t restrict them
The more you say no to the foods you truly enjoy, the more you will be unable to say no down the line. Think of it as a bow and arrow. The more we pull back (or say no), the harder it will be to keep saying no at some point. The bow and arrow can only create so much tension. When you do “give in,” the arrow goes flying out, and you’ve created an environment where it’s hard to eat a fun food mindfully. Let’s just avoid this situation and ditch that all-or-nothing mentality like we mentioned before. Ok, cool.
3. Make strategic swaps
Some fun foods can be more PHFF-friendly with a few swaps. When it comes to baking, think about decreasing the sugar content, increasing the fiber (add chia or flax seeds), or swapping for healthier fats (avoid vegetable oil). We love to share delicious PHFF desserts and snacks in our meal plans!
4. Fun foods CAN be balanced
Remember, just because you think a food is “bad” doesn’t mean we can’t balance it out. Think tacos for example. They are actually amazing for a blood-sugar-friendly meal.
Protein: shredded chicken or seasoned beef
Healthy Fat: avocado, cheese
Fiber: corn tortilla, tomatoes, lettuce
Or if you go to a bar for a burger, this can be balanced by choosing a side salad instead of fries, or ditching the bun and enjoying fries.
Just because something is delicious doesn’t mean it’s bad for us!! We don’t need this way of thinking anymore.
This post was so easy and fun to write because I absolutely want you to believe that you can have all the fun foods AND reach your goals. It’s 100% possible. It’s what the MM community is all about!