Is there such thing as a food hangover? I’m pretty sure there is. I’m also pretty sure that I woke up with one yesterday morning. If Irn Bru is the manna which cures an alcohol hangover, then I have the food hangover cure. And these don’t just help with the hangover, these are five healthy things you can do every day. Even if you’re feeling like you’ve fallen off the wagon, doing these five things can make you feel a little more positive.
a heavy weekend
I’ve written before about how weekends are a bit of a weight loss pitfall for me. As soon as Saturday (ok, sometimes Friday night) rolls around, the reins come off. It’s like a switch goes off in my head and I don’t even remember that I’m meant to be making healthy choices.
Since I really started knuckling down in my efforts to improve my diet, I’ve managed to kerb my weekends a little. Particularly in the last few weeks, I’ve indulged a little but still kept within healthy limits. And the results on the scale have been good. This weekend though, especially Sunday, things got a little out of control. Not binge-level cray-cray, but just…ugly.
I don’t want to turn this into a confession booth or anything. But a cheeseburger, prosecco, birthday cake, cheesecake, wine and chocolate biscuits all happened. I was at a kids’ birthday party, a night out and a family fun day, none of which had healthy options and none of which I prepared for. Or gave any more thought to other than nomnomnomnom. I’m fine with it though. Life happens, and I like to enjoy it when it does.
getting back on track
The party has to stop some time though. A little of what you fancy is good for you, but too much can actually make you feel gross. I felt sluggish, cranky and basically yuck when the school run dragged me out of bed on Monday morning. Some of that was down to a broken night of sleep. After sleeping through for four whole nights, the baby decided that I’d had enough sleep and is back to 4am snack attacks. But I do think that a lack of nutrients and too much sugar wasn’t helping either.
Instead of writing off the rest of the week, I decided to hit reset. And it got me thinking about the five healthy things that always make me feel good. They make me feel as if I’m treating my body right, and get me back in the healthy zone. And they’re so easy to do.
I also think they made the difference between a bit of overindulgence, and an all out binge. I’ve battled with binge eating my whole life, and a weekend like this would easily start me off in that direction. But because doing these five healthy things is now almost second nature, I was able to stop myself falling down that particular rabbit hole.
my five healthy things
Starting the day off right
Maybe you eat breakfast, maybe you don’t. But if the first meal you eat in a day is healthy and balanced, you’re much more likely to keep making good choices. My morning bowl of porridge sets me up well, and makes me feel a bit smug and virtuous. And even if the rest of the day doesn’t exactly go to plan, at least one meal will have been healthy – damage limitation, people!
I know, I know, everyone bangs on about this one. But think about it – dehydration can make you feel lethargic and sluggish. I don’t know about you, but when I feel that way I just can be bothered making any healthy effort. I’d rather sit on my arse and reach for quick-hit junk food.
Hydrating gets me out of that slump. Not only does it boost energy and help clear you out (yeah, I’m talking poo), but it keeps your mind sharp too. Science says so. If that isn’t a good reason to get glugging, I don’t know what is.
Exercise. I never really want to do it, but I never regret it when I do. In fact, I feel a million times worse looking at a low step count at the end of the day than I ever would after working out. But you don’t need to be killing it in the gym every day. Walking is so good for you, and most of us can fit it into our day somehow. I’ve ditched the car for most of the school runs this year. Whilst we may need to leave the house a little earlier, it’s worth it not just for the exercise but the time I get to spend with my middle son. It actually doesn’t even take that much longer, if you consider what a faff parking can be.
A few workouts and daily walking in your week can make a huge difference. Not just to your weight loss and body composition, but to your mood. And if you feel better, you’re more likely to make healthy choices. It’s a win-win cycle.
Eat your greens
And your reds, and your yellows, whites, oranges, purples… I try to make sure that every meal has a fruit or vegetable component. And if there are veggies in a recipe, I’ll still either add more or have veggies on the side too. They’re yummy, they fill you up and they’re packed full of all the good stuff. A meal packed with veggies makes you feel as if you’re really treating your body right. But more than that, adding a chaser of goodness to even the cheatiest of cheat meals can work wonders for your mindset. It’s hard to feel as guilty about eating a big dirty cheeseburger if you also munch on a salad. Which leads me to the last of my five healthy things you can do every day…
Be kind to yourself
This is probably the most important of the five healthy things I’ve listed. If you have had a cheat meal, or even if you’ve had a cheat day…week…month, cut yourself some slack. Maybe you nail all four of the other healthy things and more besides, or maybe you really don’t. But either way it is not a reflection of you as a person, just a reflection of where you’re at.
I find the easiest way to be kinder to myself is not to look at what I ate or the workout I skipped, and to instead look at the why. I ate that cheeseburger this weekend because there were no healthier options, because we didn’t have time to prepare something healthier at home that day, because I didn’t think ahead. So, I’ll learn from it. Draw a line under it. And appreciate the fact that although it wasn’t ideal, I still enjoyed it.
It’s taken me years to separate those things, my food choices from my self. Even now I still catch myself thinking “I’m a bad person” sometimes, where what I really mean is “that wasn’t the greatest food choice.” There’s so much guilt around food, and for some of us it gets absorbed as guilt for who we are. Fuck that. Shake it off, and show yourself some compassion.
The kinder you are to yourself, the easier it becomes to make healthier choices because putting your health first becomes an act of kindness.
If your day has as many of those five healthy things in it as you can manage, you’re on the right path. I know that by hydrating, moving, eating my veggies and still making some good choices, I managed to give my body what it needed. Sure, I may not see a loss on the scales this weekend after my indulgent weekend. But I’m not carrying any baggage about it, because I’m kind enough to myself to be ok with that.