One of the first things to look at if you want to lose weight, get fit or improve your energy levels, is eating well. This runs hand in hand with physical exercise. But what if you don’t want to completely cut out your ‘comfort food’, snacks and takeaways that you turn to when you’re in a rush. Or having a bad day. Maybe craving. Or.. what the hell, I just want that pizza!
I get it. I love takeaway food – Chinese, fish and chips, curry. When I’m eating it, I feel great – it hits the spot. Craving satisfied, guilt sets in. I need to go for a run now. Or maybe I’ll pop down the gym and burn those calories off. Later. Tomorrow actually, I’m a little full after that dirty burger with chilli cheese sauce and side of large fries.. It’s difficult to eat healthily without the temptation of switching to unhealthy options at times. Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle and if you live a hectic life – work, maybe children, a full social calendar, fast food quickly becomes an option, no matter how good your intentions.
Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle.Anon.
Eating well vs comfort food
Eating well needn’t be difficult. Before you tune out, have a think about something. Many businesses marketing fast or unhealthy food have you subconsciously hooked from the get go. Advertising is everywhere – on TV, all over social media, on billboards when you’re driving to work, even product placement in your favourite television shows or movies. Try to avoid the advertising – it’s difficult to impossible.
Research shows that we’re programmed to recognise brands. A study by the University of Michigan (FAST) has shown how the reward centres of our brains light up like a belisha beacon on seeing fast food advertising (it’s worse the younger you are due to brain development). If we’ve tried food (or drink) from one of these big brand businesses before, chances are we’ll also have become addicted to what they’ve put in their food. High fat, sugar and salt content will quickly get you addicted and craving more the next time you’re hungry with little time to consider where your meal is about to come from.
There are a couple of things to consider here though. Firstly, a ‘cheat day’ needn’t mean eating the comfort food you’re craving. But if it does – and there’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence every now and again, you could opt for a smaller portion. Or you could rustle up your own. Takeaway Chinese meals are known for using the flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG has been linked to (but never specifically proven to cause) palpitations, headaches and aggravate breathing difficulties in asthma sufferers. Some curries, often those loved here in England, contain very high amounts of cream – masalas, kormas and pasandras, not to mention ghee (a type of clarified butter) used in the cooking process. Yes, this stuff tastes great, but you’re often better making these dishes at home with healthier ingredients if you are able to condition yourself against advertising. Another plus is you’ll save money.
If you can get the balance right, the odd unhealthy meal won’t hurt. It’s worth remembering that too little body fat can be just as bad as too much. Eating well, even with traditionally unhealthy foods, can be achieved with preparation if you home cook. If buying a takeaway is unavoidable, try cutting down your portion size or being selective with what you choose. When possible, avoid deep fried food and sauces high in trans or saturated fats. Enjoying comfort food needn’t destroy your fitness goals – if you’re careful about it.