What you see here is today's lunch: a greasy, cheesy, lovely pizza. After just telling you yesterday that I was watching what I'm eating. Looking lovingly at it before I cut into it today, it occurred to me that it made an excellent example of several of my current dietary "rules," and as such it might be a good time to discuss them here. Besides, I don't feel like cleaning.
So how I justify this pizza? Well, with my rules!
Rule #1: Eat food that is made of food.
My #1 goal right now is to minimize the amount of chemical-laden processed junk I eat and call food. The processed junk eating is the most embarrassing and probably most harmful of my eating habits, and it's a hard one to break. I love fast food. I love snack cakes, and Oreos, and soda. I love all manner of things that parents don't feed to their children. But I'm learning, slowly, that at least some of my cravings for those things can be met with food that may not exactly be healthy, but is at least made by a person. In this case, I craved pizza. This isn't unusual--I adore pizza. Rather than phoning up Pizza Hut and ordering a deep dish Pepperoni Lover's (which I have been known to do), I made my own pizza. Yes, the sauce and the crust dough were pre-made from Trader Joe's, but they were made of food ingredients. Yes, pepperoni is a processed food. But still, making this pizza at home was a hell of a lot better option than ordering one from a chain. Tastier, too.
Note that this includes fake "diet" food. I've never used artificial sweeteners, because I think they are nasty and suspect, but I have, in the past, been known to reach for chemically enhanced low fat products. No more. I really do think it's healthier for me to have something that is full of real fat (like, say, regular ice cream) than scary compounds (like, say, Skinny Cow ice cream).
Rule #2: If you can add vegetables, add vegetables.
Though my craving was for pepperoni pizza, I knew my enjoyment wouldn't be diminished in the slightest by having other, healthier items present along with my beloved pepperoni. So, when I made the pizza, I put a thick layer of spinach leaves under the cheese, and added a couple of big handfuls of pre-cooked onions and red and yellow bell peppers on with the pepperoni. This didn't alter the caloric value of the pizza significantly one way or the other, but it did sneak at least one veggie serving into my day, and it tasted great. I can use veggies this way in many of my favorite things, and enjoy them as much or more as I do sans veggies. This may be a little bit of a juvenile tip, but hey, I'm a juvenile eater.
Rule #3: Don't mess with what you really want.
This may sound like it contradicts Rule #2, but it really doesn't. It was fine for me add veggies to the pizza, because I knew I'd like it just as well with as without them. However, other ways of trying to make it "more healthy' would seriously diminish my enjoyment of it. Soy cheese or soy pepperoni, or whole-wheat crust, would leave me unsatisfied. I'd probably eat more than two slices, and I still wouldn't have had what I really want. This has been a major issue with most of the diets I've tried in the past--the idea that a half-assed lower calorie version of something is a good substitute. It's not. If you honestly don't mind whole wheat or soy versions, or (gag) fat free cheese, or whatever, then by all means use them (although a lot of that stuff directly contradicts Rule #1). But for me, those things really kinda ruin the experience, and unsatisfied Grace doesn't last very long on a diet. So, this pizza was made with a white crust, real mozzarella, and real pepperoni. Because that's what I really wanted. And I ate two pieces of it (about a quarter of the whole) and felt very satisfied.
A corollary to this rule, call it Rule #3.5, is don't bother with what you don't really want. A few days ago, my friend The Princess had a great post about how she's decided that carrot cake is just really not worth it to her. I agree. Not just about carrot cake, but about a lot of things that I like OK, but not well enough to feel indulgent eating. If I'm going to eat something I like just OK, it may as well actually be healthy. Otherwise, it's not worth it.
Rule #4: Allow yourself to be lazy.
It's almost as embarrassing to admit as the fast food love, but one of the major reasons I eat so much junk food is laziness. I really like most fruits and vegetables, for example--I don't avoid them due to distaste for them. It's much easier, when I'm feeling snacky, to grab a handful of chips or a prepackaged something than it is to prepare something healthy, even if "prepare" just means "wash and chop." I can't really justify this laziness, but I've learned that if my ultimate goal is better eating habits, it does me more good to admit and work with it than to try to cure it. For some people, this means buying pre-cut fruit and veggie trays, and I think that's just fine. For me, at least today, it meant that when I decided to put peppers and onions on my pizza, I cooked up a whole batch--two or three times what I needed for the pizza. Now, tomorrow or the next day, when I want a sandwich or something that I could put peppers and onions on, they'll be ready to go, and I won't have laziness to use as an excuse to leave them off. This is also why I use pre-made dough and sauce from Trader Joe's. Would it be cheaper/healthier if I made it myself? Probably. Would I do it? Probably not.
Rule #5: Put away the leftovers first.
When this pizza came out of the oven, I cut it into four parts. I put one part (two slices) on my plate, then designated the rest as leftovers. If it hadn't been something hot, I would have wrapped it up and put it away before I ever started eating. As it needed to cool, I just had to do it mentally. I have a bad tendency to continue nibbling on things after I finished my first serving of them. I don't take a second serving, I just cut tiny piece after tiny piece more, until it's all gone. I do this whether I am still hungry or not. If I don't leave things out, though, this isn't possible. Had I still been hungry when I finished my two slices of pizza, I'd have eaten something else, like some fruit--I have no desire to stop myself from eating when I'm hungry--but having the leftovers put away tells me that there's no more of whatever it is I started out eating. For some reason, that really helps.
I don't know how helpful any of these rules would be to anybody else, or how much they echo any particular diet plan. Though I've never been a huge diet follower myself, that stuff does sort of seep into your brain. For me, they really do seem to go a long way in allowing me to work on my eating and not feel deprived and angry about it. I know the desire to eat junk is never going to be fully conquered--for whatever reason, I'm not built that way--but I can get myself used to a better quality of junk, and hopefully less of it. And that's a good start.