Should you switch to 'healthy junk'?

If you surf the net looking at recipes for any kind of ‘special’ diet, say gluten-free, low-carb, and Paleo, it won’t take you long to come across recipes for pizza, bread sticks, muffins, cakes and biscuits. It seems like you can be gluten-free/low-carb/Paleo, yet have your cake and eat it, too!

 Photo by  Alex  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

But I’m in two minds about that … I get it, don’t get me wrong. If you cannot eat gluten anymore, isn’t that hard enough? Why should you be deprived of your favourite foods any more than necessary? Or you are going low-carb, perhaps in order to lose weight or to manage your diabetes or even avert it altogether. If the cake doesn’t contain sugar or even flour (think ground almonds), what’s wrong with having it?

But here’s the thing: You’re not really breaking a bad habit if you’re not breaking a bad habit. Recreating the very foods you’re trying your hardest to avoid, only with ‘healthier’ ingredients, does not help retraining your palate or getting out of a habit. Avoidance, however, does. Please hear me out, this is not about deprivation! You’ll have to take my word for it, but there may well be a time ahead in the future where you forget all about cakes and biscuits and don’t actually crave them anymore. Hard to imagine, I know, but it’s true. How do I know? I’ve experienced it.

It used to be a habit of mine for as long as I can remember to have a biscuit with my afternoon coffee. The accompanying biscuit enhanced my enjoyment of coffee no end. Now, I’m a ‘moderator’ (when it comes to biscuits, don’t ask me about Milka chocolate*), which means that I can have a biscuit (one!) without having to gobble up the whole packet, but if you had asked me to not have that one biscuit, I would have been very upset. When I decided to considerably cut my sugar intake, I switched to oat biscuits, much lower in sugar, job done. But I continued to have my daily biscuit.

When I wanted to decrease my carb intake some more, I started baking my own biscuits using almond flour and xylitol as a sweetener. They were lovely, possibly even nicer than oat biscuits. They were considerably lower in carbs and wouldn’t raise my blood sugar, excellent, job done!

But then I did an experiment for one month that meant no sweet foods – regardless of what they were sweetened with, including fruit. The biscuits had to go, for one month. I had not intention of quitting forever, but about six weeks later I realised that I hadn’t had a biscuit with my afternoon coffee for ages. I had forgotten all about it! And so it was that I accidentally discovered that a) switching to healthier options of junk foods does nothing for breaking bad habits, and b) it is possible to not actually want them. Not wanting junk foods makes it incredibly easy to resist, even when they are being waved in front of your face, if your friends are having them, if you are away from your own home and just can’t get almond flour biscuits or cauliflower-crust pizza. It’s actually quite liberating. You should try it!

 

* I cannot eat just 2 square of Milka chocolate. Just can’t. I have to eat the whole bar. For that reason, I don’t buy it. Ever. So in relation to Milka, I am definitely an ‘abstainer’ (click here for more on abstainers and moderators).