Why do I always eat foods that I know I should not eat?

Why do I always eat foods I know I shouldn't eat
Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

May 29, 2021

updated 26 Nov 2021

There are two words in this sentence that I’d like to ask you to take out of your vocabulary if you want to create lasting (new) healthy eating habits.

In fact, there are 3 words I’d like you to challenge every time you hear yourself using them.

Do any of those sentences sounds familiar:

“I always have to have something sweet after dinner”

“I always had a sweet tooth”

“I always go back to old habits once I finish a diet”


“I can never stick to a healthy eating plan for more than 2 weeks”

“I could never give up eating bread!”

“I never go to bed before midnight”

Be honest with yourself, are these sentences REALLY true?

Was there ever a day in your life when you didn’t have something sweet after dinner? Even if it was just a few times? Did you really never stick to a healthy eating plan for more than 2 weeks? If I gave you €100 not to eat bread for 2 days, I am sure you could do it.

Maybe you are now saying “Maybe there was once, when…” ? This proves that it’s not been “always” or “never”.

Also, just because you have “always” or done “never” does not mean it has to stay that way in the future.

Our bodies change constantly. With “constantly”, I mean literally, “constantly”, literally every few seconds the cells in our bodies change. The cells that are lining our stomach and our digestive tracts are renewing every 2-9 days (depending on which study you read), some of our blood cells can renew daily, our skin cells are constantly shedding and renewing. Some studies say that the cells in our body that are changing will change completely over 7 years.

Of course, overall ageing is the most obvious sign that we are constantly changing. But as humans, we also change the way we think and feel all the time.

However, when it comes to things that we feel uncomfortable about changing, we believe that this is just that way it has ALWAYS or NEVER been.

If the last year during the Pandemic has taught us something, it is, that we are much more resilient to adapt to change than we think we are.

Had you told people in Christmas 2019 that there will be laws in place that will tell you: you won’t be able to travel, hug family and meet up with friends when they want to, everybody would have said “I will never accept that”! And we did because there was a good reason to do so. If you suddenly find yourself allergic to certain foods or some food makes you feel really unwell, you will give up that food. So to say, “you could never” and “you have always” is just a resistance to change.

However, if you want to make changes in your life, such as losing weight, eating a healthier diet, getting rid of sugar cravings, becoming fitter and stronger, being able to move easier – or whatever it is you would like to achieve – I’d like to ask you to challenge your “always’s” and “nevers”.

Understand that change is constantly happening in our lives and in our world. Believe, trust and embrace that you too can change. 

It’s not always easy, but wanting to achieve your goal needs to be more important to you than your fear of change or the unknown.

As long as your goal is very vague and something like a  “I should be losing weight” type of a goal, the chocolate cake will always sound more attractive.

In my coaching sessions, I help my clients get really clear on their goals and their vision for their own health, away from what they think they “should” be doing.

Client story:

I am currently working with a client who has for years tried to follow a healthy eating plan to lose weight, only to give up again as soon as life became a bit stressful. When we started to dig deep, we realised that her weight was actually not really bothering her that much. However, when we looked at what health really means to her, we noticed that she has been struggling with joint pain a lot and wasn’t able to play with her young son as much as she’d like to.

By making “Reduction of joint pain” her goal and focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet plan (rather than a weight loss plan) – even though there were a lot of similarities – not only did her joint pain reduce drastically, she also managed to stick to the plan and lose weight in the process.

The brings me to the 3rd word that I’d like my clients to be mindful of: “SHOULD”

I am asking my clients to change every “should” into a “could”. When they say to me “I know, I should have eaten more fish last week”, I ask them to say “I know, I could have eaten more fish last week”.

The word “should” has a lot of guilt and blame attached to it every time we use it, whether we say it out loud or just to ourselves. Whereas, the word “could” gives you an opportunity or a challenge and it can quickly turn it into something much more positive. Try it.

What sounds more positive?

“I shouldn’t be eating the chocolates”  OR “I could have chosen not to eat the chocolates, but I did and I enjoyed them!”

“I should have done more exercise” OR “I could do a bit more walking next week!”

I’ve noticed in my coaching sessions that this little exercise can be a game-changer. The word “could” doesn’t just take the blame and guilt away and sounds more positive. It is also empowering, and it puts you back in the driving seat. Rather than just waiting for someone to tell you what to do, you now take ownership. You are much more likely to actually do the things you “could” do rather than the ones you “should”.

I would love to hear what you think of those small tips. I would love to know which sentences you’ve changed around to something more positive.

When you work with me – whether this is one to one or in groups – coaching and developing personal strategies for change, is a huge part of it. I know that it is not enough to simply provide you with nutrition advice, I know it is equally important to support you to embrace change. 

If you feel you simply don’t have sufficient time in your daily routine, why not take some time out in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains and kick-start your healthy habits there in a fun, relaxing and supportive environment. 

If you feel you need some coaching and nudging, accountability and support in order to follow a healthier nutrition plan, please book a complimentary Health & Energy Review session with me, and I can show you how you too can ditch your (sugar) cravings and feel Happy and Healthy!

Mulled wine

This delicious mulled wine is sweetened naturally with a little cider and the juice of an orange.

If not sweet enough just add some xylitol.


2 bottles of fruity red wine
150ml apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of one orange
The peel of one unwaxed lemon
5 whole cloves, stuck in an unwaxed orange
A pinch of nutmeg
5 cardamom pods (optional)
I tbsp of xylitol (optional)


Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the wine rest for an additional 10 minutes before straining and serving.

Healthy Mince Pies

Ingredients for the filling:

1 large apple
75g raisins
75g sultanas
75g currants
65g dried, ideally unsweetened cranberries
60g other dried fruit (sour cherries,
blueberries, mango, apricots
– dried but unsweetened)
Zest and juice of an orange
50g coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp butter, cubed
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Ingredients for the pastry:

150g of almond flour or ground almonds
75g of coconut flour
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
zest of an orange
115g butter, frozen
(plus a little extra for greasing)
1 egg, lightly whisked


Pre-heat the oven to 175˚C, then put the almond and coconut flours in a bowl with the sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the orange zest. Grate the frozen butter into the flour and mix together with your fingers till a crumb forms.

Stir in the egg and mix with your hands to form a dough. Divide the dough in half; wrap each in film and place in the fridge for 1 hour (or overnight). Grease the moulds of a muffin pan with a little butter.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place between 2 sheets of baking/ greaseproof paper.

Roll with a rolling pin to flatten out the dough until it is pie-crust thin.

To make the filling:
Put all of the filling ingredients (other than the brandy) into a large saucepan over medium heat and stir.

When the butter is fully melted, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir through a tablespoon of brandy, and decant into sterilized glass jars.
Leave to cool with the lid slightly ajar, then secure tightly and store until required.
Using a biscuit cutter (or an upturned jam jar – needs to be about 8cm diameter), cut out 25 circles and lightly press into the muffin pan moulds.

The pastry can be tricky to work with, as there is no gluten holding it together. Be patient. If the pastry
splits just push it back together with your fingers and use any pastry scraps to fix it up.
Fill up each pie mould with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat. Using the remainder of the dough, cut out 25 stars to top each pie. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins, before gently easing them out. Don’t be tempted to remove from the
tin when they come out of the oven – they WILL fall apart if you do this.

(Recipe from Zest4Life Christmas recipes)

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