Do you crave donuts, chocolate, cookies, cake, ice cream? Do you feel guilty for eating your favorite foods? Is restriction on your mind when you try to lose weight? I bet it usually starts the same too… you tell yourself sweets are “bad,” you keep them out of the house, you avoid the bakeries at all costs, then spend days thinking about how nice it would be to have one, some nice coworker happens to bring in a box of donuts for the office, then BOOM! You ate the whole box yourself in one sitting.
The reality of restriction is that it creates so much hype and excitement over things that really are not all that. In fact, when we restrict ourselves to never eating certain foods or eating them only when we’ve “been good,” it is almost always inevitable that there will be a period of binging somewhere down the line. Those “off limit” foods become more and more desired when we tell ourselves that we can’t have something. It’s like the theory of supply and demand. When the item is scarce, we want it more. When the item is consumed/used all the time, we could care less about it. The same goes for food. I bet you don’t crave and obsess over chicken day in and day out, yet you probably eat it all the time (unless you’re a vegetarian/vegan of course).
So, in the same sense, what if I told you that you could eat your guilty pleasures every day and still achieve your fitness/health goals? You might not believe me at first. However, taking the excitement and preoccupation out of trigger foods may just be what is holding you back from breaking the restrict/binge cycle. As a registered dietitian, I am a full-blown advocate for the phrase “all foods fit” because it is absolutely true. So how is it possible to enjoy the food we love while still being able to meet our health, nutrition, and fitness goals?
The key to healthy diets and overall well-being is balance. It is so common in our society nowadays to become extremists and take one drastic approach after another. How often do you see people becoming “vegan for a couple weeks” or going on a keto diet or doing a “juice cleanse” or cutting out all added sugars? The “all or nothing” mindset continues to damage our relationships with food and stay trapped in diet culture.
Diet culture is insanely unhealthy because people want to see drastic changes but do not think about sustainability or reality. Never once did you hear about someone living off of juice for their whole life. Why? Because it is unsustainable! When you ask yourself, “can I do this for the rest of my life?” and the answer is no, it is not the right path for you. However, when you can learn to have a sense of balance and really focus on making small improvements over time, your quality of life and progress will be exponentially better than any fad you try to follow. There is much more value in developing healthy habit change than any other quick fix.
Follow these simple tips to practice balance throughout the day so you can enjoy your favorite things on a daily or weekly basis:
1. Plan Ahead
If you know that you are going to eat out for dinner and indulge a little more on carbs/fats, make sure that the rest of your day is a little more balanced especially at breakfast and lunch. Perhaps you can be more generous with produce since that is one of the major food groups that is at the bottom of the priority list for most food establishments. Incorporate more whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, or shredded wheats for extra fiber that is also undervalued when eating out. This can even help digestion of the high carb/fat foods that will be consumed later in the day, so you feel less of those bloating or indigestion symptoms.
2. Eat Your Favorite Foods MORE Often
When we only allow ourselves to eat certain foods once in a blue moon, chances are that you will overconsume that food the minute you get your hands on it. If you love chocolate, have chocolate every day if you want! BUT try to limit it to a couple pieces at a time. Easier said than done but a helpful way to do this is by purchasing single serve snacks or snack packs that already portion out what can satisfy a craving without going overboard. The more frequently you have it, the less excitement and spark you will likely feel each time it comes around. The key here is not to binge though, so having smaller portions on a weekly basis is important.
3. Eat More Fruits and Veggies
If you still feel like you may binge on your favorite foods once you get started, eat at least 1 serving of fruit/vegetables beforehand so you at least get some quality nutrients and increase the feeling of fullness. Perhaps you might not eat as much of that sugary or salty craving as you had anticipated. Another mindful practice is keeping fresh produce ready and easily in sight. If that means you take one day to prewash fruits and veggies or precut them so that all you have to do is grab it from the fridge and go, this will remove one less step towards making a healthy decision. Even better is storing the fruits/veggies in the most visible part of your fridge like the top front shelf or maybe the side door where your condiments usually go. Not only does produce offer the feeling of fullness, but it is also packed with antioxidants and other micronutrients that decrease inflammation when we may overeat.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
Let’s face it, most of us aren’t craving meat all the time and the foods we do crave tend to be high in carbs and fats. So, if you’re worried about bloating after eating these foods, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to decrease the bloating and improve your body image while eating these foods. If you think about it, the more we have negative feelings about how we look when we eat certain things, the more your brain will associate “bad” with whatever food is on your mind, therefore, leading to more restriction and guilt. Plus, your body tends to hold onto more water when you have more carbs so increasing fluid intake helps flush the fluid through your cells.
At the end of the day, there is always tomorrow. Enjoy your favorite foods, but keep in mind there will be a “next time.” When you can stop letting food control you and enjoy the other valuable moments in life like spending time with friends/family, accomplishing self-care acts, and looking forward to the future not the dinner table, you will discover much more peace within your mind and body. Balance is key and sustainability will keep you going. If you are having trouble finding balance and are stuck in the toxic cycle of dieting book a session with us today!