Dieting: All or Nothing?

What do you think of when you hear the word, "DIET?" It's a four letter word, so that should immediately give us pause. And it does contain the word "die" in it. Most of us have many negative feelings when it comes to dieting: like being hungry and being deprived of the things we really want to eat. Dieting for most people is something we go on only when necessary (for example, when we have to lose weight.) But, in our minds, it is a temporary thing--we go on it, but we'll be off it eventually. This feeds the on again/off again dieting mentality. Most of us don't go onto a diet thinking of making long term changes.

What's wrong with this picture? A reader was noticing many people around her are on a diet now---hey, those New Year's resolutions are still going strong. That should be a good thing, since she's working on losing weight, too. But, they are constantly saying things like, "I was so good, I ate this good food," or "I can't have chocolate. It's so bad." The constant evaluations on their food are driving her nuts!

First of all, I am really proud of this reader for recognizing that when people categorize foods as good and bad by using an all or nothing approach, they are in a potential danger zone. We need to be striving to be in a healthy relationship with food, which includes eventually making peace with it: food is food.

Good vs. bad. If I say all chocolate is bad (I used to do that---bad, chocolate, bad!) because I think it's bad for me to eat if I am trying to lose weight, what happens? It's almost as if I put chocolate up on a pedestal and give it super power. I start obsessing about the chocolate because I can't have it (think rebellious teen here)---so, that's all I can think of. Eventually, the chocolate overpowers me, and I slowly feel the power of control slide from my body into the chocolate. I imagined myself sliding down the chocolate slide into the deep, dark abyss of the peanut M&M pit. Then, I may as well eat, because the dark, evil, BAD side had taken over. I was bad then because I ate a bad food. I was a failure, so I kept on eating the bad foods, feeding the failure until I got so disgusted and desperate enough that I was ready to tackle the next diet that came along. It took me forever to find a way out of that chocolate pit--physically and figuratively.

Can you relate to me? The deprivation and dieting approach is the wrong way to lose weight and keep it off.

The RIGHT way to lose body fat is to start focusing on healthy eating, exercise, attitude, and behaviors changes as an entire lifestyle approach---new healthy habits, not as a temporary quick dieting fix. Yes, this will take more time and we'll be doing it for the rest of our lives, but it is OK!! We are worth the time and effort it takes to learn along the way how to keep it off forever.

How do you start learning to put foods that you truly love into your healthy eating plan that you thought were "bad?"
  1. Choose one food you love that has been on your "bad" list. (Bad list is history!)
  2. Tell yourself that this food is just a food that you need to learn to have occasionally and in moderation; it is not bad. You are going to plan to have it soon, but when you are ready.
  3. Pick a time and place when you will enjoy your special treat. You may even want to put it in your day planner!
  4. Sit down.
  5. Have a small portion of your food.
  6. Chew and taste the wonderful flavors in every bite. ENJOY it!
  7. Go out for your treat if you feel like you need extra help with portion control: find one scoop of ice cream, one slice of pie, or one cookie at the mall. You may want to have a friend or spouse go along with you for extra control.
  8. No guilt. There is no bad food to feel guilt over!
  9. Self-forgiveness. If things don't go quite right, let it go. It's what happens next that really matters most.
There needs to be a campaign to end the dieting mentality. We need to start treating food with respect and be sure to never allow it to have power over us.

Moderation not deprivation.
You are truly wonderful---treat yourself that way!