Growing up, the word diet was never allowed to come out of my or my sister’s mouth. You may as well have spouted out any other four-letter word that was banned from our vocabulary as a child! That’s how strongly we were discouraged from using it. As we got older and started to take interest in the way we felt and looked in our bodies, we were encouraged to make healthy decisions and incorporate them into our lifestyles instead of saying we were on a “diet”. Yet I remember sitting at the lunch table and listening to some of my friends say they couldn’t enjoy the strawberries dipped in chocolate I’d made, my specialty that I brought to every social gathering, because prom was a month out and they were on a diet. With my mouth full of sweet strawberries hugged with milk chocolate goodness – this was before dark chocolate was all the rage – I questioned them, “Why not just one?”
“Peace and love means just
one or two of mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies.”
So what’s wrong with just one? Why do we feel that in order to obtain the physique we want and be happy in our bodies that we have to deprive ourselves of the things we enjoy? There’s a phrase, and a possible solution to this question, that can be applied to many areas in life. It’s called “Everything in moderation.”
What happens when we place restrictions in our diet?
When we forbid ourselves from something, we’re really just drawing our thoughts to it. Remember Bobby the football player from English class who never gave you the time of day? You probably went out of your way to make sure you passed by his locker between every class period. Why? Because the brain wants what it can’t have. Researchers at University of British Columbia found that when we place a ban on something, our brain focuses on that one thing more than we normally would. Also, when we eliminate certain foods from our diet – say carbs or all fats – we risk missing out on essential nutrients and could even be raising our risk of disease. Instead, the key here is to practice balance and moderation.
If you aren’t used to living an “in moderation” lifestyle, then what steps can you take towards one?
Portion sizes – If you aren’t reading the labels on your foods, start now! You may be surprised to know that the big bowl of cereal you poured this morning actually has a serving size of one cup, not a full bowl and the handful that followed as you were putting the box back in the cupboard.
Smaller dishes – The mind is tricked into thinking it is consuming less when there is more space around your food. Therefore you’re likely to fill your plate with more food or go back for seconds even if you’re full. Use a smaller dish and incorporate portion sizes to avoid overeating.
Be mindful – We are always on the go and because of this we tend to rush through eating and don’t give our brain the 20 minutes it needs to recognize when it’s full. By eating slowly and taking more time to chew your food, you are able to recognize the cues that your body is sending telling you that you’ve had enough.
Recognize your trigger points – When you go for that candy bar making eyes at you from the vending machine at work instead of the apple and peanut butter you packed, think about what it is that’s making you feel the need to splurge. Did a coworker just snap at you? Are you feeling like you need a little 3 o’clock in the afternoon pick-me-up? Make note of what it is and find an alternative to deal with these triggers such as going for a brisk walk or keeping that apple close at hand to avoid temptation.
So what’s the verdict then? How do we enjoy the things we love in life that have the potential to be oh so bad for us, and still rock that two piece on the beach this summer? First, stop telling yourself “no!” and placing restrictions on your diet and instead, practice being mindful of your decisions and what you put in your body – life’s too short to not have that chocolate dipped strawberry!