Eating What You Want

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Christmas_candy In conversation with a friend who struggles with eating and his weight — and also has Type 2 diabetes — I mentioned last week’s post about enjoying holiday foods, eating what we want in a way that makes us feel great, e.g., eating mindfully.

He was all agog, yet skeptical.  He didn’t ‘want’ the turkey or green beans that usually made up his Thanksgiving meal.  He was into the stuffing and mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows aplenty) and homemade pies, with lots of whipped cream, thank you very much!!!

That revelation got us into the definition of the word “want.”  Actually, his response to the advice to eat what you want isn’t unusual.  When many of us think of it, all we think of are the generally rich goodies that diets and the diet mentality have taught us are off-limits.  But there are a couple of primary ideas at work behind this advice.

1) By eating what we want, we reduce the risk of overeating just to get what we want.  How many times have we eaten all the stuff we’re ‘supposed’ to eat — the “healthy” stuff — then continued foraging until we end up eating all the stuff we really wanted… and walked away stuffed?  What if we just ate what we wanted in the first place? Chances are we would have stopped when we felt like we’d had enough — and that would probably have been at lot fewer calories.  Maybe the nutritional quality of the calories wouldn’t have been stellar, but if we listen to our bodies (mindful eating), they generally tell us when to lay off the cookies and munch on a few carrots instead.  P.S.  It helps to eat regularly — every 3-5 hours or so — to help your body give you accurate signals.  If we get too hungry, we tend to want the richer stuff regardless of how much we’ve previously had of it.

2) When we think of the word “want,” what comes to mind most often?  If it’s cakes, cookies, and candy, we’re likely still caught up in thinking that we shouldn’t eat those foods at all.  But if we let ourselves have them when we really want them, we begin to see/feel when we really don’t want them.  Instead, we want to feel well.  Eating cakes, cookies, candy and the like doesn’t necessarily make us feel unwell — it’s just when they make up the majority of what we eat, or if we eat them until we’re stuffed.  So if we eat them in moderation, as part of a well-balanced eating style, we find they are the treats they’re made out to be.  We feel well when we eat them, but we find we don’t want too much of them — just like we don’t want too much of other foods.

If we’ve got something like Type 2 diabetes that dictates we be a bit more judicious in our use of richer foods, all that means is that our definition of “want” is a little different from the so-called average person — but not that much different.  For the vast majority of us, including those with Type 2 diabetes, when we give ourselves permission to eat what we want, then put the “goodies” up against the “healthy stuff,” we’ll find we want the “healthy stuff” as much as we need it.  And we can forgo excessive amounts of the richer stuff because we know it’s not what we “want” on several levels. (I could go into the fact that the goodies can be considered healthy stuff, too, on many levels, but this post is getting too long.)

Anyway, if you can understand what I’ve just written, I hope it will help you truly enjoy the coming holiday season and all the wonderful things it brings.  I’ve gotta go now — the busyness of this season is beckoning!

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One Response (Add Yours)

  • Kathy says:

    Excellent post and right on target! I’ve found that I don’t just want carrot cake and bagels….I want real substantial & healthy food too. I used to eat a super healthy/superfoods diet, and, for a while, I gave most of that all up. Now I’m incorporating those foods back in because I WANT them. So I’m finally settling into a pattern of healthy (you know, lycopene-contaning foods, nuts, etc.) foods, combined with “fun foods,” and it is very, very satisfying.

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