When I encourage people to eat as much as they want in their quest for healthy weight loss, the response is incredulous, to say the least. “You’ve got to be kidding. If I took the brakes off, I’d eat anything and everything and lots of it.”
The light begins to dawn when I ask, “Is that what you really want?”
Just Say Yes
You’re facing down a hot-fudge sundae. In the past, you’ve always said ‘no’…until you couldn’t. When you finally said ‘yes,’ you went for it big time.
What do you think? If we truly let ourselves have it — without telling ourselves “I shouldn’t” — would we want as much of it as we think we do?
Our experience: Maybe at first. Until we understand that feeling queasy, stuffed or otherwise uncomfortable isn’t what we really want.
Setting Well-Being Up for the Win
David Kessler is currently getting a lot of attention for theories he discusses in his best-selling book The End of Overeating. His focus is on how hard it is to stop eating certain foods due to the physiological effects of ingredients they contain (namely sugar, fat and salt).
What’s not being heard a lot is his explanation of how “anxiety” — those feelings that arise when we think we shouldn’t eat something we want — also has physiological effects that contribute similarly to difficulties in “eating just one.” Indeed, it’s not clear that even he appreciates the impact of anxiety over what we eat (that comment based on this interview on Salon.com).
His explanation, however, supports what we’ve seen repeatedly at Green Mountain — the negative self-talk of “I shouldn’t” plays a major role in making it hard for many of us to stop overeating. (Yes, those two words qualify as negative self talk.)
Beyond, or in the case of my first point below perhaps because of, the biological effects Kessler identifies, we find:
- When we think certain foods are off-limits, they tend to become even more appealing regardless of how they make us feel.
- Many people also include “healthy” foods in amounts over typical diet portions on their “I shouldn’t” list, leading to undereating that sets us up for overeating.
We realize the concept of eating as much as we want is scary for many, and sometimes we need to move slowly towards that goal. For others, this issue may have little to do with their eating and weight struggles (although I say it has more to do with such struggles than many folks think it does).
If it’s an issue for you, these tips may help you begin to get past the thinking and behaviors that come from feeling restricted and then guilty about what and how much we eat.
- Banish guilt. That means no judgment about whether foods are “good” or “bad,” whether we decide to eat them or how much we do. Guilt produces its own form of restricted eating — even when we’re eating. Which gets in the way of feeling satisfied and frequently leads to emotional eating. Bottom line, we end up eating more than we really want or need. As we’ve long said at Green Mountain, “One brownie never made anyone fat.” If we enjoy that brownie to its fullest, we’re more likely to be satisfied with one.
- Redefine “want.” Give as much weight to how you feel after eating something as to how good you think it tastes.
- Eat well-balanced meals and rely on internal cues to tell you when you’ve had enough. The Plate Model for Healthy Eating guides us in getting necessary nutrients to help our internal regulatory system operate effectively.
- Be adventurous. Boredom with food can drive overeating. Excite your taste buds with variety, like the wonderful fruits of summer, walnuts in morning cereal, avocados liberally included in salads or just sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice for a snack.
- Live well. Stay active, get enough sleep, spend time with family and friends, enjoy life.
Do feelings of restriction or guilt ever cause you to eat more than you really want?
photo by BPLOL