Diets Don’t Work: Rediscover the Joy of Eating

Reasons Why Diets Take the Joy Out of Eating

Diets don’t work because we:

  • Study the “allowed” foods list. Most of our favorite foods aren’t included. We remove them from our homes.
  • Develop a menu based on the allowed foods, featuring the healthiest choices, even if we hate them.
  • Go shopping, spending extra hours searching for unfamiliar foods and making sure they don’t contain forbidden ingredients.
  • Start cooking, avoiding fats, sugar, and, oh, let’s cut out salt, too. Dig in. Sort of. Eating our low-cal, flavorless concoctions while the rest of the family enjoys “real” food.
  • Try to forget:
    • our constantly growling stomach
    • show much we think and talk about food
    • food cravings that won’t go away
    • how hard it is to be active because we aren’t eating enough to fuel activity
    • how hard it is going to parties or out to eat
    • those overeating/bingeing sessions where we eat sub-par foods because we can’t eat the foods we want
  • Quit the diet, overeat the foods we’ve missed, vow to start again soon while we watch our weight creep up and our self-esteem tank.

Healthy Eating Steps to End Overeating

Try these steps for blending healthy with good tasting to eat well for life.

Step #1: Focus on what we like, then work nutrition into that.

When we’re hungry, ask “what would taste good right now?” or “what am I craving?” Then think how we can incorporate it into a healthy balanced meal or snack. Tip: Don’t wait to get too hungry, or all that may appeal may be richer choices.

For example, if I really want fried chicken, what could I choose besides the mashed potatoes with gravy and coleslaw? How about a baked potato with a touch of butter and veggies sautéed in garlic and olive oil for a meal with healthier fat profile that still features the food we love.

Step #2: Focus on how foods make us feel.

Healthy eating also involves selecting foods that make us feel well. If high fat foods sit in our stomachs like a lead weight, they aren’t a great choice for us. Even some foods that others perceive as healthy may not work for us personally. Whole wheat bread is a high-quality whole grain food, but for the gluten-sensitive, it’s not a healthy choice. One person may find a higher carbohydrate intake gives her more energy, whereas another person may feel tired if she eats a lot of carbohydrate. Healthy food choices can be a very individual thing.

Step #3: Stay in the moment, but consider the future.

As we become more tuned into how foods make us feel, remember the long-standing advice about healthy eating: Balance, variety and moderation.

  • A balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate helps us be satisfied with less. See our Plate Model for Healthy Eating for more on that.
  • A variety of foods helps make sure we get all the nutrients we need.
  • Moderation helps make sure we don’t overdo any one food.

Say I love cheese, tend to eat a lot of it and feel fine afterwards, too. If I have high blood cholesterol levels, however, I may need to moderate how much I eat it. I may not need to cut it all out but could eliminate it where it doesn’t seem important, such as in a turkey sandwich. Or I could choose nuts as a snack instead of cheese.

Over time, our tastes can adjust to a new way of eating. We can be pleasantly surprised that healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and lean meats are more appealing to us than some of the more processed foods we may have eaten in the past.

Diets don’t work because they ask us to make drastic changes. A healthy eating program approach includes foods we love and helps us discover the joy of eating again.

Written by Robyn Priebe, RD, Director of Nutrition, and Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, Director

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