Last week I posted on food addiction. My suggestion was to attempt to find ways to eat certain foods in moderation before writing them off completely. As I wrote last week:
“I encourage people to play around with combinations first before throwing in the towel and assuming you can’t eat something because they are addicted to it. Why bother to figure out a way to eat cookies versus just giving them up? I think I’ll blog about that next week…”
So as promised, I wanted to talk about why you might try to make peace with a food before deciding to swear it off for the rest of your life. Over the years that I’ve worked at Green Mountain, I’ve heard this question many time, “Wouldn’t is just be better for me to never eat ________(ice cream, donuts, potato chips, etc …) again instead of trying to figure out ways to eat it in moderation?” My answer is always the same, “It depends on how important that food is to you and it depends on the outcome you’ve encountered in the past when you’ve tried to give that food up completely.”
My concern is that complete abstinence from a food we really like is not practical. It’s likely to set the stage for what I call “substitute eating” or trigger overeating or bingeing if we cannot adhere to abstinence and then feelings of failure or guilt set in. To me, “substitute eating” is when you eat a bunch of other stuff you don’t really want because you are avoiding a specific food because you think it’s unhealthy. This is not a desirable outcome nor is triggering binge eating.
If you’ve tried to swear off a food in the past and the end result is either obsessing about it, overeating/bingeing on other foods, or bingeing on that food once you finally cave and eat it, then giving it up completely is probably not the best plan. This to me would make the case for experimenting with different ways of eating that food that feel safer, versus swearing it off forever.
If you have a negative physical response to a food, such as increased cravings, increased appetite, etc and it’s NOT an important food to you, then it probably would make no difference to let it go. As an example, I may notice that if I eat a processed food like a Twinkie, I just want more and more of the same. Avoiding Twinkies because they make me feel this way does not trigger feelings of deprivation or create any negative outcome. Well, then there is no point in learning how to eat Twinkies in moderation because they’re just not that important to me.
Have you ever had trouble when you attempted to swear off a favorite food “forever?”