Many people start their very next diet by making a list of “forbidden foods” and then attempting to avoid these altogether. What usually happens is the focus over the next several days becomes all those delicious foods that are not allowed, and the result is feelings of deprivation, resentment, and ultimate failure. What qualifies as a “bad” food anyway?
For most people the definition implies foods that are high in fat, calories, and/or sodium but provide little in the way of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, or complex carbohydrates. The list goes from sodas, to candy bars, to bacon and sausage, to pies and cakes and cookies and ice cream. But if you try to cut all these foods out of your diet forever–and most of them happen to taste very good–you aren’t likely to succeed in sticking with it. Dietitians have a saying: “There are no bad foods; only bad diets.” There isn’t anything wrong with having a slice of pie once in a while, or two strips of bacon with breakfast once in a while. The problem is, many people in our society treat themselves constantly to chocolates and cookies and high-fat pastries and coffee drinks and ice cream all day long, every day, to make themselves feel better in some way. Maybe you get a burst of energy from one of these treats; one of these foods might calm you down; maybe a snack distracts you from the stress at work, or soothes you before you go to sleep at night.
Whatever the reason, ingesting a large amount of these so-called “junk foods” on a nearly-daily basis doesn’t really do you any good, and certainly sabotages weight loss efforts. Instead of putting these foods on a list called “Never Eat These Again,” change the heading to “one-a-day treats” and be sure that you have only one from the list each day: If you have a cinnamon roll for breakfast don’t also add a mid-morning donut, a piece of cake after lunch, a candy bar in the afternoon, a soda with dinner, and ice cream in the evening! All these foods together will add up to effect a bad diet after all.
A treat once in a while is not a bad thing. Indulging occasionally can help keep you motivated to make lifestyle changes that will get your weight to where you want it and have a healthy and balanced diet. So try giving yourself permission to have a treat each day if you are used to over-indulging. Enjoy it while you make it last, and look forward to another one tomorrow!
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Laurie Beebe is a registered dietitian with over 25 years of experience. She assists people from all walks of life in changing their diet for better health. Certified in Adult Weight Management, Laurie has transitioned into life coaching to better implement changes in people’s environments. No matter how much people know about what they ‘should’ be doing differently, they don’t alter their habits without making adjustments in their surroundings and their awareness. Coaching helps lead people to permanent changes by helping them set their own goals and design their own action plans. Please visit Laurie’s website for more free nutrition tips, a free monthly newsletter, or more information on coaching, at www.mycoachlaurie.com.