Moderation and choice are key.
So many times, I have seen people enter into diets that require counting calories and limiting their meal choices to only a few items. They begin with great enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm becomes the fast fading kind. Within a few days, usually the result is not a loss of pounds, but a big binge and a loss of confidence.
I am often asked which diet I follow and what I eat. The easy answer is that I don’t diet and I eat what I want. That is a bit misleading though and always must be followed up with further explanation. What I mean is that I don’t follow fad diets. On a day-to-day basis, I eat what I want, when I am hungry, and I stop eating when my hunger is gone. I like a lot of different foods and grant myself permission to eat and enjoy a lot of different foods.
Moderation with eating means a few different things to me, none of which include deprivation. Moderation means eating until I am satisfied, not until I am stuffed. It means keeping special food occasions special rather than constant. It means realizing that my body needs many different foods for many different reasons, each in reasonable portions.
Eating satisfaction is most easily recognized when you’re able to eat your meals slowly and while relaxed. This takes some planning, though no more so than any other important appointment. Remember that eating is an activity best done in the seated position. I have known a lot of people who eat while standing up and eat while in bed; both of which can be indicators that you’re not allowing yourself adequate time, space, and preparation for a meal.
When I sit down for a meal, I try to be conscious of my posture. I chew slowly and offer myself plenty to drink along with the meal. I take advantage of the socialization with my family that daily meals provide as its often a chance for us to catch up with one another.
Satisfaction means that I am no longer feeling the signs of hunger. My energy level is good, I am sitting straight up in my chair, my stomach doesn’t feel uncomfortably full. I am alert and tuned in more to the conversation than the meal. This is the best time to stop eating, whether my plate is “clean” or not. Note: It doesn’t have to mean leaving the table, though if you’re just learning the difference between satisfaction and stuffing, sometimes it is good to move the conversation to another room so as not to continue grazing even after you’ve determined that you’re done with the meal.
While I have referred to eating as an important appointment to keep with your body, I don’t mean that it should always be a special occasion. The other day, I found myself making the observation (again) that we have so many special occasions in society that we all have to go to work once in a while to take a break from them. Between birthdays, holidays and scheduled social times, there seems to be an opportunity to overeat nearly every day.
I do enjoy special occasions. I consider eating out a special occasion and I enjoy eating at a restaurant. When at a restaurant, I order what I like to eat.
On the other hand, I remember to keep special occasions special by not doing them on a regular basis. Eating at a restaurant is a once or twice a month event for me. Holiday feasts are reserved for holidays and I don’t feel a particular obligation to celebrate every single holiday on the calendar with a large meal. And, as much as possible and even at restaurants, I try to remember to eat until I’m satisfied, not until I’m stuffed.
Moderating what you eat goes hand in hand with variety. The food pyramid, which has been around for decades now, suggests that our bodies need variety every day. We need bread and grains, we need fruits and vegetables. We need dairy and we need protein. And there is even a place on the food pyramid for fats and sugars.
Often, when a person goes on a “diet”, the first thing they cut out of their food lineup is the thing they enjoy the most. It’s the chocolate. Or the ice cream. The problem is, as explained in part one of this series, we are geared from birth to associate sweet things with comfort and social interaction. You’re fighting that life-long association when you deprive yourself completely of such things.
I say keep those things in the lineup, in reasonable portions. As much of the sweet favorites fall at the thin, upper portion of the food pyramid, then it’s common sense that your body doesn’t need vast quantities of them. Try to retrain yourself in the way you view your intake of sweets – think of them less as a reward or an indulgence and more as simply a small slice of the variety in your daily food intake.
Regarding the “healthier” varieties of food you should be taking in—consider nothing off-limits. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people dismiss an entire food group. I hate vegetables, they say.
I say that there are so many choices when it comes to vegetables that you can’t possibly hate every one of them. If you don’t like carrots or green beans one way, give yourself the freedom and the personal challenge to try them another way. Remember that you need vegetables every day and offer yourself a broad range of different types.
I believe that variety in what you drink during the day is also important. I remember reading an article years ago that stated that many of us go around slightly dehydrated at all times. Dehydration, according to my research, can mimic hunger. It can cause headaches and exhaustion. The only way to know for sure that you’re not overeating or feeling ill because you’re dehydrated is to take in plenty of fluids.
Water, of course, is the simple and satisfying antidote for dehydration. Give yourself plenty of it. But also give yourself plenty of other choices: fruit and/or vegetable juices, milk, green tea. The only thing that I, personally, avoid drinking as much as possible is soda, as it contains high amounts of salt (which logic tells me produces additional thirst), and acids, which are proven to damage the teeth.
Studies show that moderated amounts of coffee and wine, in spite of their reputations, do the body good. Once again, though, moderation is key. I certainly love my coffee and I allow myself coffee every day. I do not, however, make coffee or wine the main staples of my daily fluid intake. They are simply a variety in the lineup.
Once again, realize that there will be times when you will eat until you’re stuffed, and there will be days when you fixate on a single food or food group while forgetting another. You’re going to find yourself eating while standing up or you’re going to indulge yourself with a super-sweet breakfast in bed. Don’t feel guilty about those times. Simply remind yourself of your weight maintenance goals and try as much as possible to integrate the principles of moderation and variety into your daily food routine.
Moderation and choice are key.