Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Diets Don't Work if They Deprive You

My mother, a chemist who minored in nutrition, always said, "Never go on a diet.  But you might want to consider changing your eating habits."

Her feeling was, no temporary drastic change to your eating was likely to do much more than give your body a nutritional deficit.

And in my own life, I know that if I try for a week to eat only "diet food", by the end of the week I've bought a pint of ice cream and eaten half of it.

So...is there a better answer?  Probably.

First, educate yourself.  What's in the food you're eating now, the food you enjoy? What vitamins and minerals does it contain?  How much fat, how much sugar?  (Lots of "low fat" is also "high sugar", the packagers just hope you don't notice.)  How do various cooking methods affect the nutritional content of food?

Second, reconsider.
     * Can you include a complementary item at the same meal?  Mom rarely let us eat ice cream without also having half a banana.  Pancakes and maple syrup were served with a side of homemade applesauce, not very sweet.  When I brought TV dinners to work as "lunch", I learned to open them halfway through the cooking, and pour in some frozen vegetables before finishing the heating process -- if I put them in at the start, they just got too mushy. 
    * Is there another way to cook the item so it will have fewer calories but still be yummy?  Deep-frying is pretty bad, but (a) you can peel off and discard the deep-fried shell after you've enjoyed a bit or two for flavor, and (b) maybe you could cook the same item in a frying pan with an olive oil spray.

Third, can you cut down portions just a bit?  This is best done before you take a bite.  I often ask restaurants to bring me an empty takeout container at at the same time that they bring my food.  I divide portions in half, and put one half into the takeout dish.  Then I enjoy the rest of my meal from the restaurant plate.  Later, that set-aside half makes another entire meal.

Fourth, indulge sometimes.  If you spend three days wishing you could have a chocolate malt, have a small one.  Then try to live without another one for a while.

Fifth, if it's not yummy, stop.  I will succumb to a tasty-sounding dessert item on a restaurant menu, or that fab-looking pudding at a potluck.  But if the first three bites aren't as tasty as I'd hoped, I set it aside.  I'm willing to wear calories that I enjoyed eating.  But finishing the cake slice just because it cost $4?  No.

Six, include small amounts of things that you do find satisfying --  a bit of butter on your asparagus, a smidge of real cream in your coffee.  It's is probably better for you than that powdered stuff I call "paper cream".   Enjoy real maple syrup (it's actual healthier than "pancake syrups" that are mostly sugar or corn syrup).  Treat yourself to fresh fruit.

And try including a walk with every meal, either before or after (or between dinner and dessert, as my family did for the Big Days like Thanksgiving).