Every single time I hear someone say, “eat whatever you want, just in moderation” I have to fight back the urge to both simultaneously roll my eyes and blow a fuse. The understanding and mentality behind this common phrase I completely understand – that if we are not denying ourselves anything we consider to be ‘bad’ or not serving our bodies in a nutritious way that it will somehow convince us that eating all the ‘good’ food isn’t so bad after all. A little devil to encourage the angel type of a scenario.
I call bullshit though. Over the past decade I have never once had half a spoonful of ice cream, or tiny sliver of pizza and truly felt like ahhhh yes! I’m sooo satisfied and now back to my salads. I may have tried to convince myself of that, but I’m all about keepin’ it real around here and I’ll admit that’s a total bullshit facade. All those teasers did was make me feel truly deprived. A slap in the face reminder that I was somehow not quite deserving of a entire slice or even 3 slices of pizza. And well, that’s kind of the exact oppose of what it’s suppose to do.
So instead of creating a sense of satisfaction people tend to go one of two ways: either feel more deprived or feel like a failure because somehow this little taste test didn’t hit the spot (gasp! Shocker! …not). Either outcome usually results in a binge of garbage. And instead of just the couple slices of pizza you originally wanted, this binge, which may be hours or days later, turns into the hungry hungry caterpillar on day 6 when he eats all the pies and all the cakes and all the sausage and all the…everything. (What the hell is it with me and the friggin’ hungry caterpillar book??)
Also? Avoid the planned, once a week cheat days. I’ve also tried that, and when I did guess what happened? Yup. It lead to me eating junk when I didn’t even want because I could and I knew it was my only chance. Both of which are fairly ridiculous reasons for choosing to eat something with no true nutritional purpose.
As time went on my wants have actually shifted gears to become one with what my body needs (side note: that line just made me start singing 2 become 1 by the Spice Girls). This is awesome and has done so much for me in terms of my relationship with food and my health, but it’s also taken close to a decade to get to this place. So what’s a person suppose to do? how do you cultivate a much sought after healthy relationship with food that’s a balance between what your body needs and what you’re feeling you want?
Eat the pizza. Not in moderation.
Had you just had the pizza, and as many slices as you wanted, and moved on with your life making your next meal full of healthier choices you would have been much better off. Your craving was satisfied, you didn’t binge, you got to skip the beat up session, hit to the self esteem and the ability to truly feel in control of your choices.
This is where I will interject and gently remind you that part of the process towards a healthy relationship with food and yourself is being honest and real. Are you eating the pizza 3 nights a week? Because if that’s the case then moderation isn’t needed. Neither is the ‘eat the pizza’ mentality. A little good old fashioned sit down conversation with yourself is needed – this can be in your head or if you’re like me literally having an out loud conversation with yourself.
Why is the pizza happening 3 out of 7 nights? Lack of motivation to make something? Emotionally upset? Connect the dots to decide what’s going on, and move on from there. As a former emotional eater that was usually my reason: a good week meant junk food, a sad day meant junk food, good news meant celebrate. Once I realized this I had two choices when feeling the urge to go the junk food route. I could either follow through, or find a new outlet. Sometimes I gave in to the emotional eating and then truly processed how and why after. Sometimes I rolled my eyes and forced myself to do something else. Either way, the concept of moderation did not help the situation.
But as the months and years went on the pizza eating became less and less. As time has went on I’ve come to realize I don’t actually want that pizza (most of the time!). But had I kept my mentality of ‘everything in moderation’ I don’t think I’d have gotten here. I needed that freedom of removing the restrictions, and removing the rules from around what and when I could eat it gave me the sense of control I was missing. I often go weeks or longer without a treat because I simply don’t want it. I know I can have it whenever I want and because of this I’m good without it. I will say that I spent years with the understanding with myself that I could have a couple treats in a week, but they had to be mindful and they were limited in their number (ex: I found that either 1-2 meals or 3-4 small treats a week worked well for me!).
By being more mindful it encouraged me to stop and think about whether I really wanted to ‘spend’ one of my weekly treats on that particular thing. More often than not I didn’t. It’s like money, if you only have $20 are you going to want to spend it on the very first thing you see? Probably not.
Something else I cannot overlook: even if you do opt for the moderation route, some things are simply not healthy – physically or mentally. Many ‘foods’ should not be consumed ever, and quite frankly some people have trigger foods that will send them into the dark holes of their minds and spiral down an unhealthy path. So when considering whether moderation is right for you, the system which will work for you…please consider your thoughts, feelings and triggers in the process. One persons treat is another persons drug.
As is the theme not only on my blog and my nutritional philosophy but my life… be mindful, not in moderation.