Posts

In Session with Debbie: Being Too Restrictive

This week, my client, Katie, told me that she was having trouble staying on track during the weekend.  She said that she did really well during the week, but was consistently “losing it” once Friday night hit.  I first asked Katie to describe to me what her weekday eating was like. After hearing what a typical Monday-Friday looks like for her, one thing stood out to me very clearly: Katie was eating almost the exact same thing day in and day out.  6835999820_ab1d0a905a_mI questioned Katie about this and she told me that she had just fallen into the habit of eating the same thing for breakfast each day, lunch each day, and dinner each day because she found meals that were easy, convenient, and filled her up while tasting good.

It was clear to me that Katie was being too restrictive during the week.  Being too restrictive can come in different forms – sometimes dieters are too restrictive from a calorie standpoint and eat too little food. This eventually backfires on them because after a few days of eating too little, they’ll inevitably end up overeating.  Dieters can also be too restrictive in terms of the types of food they let themselves eat. If they try to cut out favorite foods entirely, this eventually backfires because when they inevitably give in and have their favorite foods, they eat way too much of them.  Katie was not being too restrictive during the week in terms of the number of calories she was eating, but she was being too restrictive in terms of the types of food she was eating. While Katie wasn’t limiting her food options because she thought certain foods were bad, per say, but more because she didn’t feel like putting in the effort to think about and make something different, it was still backfiring on her all the same. She ate the same foods during the week and then would use the weekend as her time to finally have variety. And because the weekends were the only time she was having any variety, it was no surprise that she was going overboard and was having trouble staying in control.

To help her combat this, Katie and I decided that having the same thing for breakfast during the week every day was probably okay, but she should have at least two different lunches that she switched off between.  We also agreed that it would be best if she didn’t have the same thing for dinner more than twice in a row and she committed to trying at least one new recipe each week during the week, and not waiting for the weekend. Even if she shopped for and prepped the ingredients on Sunday, she would wait until a weekday to actually make the meal. This way she would have plenty of variety during the week and wouldn’t have to cram in everything she wanted to eat once the weekend hit.

If you’re having trouble staying on track during the weekend, ask yourself: Am I allowing myself enough of my favorite foods during the week?

Katherine’s Changing Tastes

A dieter, Katherine, was recently talking to me about a subject matter I hear over and over again from dieters. She told me that one of the biggest changes she has undergone since starting the program is that now she is much happier and satisfied with less food. In the past, Katherine said she always liked to eat very large portions of food, and didn’t feel satisfied until she had eaten an enormous amount. But once she started making plans and really working on eating slowly, while sitting down, and enjoying every bite, she found that she didn’t need nearly as much food. Katherine said that the simple act alone of really tasting each bite gave her so much more satisfaction than when she used to eat so many more bites – but without really tasting any of them. 

Katherine was also surprised by the fact that her tastes have really changed.  She said she used to eat a lot of fast food and fried foods, but ever since she started eating less but enjoying her healthy food more, she can’t really stomach her old way of eating. She says that really fatty or fried foods have completely lost their appeal, and when she does eat them, she often feels unwell after.  While this isn’t necessarily true of everyone, I do hear, again and again, exactly what Katherine was telling me.  People’s tastes truly do change, even if they are convinced in the beginning that they never will.

Calorie Counts on Menus

Earlier this year, Philadelphia joined New York in requiring that chain restaurants print calorie counts on their menus. Even I was astounded, when I ate out a few days ago. I was fascinated by how high the calorie counts were for almost every item.

The calorie counts didn’t change what I had planned to order. They just reinforced my choices. Even before I got to the restaurant (my first time at this chain), I knew I’d most likely skip the appetizers, caloric drinks, and dessert, and have some kind of protein (with minimal sauce), a vegetable, a starch, and a piece of bread. I knew I’d have to ask for my food without added butter or oil. And I also knew that I would probably eat about 2/3 of the protein, all the vegetable, and part of the starch. That’s what I did.

I knew I could have ordered anything on the menu but I would have had to eat much smaller portions and possibly tolerate hunger and cravings later on. I WISH I could have chosen different food and eaten larger portions, but I know that this is what I have to do to maintain my weight. And it’s worth it.

If I ate out at restaurants more often, I would have to eat even smaller portions. Restaurant food is simply significantly more caloric than the food I eat at home.

Or, if I ate at restaurants more often, or consumed more when I dined out, I’d have to accept the fact that my weight would be higher. I think the latter option is fine for dieters and maintainers to choose (as long as they can maintain a healthy weight).

What is not fine is for dieters to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that restaurant meals are lower calorie than they really are. I’m continually amazed by dieters who consume a couple of very caloric dinners per week and are then surprised when they don’t lose weight. I hope that more restaurants will include calorie counts so dieters can make informed (and better) decisions.

Fast Food Dieting

A recent article in the New York Times asks, “Can fast food help you lose weight?” I applaud the restaurant industry for offering healthier food choices. But for the consumer, it’s buyer beware. Of course fast food can help you lose weight–if you take in fewer calories than you expend. Any change you make in your eating that reduces caloric intake will lead to weight loss. But the moment you return to your previous way of eating, you gain the weight right back. There is no sense in making changes in your eating that you can’t keep up for life.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you cut your calories to 1800 a day, lose weight, and then plateau for a period of time. The moment you start eating 1900 calories a day is the moment you start to gain weight back.

Short-term changes in eating only lead to short-term changes in weight.