Find yourself classifying foods as good or bad and in turn feeling like you are good or bad depending on what you eat? OR do you strive for the “perfect” diet only to fall off the wagon with a binge?
There’s evidence showing there are massive benefits to fat loss and overall health when we go from poor nutrition to average or above average. If most of what you eat is highly-processed and nutrient poor, there can be tremendous health benefits by adding more nutrient dense foods.
But (here’s the important part) – eventually, we see diminishing returns.
After 80-90% of your diet is composed of whole, minimally processed foods the correlation to health benefits plateaus. Let me say it again – after 80% whole, nutrition dense foods there’s little evidence of improved health benefits.
This means there’s likely room for less nutritious foods, without compromising health or fat loss.
For some of us this can be tricky, there’s a difference between abstaining from a food because you tend to over eat it and demonizing food.
When we demonize food and classify it (and ourselves) as bad we increase our desire for the food we’re trying not to eat. You can probably overpower this for a while, but then eventually the cravings overwhelm us and we eat something “bad” then we feel guilty – over and over.
Rigidity (good or bad, all or nothing) is the enemy of consistency. By incorporating flexibility you can stay more consistent.
If we remember the 80-20 guideline and incorporate some food for pleasure it can support health and weight goals while reducing extreme restriction and binging (which are counter to health and weight goals).
For some people and at some points in your health journey it is easier to just not eat certain foods (especially ones we “can’t control” ourselves around and over eat) but completely abstaining doesn’t have to be a permanent solution, once healthy habits are developed these foods can be incorporated in moderation.
Translating this to numbers – Most adults need to eat 1800+ calories a day for maintenance, if we use 2000 calories a day for ease of calculating – that’s 200-400 calories a day of less nutrient dense food. Or 1400-2800 calories a week!
Less nutrient dense foods are very easy to overeat without realizing it and can send you into caloric excess, or can quickly become a large % of your daily caloric intake – so we encourage you to be mindful and aware – this is not an excuse to treat-yo-self all the time.
· Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has apx 250 calories in ½ cup (who eats just ½ a cup)
· Talenti has 120 calories in ½ a cup
· 4 Oreos have apx 200 calories
· 1 oz (or 32 pieces) of M&M’s have 140 calories
· 1oz (about 15 potato chips) have about 160 calories (yes fifteen potato chips)
· One meal out a week, while maintaining nutrient dense foods throughout the week (remember our prior posts on how quickly the calories rack up in takeout or restaurant foods).
Consider the root of the trigger and your relationship with certain foods – What leads to feeling out of control? What triggers the feeling of needing it and not being able to stop? Is it possible to eat this food in moderate amounts?
Evaluate – Am I hungry? Am I stressed? Do I eat X out of boredom or routine (i.e. snacks on the couch with tv) Is this food worth it to me? How can I truly enjoy this food without going overboard?
Practical ways to incorporate less nutrient dense foods into your diet without overdoing it:
· First focus on addition – eating more veggies, lean proteins and whole grains.
· Buy in individual servings, or portion them out as soon as you bring them home.
· Keep trigger foods out of the house, or at least out of sight (i.e. high in the cupboard, in the freezer, somewhere slightly less convenient so you take pause before having it to evaluate the emotional / mental attributes above.)
· Eat slowly with no distractions, pay attention to your sense of fullness and your enjoyment.
· Change your routine to avoid situations, or change the behavior around routine binging (i.e. snack on some veggies or fruit while watching TV instead of chips or ice cream).
· Pause and consider if you can enjoy a small amount, and if more and more will make you feel any better or happier.
· Evaluate lifestyle factors, like sleep, exercise, stress that could impact cravings.
· Change your language from – this is bad to overdoing this makes it harder for me to reach my goals.
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