...and of the barrage of media reports saying "avoid [insert food or beverage here] like the plague!!"
Let's make one thing perfectly clear:
For most people, what's more important than going to the extremes of fad diets and going cold turkey on your favourite snack foods is balance.
That's right, you CAN have a handful of potato chips!
Just not handful, after handful, after handful, after handful.
Now, don't get me wrong, I do think we should do our best to avoid trans fats and other things that are clearly very bad for you, and I'm certainly not saying "indulge in all those "bad foods," we're all gonna die someday anyway!" But I certainly don't think that a handful of chips (or whatever your snack of choice is) every now and again is gonna kill you, so long as it's just that, and so long as it's just a little blip on the screen of your otherwise healthy lifestyle.
I'm as guilty as anyone of overindulging (see the previous blog), particularly when I let my life get a little out of control and disorganized (when that happens I tend to eat junk out of a combination of laziness and a desire for the comfort I seem to think I get from it). But hey, I'm working on it! Just the other day I went out and bought a nice big bag of Sugar Snap peas to replace the crunch of chips. I still had a few chips from my husband's bowl (yeah...I'm trying to lead by example, but I think it's gonna take a while before it makes an impression on him), and I still have a scoop of ice cream now and again when I need a treat...but the point is that I make lots of little decisions to eat well, then I reward myself occasionally.
Now about those fad diets...many of them are in fact detrimental, and most of the people I've known who have done them have gained the weight back and more. Why? Apart from the dangers of cutting too much out of your diet, mainly I think it's because most of them are just too hard to stick to in the long run. Yale University's David Katz, MD and author of The Flavor Point Diet put it very well in an article I found on Webmd.com (here) when he said, "forget about 'dieting' and instead, think about strategies to satisfy your hunger for fewer calories. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help manage your appetite."
Actually, as my Sister-in-Law and I were recently saying, it's hard to find room for anything else if you're eating enough fruits, veggies and good grains! Even so, I'm not really into tracking how much of what I eat. Instead, I break it down into individual decisions. Do I grab another handful of potato chips, or do I grab a handful of sugar snap peas instead? Do I fill up on soda, or do I grab a glass of 2% milk or water instead? Do I have cookies or an apple?
I guess I've always found the keeping track thing too ascetic. If I have to mark a calendar or write down every time I messed up and had too many two-bite brownies, I find it overwhelming and I lose the joy of eating well. Each healthy thing I eat starts to feel like I'm doing penance for my eating sins.
What do I say to those of you who really don't like fruits and veggies? Well, I guess you're SOL! Just kidding. But I do think you need to give those things another chance. You may need to sortof re-set your tastebuds, in fact. Particularly if you crave salt a lot, and need to put a lot of it on your food, or if you eat a diet high in fried foods. Unfortunately (well, fortunately for her) I lent my copy of French Women Don't Get Fat (and it's true: I've been to France! Really the only fat people you see are on the tour busses!) to my Mother-in-Law*, so I don't have an excerpt right now to punctuate this point...but trust me, if you give it time, you CAN find the joy in a succulent peach or a crispy, fresh green bean. That being said, if you haven't read that book, you really should!
This entry has gotten long, and I haven't even touched on exercise yet (and how it doesn't have to be hard), but maybe I'll get there next time!
Here's to finding the joy in eating well. Cheers!
*not because she needs it, mind you, but because the aforementioned SIL and I were explaining where we get many of our eating philosophies from and it piqued her interest