Why a meal plan is better than any diet you will ever try

What diet are you on this week?  Are you swearing off carbs or strictly just eating protein? No, no I know, the South Beach diet right? Cause the painstaking idea of depriving yourself of everything but fruits and vegetables just seems like the best diet to guarantee that you will fit in those jeans that dress, or yikes- that swimsuit you’ve been dreading all season.  Whichever miracle diet you’re trying this time you better make sure that you are prepared for the usual disappointment because once you fall off the diet wagon you are on, and I mean once you start eating like a human being again, then all that miracle weight you lost will suddenly reappear. All that hard work for nothing.  We’ve all accepted this yo-yo dieting as part of our unattainable goal of being a size we certainly could never be.  And have you noticed, taking something out of your diet only makes you want it more? I believe you can have whatever you want to eat if you have control and balance but I also believe that we are programmed to make unhealthy choices because our minds associate the relationship we have with food to the experiences we have and the reward system we allow ourselves.  Once we figure out what triggers you to eat then we can start addressing why you are grabbing for those naughty foods.

Here’s a situation I know we’ve all encountered: some co-worker brings in a whole batch of cookies; you enjoy your first one, taking in all its flavor and glory.  The day progresses and you are thinking about those cookies across the room.  You start to rationalize about the reasons for having another- you’ve finished your lunch, you will grab one after you finish what you are working on, or the most common one: I’m bored, I think I’m going to grab another cookie.  This code blue situation attributes to emotional eating and a conditioned reward system instilled in all of us.  For me it was hitting the snack stand before class.  I associated a “treat” before class as almost a reward for making it to class.  I wasn’t even hungry; the snacks became a reinforcement to my accomplishment of showing up and before I knew it, they were being incorporated into my diet.  Everyone is programmed to have a reward relationship with food.  Especially if you are dieting the need to “treat” yourself to something other than what you are allowing yourself is even stronger because the deprivation is stronger.  You still get the same urges of your not so distant past eating habits so it only makes sense that if you don’t allow yourself that release then you eventually resort to your old reward system.  And it certainly doesn’t help to have restaurants and a culture that uses sugar, fat, and salt, and most of the time all three to tempt your sensory systems to use against you- it’s called advertising!  Of course all that food porn sells- have you tasted anything fried lately?  My point exactly.  So while we make the mistake of assuming that advertisers have our best health interest in mind and do not have the time or energy to mind our p’s and q’s at every meal, what can we do about getting out of the vicious cycle of our unconscious addictive eating?  People who have a hard time with diets have a hard time keeping away from unhealthy foods, don’t feel full after eating these salty, sugary, and and fatty foods and are thinking about these illicit foods in between meals.

If you are serious about changing your relationship with food then its time to change your way of thinking.  You wouldn’t go back to an old relationship if you knew it was going to be detrimental to your personal growth, right?   Now that you know that emotions and reinforcement is what is triggering you to fall back on the fatty foods, allow yourself to experience those emotions but learn to detach those emotions from the foods that you are associating them with.  Be your own advertiser: just like advertisers advertise food with fun and happy emotions, advertise unhealthy food with bad health, sluggishness, and obesity.  Once you start thinking about what you don’t want, then you can start to make some real changes.  Think of choosing foods that will fully satisfy you and not give your hunger a quick-fix.  Have you looked at a food pyramid lately?  Fat should be the smallest portion of the meal you eat, not the main course.

So I implore you to drop the silly diets and use the energy of what you cannot have to explore all the things that you can have.  Setting up a meal plan will not only allow you to avoid old habits but will give you more control over the root of why you are having a hard time keeping off the weight.  Figure out what amount is good for you and most importantly ignore all items not on your meal plan.  And by all means, have that cookie that is calling your name–because you are learning that the cookie is not defining you, you just chose to have it.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tom Stady
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 08:18:24

    Excellent thoughts. So true, if we would think before we eat about both quality and quantity, we would have much improved health.

    But then what about people who are extremely obese, and seemingly do moderate their diets? I’ve heard it said in some of those situations it is as much about genetics as it is diet.???


    • amandaholst
      Aug 03, 2009 @ 15:30:16

      Absolutely, some people obviously cannot help their predisposition to being obese due to let’s say a thyroid condition or a family history of obesity, for example. People sometimes get into the mindset that they cannot do anything about their current obese condition, you’ve heard the “I’m not fat, I’m just big boned” excuse. The key is to work with your body and not against it. Do the little things that you can control to be healthier like changing to a healthier butter or to a diet soda. Park a little further away so that you can walk to the store you are planning to go into. Do not fall into the mindset of your disease taking control of what goes into your body but rather you taking charge.


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