How can I diet when I love to eat?

By Linda Spangle, RN, MA

It’s not your fault you fell off your diet. Your excuse is “I just love to eat!” Of course you do. And because food is such an important part of life, you are entitled to love it. But like any amorous relationship, if your lover is causing you pain, it may be time to re-evaluate the picture.

The truth is you don’t have to stop loving food in order to manage your weight. You just need to alter the ways you view it. Start by making a list of the foods you generally find irresistible. Evaluate the damage level from each of these foods in relation to your weight-loss goals. Then, instead of assuming you have to stop enjoying all of your favorites, consider how you can budget them into your life.

Smaller amounts, less often

Narrow your list down to the foods you love most, then plan them into your life by applying the principle of smaller amounts, less often. Suppose you typically eat a large bowl of ice cream every night. In your budget plan, you might decrease the amount to one-half cup or a small cone at the ice cream shop. Once you’ve set the amount, determine how often you will eat ice cream, perhaps having it every Friday instead of nightly.

Use this same approach with your favorite wines, chocolate-chip cookies or fried clams. Once you budget a special food such as ice cream into your diet, you can look forward to it all week. And because you know you get to have it eventually, you won’t be as likely to crave it the rest of the time.

Savoring

Have you ever eaten a candy bar, then wondered where it went? Or looked down at your plate and had no memory of eating your meal? It’s not that you didn’t enjoy the food, you just don’t remember the experience of eating it.

To break this habit of unconscious eating, practice slowing down and savoring your food. With this technique, you eat a very small amount of food while paying full attention to how it tastes and feels in your mouth. Force yourself to take tiny bites, about the size of a fourth of a teaspoon, and pay total attention to all the details of flavor, texture and even the temperature of the food.

With each bite, allow yourself to feel contented and satisfied by the tastes as well as the sensations of eating. Next time you eat a fabulous dessert such as chocolate mousse cake, savor it and notice every detail.

First two bites

You may not realize it, but the first two bites of any food have the most flavor. If you keep eating after that, you’re just “feeding.” Of course, if you’re physically hungry, eating more of the food serves a purpose. But if you’re wanting to appreciate the flavor, no matter how much you eat, the taste won’t get any more wonderful than those first two bites.

Instead of taking in all those calories, why not take advantage of the way your taste buds actually work? With any food you love, eat those first bites slowly, noticing details such as the cinnamon in the apple pie or the soft caramel swirl in the cheesecake. Close your eyes and let yourself delight in the taste. Eventually, you can actually train yourself to LOVE those first two bites, then stop and let the rest go.

A test for love

With all those foods you LOVE, here’s a way to decide whether you might be fooling yourself into thinking they’re a perfect match for your taste buds. For this exercise, choose a tempting food such as a restaurant entree or a decadent dessert. Take a small bite of food, then evaluate it based on each of these criteria.

Flavor: How does it taste? Is it exquisite? Wonderful? Just fair?

Temperature: Is the temperature perfect for that type of food? Or is the hot entree only lukewarm or food that’s best served icy cold actually closer to room temperature?

The texture: Is the chocolate-layer cake moist? The grilled steak tender? The garlic mashed potatoes smooth and creamy? Or is the cake dry, the steak overcooked and the potatoes grainy and bland?

Does it match what you wanted? Take another bite, then decide whether this food meets your expectations. Is it truly awesome, or do you feel disappointed with it?

Is it worth it? If you decide the food is absolutely perfect, feel free to keep eating and LOVE the food. But if you realize it doesn’t taste very good, STOP! Never waste your diet budget on mediocre food. And don’t keep eating, hoping the food will get better, because it never does.

About the Author:
Linda Spangle, RN, MA, is a weight-loss coach specializing in emotional eating, and the author of 100 Days of Weight Loss, a book of daily lessons that helps people stay committed to their diet and exercise plans. Her website is www.weightlossjoy.com

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