By Liz Daeninck, MS, RD – Registered Dietitian, Healthful Life MD
The internet is teeming with information about diet. Search engine results produce hundreds of articles suggesting rules for everything food related—foods you should never eat, foods you should eat, the best power foods, top 10 food rules, and on and on. While these articles are sometimes interesting, it is important to know what they suggest can be less than helpful.
Establishing rules for food consumption can be good, and is especially helpful when working to lose weight, but anytime you assign blanket rules (such as NEVER eat this food, etc.) to food and weight loss you risk your efforts backfiring. Just like when you were a kid and your mom told you to not do something, a lot of times you ended up doing the exact opposite.
Strict food rules leave you obsessing about things you otherwise would not think twice about, and ultimately, can cause you to reject guidelines about foods entirely, even the good ones. They also set the precedent for labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This is risky because it can drive you to evaluate self-worth based on what you eat. The food choices you make are irrelevant to the kind of person you are. What is important about food choices however, is understanding how certain foods impact you and make you feel.
Food is food. It is an object and as such, it does not warrant being identified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you label food as good or bad, you may start to judge yourself when you eat foods carrying such labels.
So what are my food rules for weight loss? In all honesty, I do not ascribe to specific food rules, but rather a set of guidelines for creating the awareness essential to making smart food choices and achieving health and weight goals. These guidelines are intended to add structure to what can otherwise seem overwhelming in your weight loss journey.
- Avoid certain foods and drinks: While working on weight loss, avoiding calorie dense, nutritionally poor foods and beverages will produce the best weight loss outcome while maintaining optimal health.
- Limit the variety of food options: Limiting the variety of food options available simplifies eating patterns and reduces the number of food decisions being made. This can be a very effective tool for weight loss.
- Reintroduce foods gradually: At the right time—which is different for everyone—slowly reintroducing foods in limited quantities helps in negotiating desired foods back into the regular diet in a strategic manner.
- Pay attention to how you feel: Food plays a powerful role in how we feel. As we eat different foods, it is important to understand how our body responds to them—positively and negatively.
- Note what impacts your intake: There are many reasons we consume food beyond the simple provision of nutrients and energy. Food can impact us on a variety of levels—emotionally, mentally and physically—and it is extremely important to be aware of those effects.
My approach as a dietitian is to help you live a richer, fuller and more active life by building awareness around how your environment, friends, family and circumstances impact your food choices and how foods make you feel. Understanding your body and how it responds to certain foods empowers you to make choices more suitable for overall health goals.
Once you experience the energizing feeling of altering your diet, chances are you will be eager to give up the foods that do not make you feel that way, even when they are foods that are loved.
In the end, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all food rules for weight loss. Following well-documented and effective guidelines, like the ones above, is an effective approach to working towards weight goals. With that being said, remember the number one, most powerful thing you can do in your weight loss journey is to develop an awareness of how food intake impacts you and makes you feel. This awareness will become your internal compass and has the ability to positively impact food choices and govern eating patterns.
Liz’s tips for achieving weight loss and maintenance goals:
- Remember there are seasons in your weight loss journey. Rather than get frustrated because you have eliminated a food you love from your diet, consider that food temporarily on hold until you transition into your next season and can reevaluate if it fits your plan. You may be surprised by how your view, and even your taste buds change over time.
- Pick and choose the foods that bring you joy. If you love chocolate, allow yourself one piece of chocolate each day, but limit the amount you eat.
- Adjust your focus towards the foods you enjoy that make you feel awesome, rather than pouring energy into thinking about all the things you cannot or should not eat.
- Refocus your energy into something other than your diet. By distracting yourself with your favorite hobbies or moving your body, you can distance yourself from an overwhelming focus on food and diet.
- Be patient with yourself… changing what is your ‘normal’ takes a significant amount of energy and effort. Over time you will see change, but only with continued, consistent efforts.
Take your first step towards getting healthy from the inside out today! Visit Healthful Life MD online to learn more about our comprehensive weight loss solutions and schedule a free consultation with our in-house physician, Dr. Abby Bleistein. Or call 720-336-5681 and we can answer questions and help get your complimentary appointment on the calendar.