By Angie Kassabie, Ph.D.
You've heard about them: the Twinkie diet, the drive-through diet, the chocolate diet. Eating fast food or high-calorie processed foods, such as potato chips, candy and cookies, as means of weight loss periodically creeps up in media headlines.
Like any popular fad diet, eating junk food as a means to lose weight is bound to work for a few weeks or months if you count calories carefully and if losing weight is your only goal. But if you want to lose weight, become healthy and adopt a better eating style, then, like most fad diets, eating fast food is hardly a healthy way to eat for very long.
I work with many people who want to lose weight but don't really know how to go about it. They swear they will never give up their favorite high-fat, high-sugar foods and sugary drinks. I tell my clients that they can eat whatever they want as long as it's in moderation.
What's moderation? It's different for everyone -- but here's how I generally explain it: Moderation means eating only the amount you can still fit into your calorie and food goals for the day. You can lose weight by counting calories without obsessively worrying about where the calories come from.
Here's how it works in real life: Instead of eating half a pizza you might just have one slice, and then decide to add a side salad with reduced-calorie dressing. You might eat a single-patty burger instead of double-patty burger, or if you choose to order a burger you might not eat the bun. You might eat everything you want on your burger, but just ask that they serve up half the special sauce. Moderation means you don't have to give up pizza or cheeseburgers entirely, you just have to watch how much and how often you eat them. Also, I find it is much easier to fit in the occasional "bad food" item when you really, really want it if you try to make healthier and lighter choices throughout the rest of the day.
I've also discovered that depriving yourself of your favorite guilty pleasures (for me, it's Diet Coke) can lead to binge eating. That's because, for most of us, deprivation leads to intense cravings, which can trigger rebound overeating.
No matter who you work with to lose weight and no matter what your goals are, know that healthy eating and weight loss does not need to be "all or nothing." The key is to splurge with purpose. Pre-plan what you're going to eat and when you want to break the rules. Don't think that you blew your diet, rather reframe it by saying you'll eat better at the next meal. Soon you'll find yourself making healthier choices. And eventually you may even lose your desire to eat that one food item you once held so dear.
Angie Kassabie, Ph.D., is an internationally acclaimed expert in nutrition, health and fitness, image consultation and personalized diet programs. As a self-proclaimed "food pscyhologist," Dr. Kassabie specializes in emotional eating and the mind-body connection. She is at work on a book about nutrition and holistic health. To learn more about Dr. Kassabie, follow her on twitter at @angiekassabie.
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