02/20/2014 07:42 pm ET Updated Apr 22, 2014

Don't Hide the Candy!

Don't apologize for the lovely box of chocolates you have sitting around from Valentine's Day! As a Registered Dietitian, I frequently find others feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if their Valentine's Day candy is visible when I enter their home, office, or other personal space. They cringe with the realization that their seemingly guilty pleasure is exposed to a nutrition expert. Imagine their surprise when my reaction is one of positive affirmation! The truth is the fact that their Valentine's Day candy has made it past February 14 is admirable and a true sign of their ability to enjoy all food in moderation without over indulging.

Registered dietitians tend to support the science of "everything in moderation," even Valentine's Day candy, as part of a healthy diet. Eliminating a desired food completely can often lead to feelings of deprivation that drive one to binge and over consume the "forbidden food." According to a recent study, labeling a food as "bad" and avoiding it completely leads to a false sense of control. (1) In reality, the individual actually looses control and over consumes when faced with the "bad" food according to the study. Labeling foods as "forbidden" increases the risk of weight gain rather than loss according to research featured in the Behaviour Research and Therapy Journal. (2) The body can easily compensate for small doses of less healthy foods spread out over time rather than a large dose of it all at once. For example, a 100-calorie dessert each day is easier for the body to burn off in that day than a one-time binge on the same dessert in a significantly larger portion.

As an all-or-nothing society, we push ourselves to accomplish unachievable goals and fail miserably rather than maintain a sense of balance and moderation. Consider diets in general. We automatically assume they are temporary because we recognize it is impossible to completely restrict oneself forever. Instead, consider making small changes over time. By changing slowly rather than a complete diet overhaul, your changes will be more sustainable rather than temporary and you will experience long term success as opposed to short lived success.

So enjoy your box of chocolates! But enjoy them over time in small amounts. Make gradual changes, throw out your guilt and keep the box of chocolates. If the candy makes it past Valentine's Day, you are on the right track!

1. Alberts HJ, Thewissen R, Raes L. Dealing with problematic eating behaviour. The effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on eating behaviour, food cravings, dichotomous thinking and body image concern. Appetite. 2012;58(3):847-851.

2. Byrne SM, Cooper Z, Fairburn CG. Psychological predictors of weight regain in obesity. Behav Res Ther. 2004;42(11):1341-1356.