What’s so great about learning that the advice we’re trying so hard to follow is fundamentally flawed?
You’re following a diet guideline and you screw up. How does that make you feel? You fell off the wagon, so you should just try harder? Maybe start fresh tomorrow? What if you screw up tomorrow, too? How about if you keep screwing up, and no matter how hard you try, you “break the rules” all the time?
How many times will you dust yourself off and try again before you convince yourself that it is just too hard to stick to the healthy eating guidelines? If you try again, you might just fail again.
I know it’s too frustrating.
On the other hand…if the guidelines themselves are flawed, guess what?! It’s not you, it’s them! You never failed and it was never your fault. That sounds more like the truth.
“Everything in moderation.”
What’s the right way to follow a guideline about “eating in moderation” anyway? Too many possibilities for interpretation make this advice useless. This article about moderation points out that although it seems wonderful in its simplicity, advice to “eat in moderation” is just too ambiguous to follow.
Now let’s take a look at how the cards (or maybe we should say the chips) are stacked against us on this one.
The Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University published some interesting findings from this study examining the impact of environmental cues on eating behavior. Each person in a group of college students was given a tube of potato chips to munch on while watching a movie. Some students got a tube of chips that contained “marker” chips that were a different color or flavor. The marker chip was placed strategically in the stack (every 7th or 14th chip.)
The presence of that “marker” chip provided differentiation which made people more aware of the amount of chips they ate. The people who didn’t have marker chips ate the largest quantity, and those that got stacks with marker chips slowed down on their snacking.
Now, chew on this: whether you are aware of it or not, processed food companies spend big bucks on this exact type of research, but they are prioritizing their sales, not your health. And you better believe they imagine and test every possible psychological trick they can play on you.
“Once you pop, you can’t stop.” I rest my case.
I want you to realize it is NOT your fault. Processed food is purposely formulated to create cravings, and it’s strategically packaged to make it nearly impossible for you to “just have a little bit now and then.”
Forget dietary moderation.
Variation means including an abundance of fresh, healthy foods. I like that idea a heck of a lot better than limiting ourselves to enjoy a favorite food in “moderation,” don’t you?
Consider this scenario: If you are anything like me, you will order pizza and easily eat 2-3 slices without thinking much about it. Enter the concept of variation – so, DON’T tell yourself you can only have ONE slice of pizza. But before you go for that first slice eat an apple. Ok, now eat the slice of pizza.
You shouldn’t THINK about limiting yourself to just one slice. You can feel free to enjoy a second slice, but between slice #1 and #2, eat a nice big & colorful plate of salad. Ok, now go ahead and grab that second slice of pizza. Maybe you can’t finish it. Maybe after filling up on fruit and veggies you don’t even have the urge to eat that second slice.
Aim for variety and you’ll find that switching gears causes psychological shift. You automatically slow down without trying.
It’s like stopping when you get to the “marker” potato chip, but even better – you are actively choosing to include different healthy foods.
A little of this, a little of that.
Nail the strategy for variation and
You just mastered moderation.