The degree to which we feel deprived is directly related the the extent we will eventually overindulge.
It’s relatively easy to harness willpower for a short period of time, like an weight loss challenge at work, or a competition diet, or Lent, or long enough to white-knuckle our way through the latest 12-week diet book. But eventually, if there is an end in sight–a point at which we will eventually stop eating that way–we are on a “diet” and not a lifestyle plan.
You have to pick your nutrition battles. A piece of sugar-free gum won’t kill you :)
You might be asking, what’s wrong with a diet? It feels good to lose weight fast.
I get you. I understand completely. Dieting makes you feel “in control” and like you have a plan. And we frigging love plans, don’t we? We look for the Magic Meal Plan or get excited about following a special diet that someone we know lost 30 lbs on, seeming with no effort. In fact, research has shown that we get MOST excited about a new diet plan BEFORE we start! Ha! Are you surprised? :) But the problem with losing weight fast, is that it comes back ON even faster.
Often, the PROMISE of results is much more exciting than the day-to-day grind to achieve those results. So it’s no wonder that we are constantly looking for a shortcut, a way to get results quicker and with less effort. But the bottom line is that if we are following a “diet,” then it is, by definition, short-term. And short-term weight loss leads to long-term fat GAIN. Besides, the faster weight comes off, the faster it comes back on. And yo-yo dieting makes us FATTER in the long run.
We know this intuitively, don’t we? But we don’t like it. For whatever reason, slow results are unacceptable. Steady, sustainable results over YEARS just won’t do. And yet, it’s the only way to lose and keep it off. The more extreme the measures, the less sustainable the results.
On the other hand, by definition, if something is a lifestyle, it’s something we can do forever with little effort. Whoa, wouldn’t that be a great place to be?? And yes, it is doable, and the way I gage it with my clients is based on the extent to which they feel deprived.
Bottom line: if you feel deprived, you are on a diet. The more deprived you feel, the bigger the eventually rebound will be. Soooo, it would follow that in order to adopt a healthy nutrition plan long term, you’ll need to find ways to decrease feelings of deprivation.
Below is a great list of ways to feel less deprived in your nutrition. Start by incorporating one technique and then watch and monitor your cravings and hunger for the week to see if it helps. If not, discard and try the next tactic. Let me know how you do!
1. Use preemptive cheats.
If you’ve been reading JillFit for a while, you know that this is my go-to strategy to keep cravings at bay. Preemptive cheats are foods that don’t put weight on us, but also don’t necessarily help with fat loss. And eaten in small amounts at trigger times throughout the week, they help take the edge off enough so that we never get to the point of ravenous hunger or out-of-control cravings. They increase our satisfaction. See my top 5 preemptive cheat foods here.
2. Choose dietary fat OR carbs.
Realize that a diet high in both fat and carbs will most likely put weight on you. But both can be satiating, and the one on which you choose to rely for that satiation depends on your own unique metabolism, personal preferences and sensitivities. You’ll want to get enough to satisfy, but not too much that you’re storing fat. As a general rule, for people who are more stress/cortisol-driven (“skinny fat” or high anxiety), do more carbs. If you’re move food/insulin-driven, try a lower carb diet and rely on healthy fats to satisfy. Key is to choose one OR the other, not both.
NOTE on macronutrients: Protein is the most satiating, so build your daily meal with that as your first priority. I recommend getting 1g lean protein per pound of bodyweight daily. Then add veggies, then add starch OR fats. Monitor your hunger and cravings and adjust up or down as necessary.
3. Pick your nutrition battles.
About six months ago, I posted a new pack of Extra Desserts gum I got on the JillFit Facebook page. Many gals commented “Yum!” while a few others were outraged that I would back something so unnatural and with so many chemicals in it. One women even went so far as to CUT AND PASTE THE INGREDIENTS LIST straight from the Extra website to point out just how bad the food was. And I couldn’t argue–chemicals are chemicals and artificial sweeteners are certainly not ideal.
Buuuuuuut, here’s the thing. You have to pick and choose your nutrition battles and if having a couple pieces of Mint Chocolate Chip SF gum gets me through a tough craving and allows me to be in a better mental space to make a healthy decision later in the day, then sorry, I’m gonna use that tool. Is it ideal? No. But for some people, I would argue that a couple of pieces of “chemicals” is better than not having it and then face-planting into a bag of Oreos later, because for many people, that is the choice we are making: Eat something not-so-ideal now in order to keep from eating the really bad crap later. No comparison. If you’re someone will iron willpower and can go without and still make good choices later, then more power to you. Most people won’t be able to do that, though. And often it comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils. Does Splenda cause Alzheimer’s? The jury is still out, but we know for a fact that OD’ing on sugar leads to obesity and Diabetes.
So it’s your call. But I think that if you try to go the all-or-nothing route, it’ll end up being nothing. Every time.
4. Focus on the big rocks.
At Metabolic Effect, we consider some things “big rocks” and others small rocks, based on the size of impact they have on your physique. Choosing protein & veggies over starchy meals is a big rock (e.g. salads instead of sandwiches for lunch). Weight-training focus in the gym is a big rock. Finding ways to de-stress is a big rock. Getting consistent sleep is a big rock. Know what’s not a big rock? Sodium. A couple TB of salad dressing or a marinade on a piece of meat. Zero-calorie sweeteners like xylitol, stevia or even sucralose. A couple pieces of sugar-free gum (remember your nutrition battles). Don’t waste time and energy stressing over the small rocks. There’s plenty of the big rocks to keep your mental energy busy :) And compromising on a small rock will help you stay more adherent to the big ones!
5. Realize that food will always be there, and you don’t need to EAT IT ALL RIGHT NOW.
I’ve totally been here–you made cookies for the kids or someone leaves a dessert at your house and you decide to “just finish it all up tonight so then it’s gone and out of the way.” I know you know what I’m talking about! Yes, you! Lol. One thing I like to remember is that dessert will always be there, so I don’t need to eat it all right now. If I decide that I want something, I can always go out and get it later.
A classic example is someone’s birthday cake at a corporate birthday. How disgusting are those grocery-store sheet cakes? And yet people eat them by default. Employ the tiniest bit of mindfulness in that moment, and you’ll probably come to the conclusion that you don’t actually want to “waste” your cheat on that and you’ll end up abstaining, not regretting it in the least. I mean, if you’re gonna cheat, have exactly what you want for crying out loud! :) Don’t just eat anything. Sheet cakes will always be there, you don’t have to have it all right now. Dessert will always be there. If it doesn’t taste absolutely incredible, skip it and get what you really want later. Having this insight and remembering it when you’re faced with temptation can help you surf the craving waves effectively.
6. Strategically place “built-in relief” in your weekly nutrition menu.
Instead of balls-out cheat meals which can sometimes, in my opinion, do more harm than good–both psychologically and physiologically–build in strategic “relief” into your week. Have a plan to eat something that takes the edge off, but doesn’t require you wear stretch pants to consume it. Examples: a huge white potato Wednesday and Saturday nights with a steak and veggies (I call this a “clean carb up.”) or 1/2 a dark chocolate bar on Wed/Sat or a blended slushie made from 2 cups of frozen cherries. Throw yourself a reprieve ahead of time so you know you only have to go a day or two before you get to take a breather.
7. Dine out.
One of my personal favs–even when I get lean protein and veggies or a big-ass salad (BAS) out at a restaurant, it always tastes better. Say what you want about salt, marinades, butter, etc, but if the alternative is eating dry chicken and broccoli at home, I’ll take the former. Besides, the latter will almost guarantee you’ll feel deprived. Remember here–pick your nutrition battles and don’t stress about the small rocks. Eat a BAS at a restaurant and stop stressing about a couple pieces of bacon or sprinkle of cheese. The alternative is eating something that makes you miserable at home, only to kill a plate of brownies later out of dissatisfaction.
8. Use unsweetened cocoa.
In addition to being a guilt-free way to OD on chocolate, the Metabolic Effect cocoa drink helps take the edge off cravings, quells hunger and also boosts serotonin and dopamine–neurochemicals that help with focus, memory, motivation, ability to relax and happiness. among others. Make this anti-oxidant heavy drink 1-3x/day when needed: 1-2 TB unsweetened cocoa powder (aka baking cocoa) mixed with hot water and stevia to sweeten. Enjoy!
9. Trust the process.
Slow progress is still progress. And realize that for people who have lost fat and have kept it off as a lifestyle, it’s literally taken them YEARS to get to that point. You have to put in your time, practicing and grinding it out. Like Jade says, “Easy is earned.” If someone you know eats moderately and makes it look effortless, chances are they have been practicing moderation for a while. Patience is indeed a virtue, and in the fat loss game, it’s critical.
10. Check in with hunger and cravings daily, and if they’re elevated, throw yourself a bone instead of white knuckling it.
At Metabolic Effect, we ask, “What the HEC?” Meaning, what are your hunger, energy and cravings (HEC) like? Are they balanced or not? If they aren’t, then you still have some work to do. Remember, if you are starving all the time, you won’t make it anyway. If thoughts of chocolate and wine are taking over your life, what you’re doing is unsustainable. So, in those moments, throw yourself a life line. Have a couple pieces of chocolate, not because you want to binge, but because without it, you WILL eventually binge your ass off–guaranteed. So preempt your binge by taking the moderate route for a moment. Starvation will always be there, take a chance and try a new way :)
11. Choose alcohol OR starch when indulging, but not both.
One of my clients recently went on vacation to Spain for 10 days and I gave her this advice before she left, to which she responded in her charming southern accent, “Oh honey, you know which one I’m gonna choose!” Needless to say, she loves her wine (who doesn’t?) :) One great way that I use to NOT blow up when I indulge is to choose starch OR alcohol, but not both. So if doing booze, skip the bread and dessert. If doing sweets, no wine for you.
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