I just read this quote from super-svelte former Dancing with the Stars pro Julianne Hough, “if I deprive myself, I end up binge eating.” I hear the exact same thing from so many of my clients, which is why in my newest book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim, I included a section called ‘how to build in a splurge.’
For most of us, deprivation leads to intense cravings, which can trigger rebound overeating. Now, new data from Mintel finds that moderation is the message that really resonates with consumers. They found that just six percent of those surveyed say they adhere to a strict diet, forty two percent strive for balance instead, and nearly ninety percent believe that moderation is the key to wellness.
The truth is, healthy eating and weight loss don’t have to be all or nothing endeavors. In working with clients one on one I’ve met countless women and men who have been trapped in a cycle of on/off, good/bad eating and when they finally free themselves from the extremes they actually lose weight rather than gain. The trick is splurging with purpose. A lot of my clients have been caught in a pattern of spontaneously eating something less than stellar and then thinking, “well, I blew it so I might as well eat whatever I want, then do a detox or start my diet over again.” That kind of chaos keeps them stuck, both in weight and in their embattled relationship with food. Instead, the goal is to pre-plan splurges using a strategy that’s a lot like balancing a budget.
The first step is to identify your splurge food. What’s really going to do it for you? Are you craving something hot or cold, sweet or salty, creamy or crunchy? Choose something 100 percent worthwhile, a high quality can’t-live-without favorite.
Next, think about what you’ll be “spending” by building your splurge food into a meal. Most indulgences are low in nutrients and high in carbs and fat, so to create balance, pair them with lean protein and produce. For example, if you’re going out to dinner and you know you want to enjoy some molten lava cake, order an entrée of grilled fish and steamed veggies or a similar combination. By not going ‘whole hog’ and ordering a decadent meal followed by dessert, you’ll leave feeling satisfied but not sluggish, and this type of give and take is exactly what moderation is all about.
Finally, tune in as you enjoy your treat. Listen to your body and stop when you’ve had enough to feel satisfied, even if that means not finishing. Remind yourself that this isn’t your last chance to ever eat this treat, because you’ve let go of forbidden food rules. When your goal is to enjoy an indulgence and satisfy a craving so you won’t feel deprived, there’s no need to stuff yourself.
Letting go of black and white diet rules can be incredibly freeing. Once my clients stop feeling restricted they start becoming a lot more discriminating about splurges, they tend to want to indulge far less often, and most finally put an end to wild weight fluctuations and start shedding pounds for good.
What’s your take on this topic? Has a too strict diet ever caused you to binge? Do you believe moderation is the sanest approach for you? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.