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This Dietitian Suggests a "Two Treat Rule" to Lose Weight Without Going Crazy

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Photo: Melica / Shutterstock

Name a diet, and I'll think of clients who have struggled with it. I've had countless people tell me about their trials and tribulations with nearly every diet: paleo, vegan, low-carb, low-fat. Although diet trends come and go, the diet culture persists. And those seeking to lose weight are almost always willing to try the next big thing promising real results.

That's why, like many of my fellow registered dietitians, I don't believe in diets, but instead promote a nutrient-rich, balanced lifestyle that allows for lifelong healthy eating. Sounds great, right? I thought so, but after a few years as a practicing clinician, I realized this approach can be confusing for clients who are looking for straightforward, concrete advice on what healthy eating actually means. The most confusing piece? Balance. (Related: I Changed the Way I Think About Food and Lost 10 Pounds)

Balance implies enjoying everything in moderation, but moderation can be ambiguous. Instead, I offer this tip: choose two treats each week to enjoy. These should be foods you love simply for their taste and the satisfaction they bring. And these treats should be the real thing, not a faux, low-calorie knockoff. The idea is to feel truly satisfied.

Not only does this promote a non-restrictive approach to healthy eating, but it also helps demystify those forbidden foods. After all, forbidden foods, like anything off-limits, have a way of becoming more exciting than before! But knowing these foods can be included in an overall nutritious diet eliminates some of the excitement and supports a healthier relationship with food. (More: We Seriously Need to Stop Thinking of Foods as "Good" and "Bad")

Plus, if you eliminate all your favorite foods to drop pounds, you'll likely start eating those foods again once you've lost the weight—probably without much portion control since you're not used to limiting them moderately.

Of course, there are a few caveats to consider when implementing the "two treat rule." Don't keep these foods in the house and readily available. Going out for a single scoop of ice cream with friends or splitting a dessert with a significant other not only helps promote healthy habits with more indulgent foods, but also keeps overall calories and portion sizes in check. (We also love these single-serve brownies for when portion control is an issue.)

 

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