What About the Fun Foods?Oct 03, 2022
By: Tedi Nikova, RD, MPH
Edited by: Brianna Bavota, RD
Have you ever started a new diet program where you were given a list of the ‘bad’ foods that are off limits, and a list of the ‘good’ foods that would support your weight loss?
This list probably looked something like this:
- No added sugar (of any kind!)
- Avoid processed and packaged foods
- Limit higher carb vegetables such as potatoes and corn
Sounds familiar? These lists can often be extensive, and let's face it … totally unsustainable!
The problem with these food rules is it promotes the idea that the changes you will be making are temporary. You may think.. ”okay.. so nothing with added sugar for 3 months, I can do that!”, but what happens after the 3 months, or when you go to a social event, birthday party, a vacation?
When it comes to losing weight, you want to find a way of eating that works for you, that will be your forever eating plan, that’s sustainable and permanent.
In Best Weight, we take the approach of All Foods Fit. Why? Because our goal is to set you up for successful weight loss longterm, and a healthy relationship with food for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!
How labeling food as ‘off limits’ or ‘bad’ may be working against your body:
1. It drives over desire
If you are restricting a food, this is what we call ‘white-knuckle approach’. This may work in the short term, however, it is bound to fail. The problem with labeling food as ‘off limits’ is that you develop a lot of over desire for these foods. The moment you label a food as ‘bad’ the reward brain (that seeks the dopamine hit from food) can get into overdrive mode. For example, let’s say you said, “that is it.. no more sweets starting tomorrow”, now suddenly chocolate cakes are popping up on your social media, or you walk by a bakery and sniff the aroma and feel that intense urge for a chocolate croissant. . Un-intendedly when you restrict a food, you actually end up thinking a lot more about that food, and you create a lot more desire.
2. It takes away the mindfulness from your experience
When a food is labeled as “bad’ this creates a scarcity mentality. So, when you do finally decide to have that sugar after a couple of weeks you may experience thoughts of, ”oh.. I don’t know when I am going to have this again so I might as well have more now”. You then may end up eating more than enough, and you may even experience guilt or shame, or thoughts such as, ``I shouldn't have eaten that”.
So what if I proposed a neutral relationship with food?
First, let’s ditch the labels. Food cannot be inherently ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’, food does not have morals, food is fuel! It is completely normal to be holding onto this mindset, but what mindset we want to feed is that all food is neutral. Instead let’s call the ‘bad’ foods Fun Foods.
I want you to begin to view food as a breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins. Certain foods that we label as ‘good’ may have more protein, healthy fats, and unrefined CHOs, vs. a ‘bad food’ may have more simple carbohydrates that digest quicker, and a little less protein. That’s it. We get to make the food choice that will be right for us at every meal.
Tips to plan Fun Foods
1. Plan the fun foods in advance.
When you plan your fun food in advance you are using the executive layer of the appetite system (the planning brain). This layer of the appetite system is responsible for making planned food choices that will be in line with your goals. Planning in advance may also reduce the guilt and shame after eating a fun food. By planning in advance this fun food is actually part of your plan!
2. Enjoy these fun foods mindfully
When you are eating your fun food, savour the experience. Notice how the first bite always tastes the best. Enjoy the fun food mindfully-notice the aroma, the texture, the taste, how it feels in your body. Also, we encourage you to notice when the bites stop tasting as good. You may notice the first 3-4 bites taste the best, but then the taste is just okay. Ask yourself while you are enjoying your fun food, “when does this food no longer taste as good?”. This will allow you to mindfully notice when you may have had enough of your fun food, and you will also gain awareness when the Fun Food is actually not as enjoyable for you.
It is completely normal if you still may be defining your food choices as ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ this is the message that has been propelled by diet culture. The good news is that you get to choose going forward about how you choose to think about fun foods. Allow your fun foods to be a part of building your forever lifestyle for sustainable weight loss. And remember… if a program you are completing is giving labels to foods, run the other way!