Get Out Of Diet Guilt Free Cards

     Yesterday I picked up an old copy of Shape magazine and began to thumb through it. I found something that I thought could be very helpful to those of us who struggle with an all or nothing “diet” mentality. Permission slips for cheating.

     For years I felt like I was only being “good” if I eliminated all sweets, fried foods, and “junk” from my diet. If…. no, no WHEN I stumbled it was usually not a small trip but a tumble down a long hill. Instead of eating a spoonful of ice cream I was likely to eat an entire half-gallon. Once I crossed the imaginary line between dieting and cheating I had no boundary, all bets were off. I would get a little Scarlett O’Hara on it, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I felt that the day was blown. Since I had already “failed” I would over indulge without limits. Instead of 100 extra calories I was likely to take in 1000 extra. Why? Because I no longer had a sense of boundaries. It was either eat nothing “unapproved”, or consider the event an entire loss and let it all go.

     Here is what I read from Shape February 2011 issue’s article “Lose Weight Now, Keep It Off Forever”.

     A study in the journal Obesity shows that women who said they followed a rigid diet were 19 percent more likely to be overweight than those with a more flexible eating plan. “When you’ve got an all-or-nothing mentality, you’re setting yourself up to fail,” says Hill. “Often, one slip up will leave you feeling defeated and cause you to give up.” Instead, indulge every once in a while. Kleiner suggests giving yourself five “get out of my diet free” cards weekly, but limit yourself to one portion: For example, share a slice of birthday cake with a co-worker on Monday, have a piece of chocolate with your non-fat latte on Tuesday, and eat a fried mozzarella stick at happy hour on Thursday.“One thing people hate about diets is the expected deprivation,” says Harper. “Knowing you can have a treat takes the D-word out of the picture and makes it much easier to stick with healthy choices most of the time.”  

     It makes sense to me. If I give myself some leeway but with a sense of proper boundaries I am much more likely to be balanced. This weekend while traveling I ate fried okra as a side item instead of my normal grilled veggie. This seemed like a reasonable treat. It was small and the rest of the meal was healthy and relatively low cal. Later in the afternoon I wanted “Sour Patch Kids” candy. I know this is not a healthy choice but I also don’t believe in living in a state of deprivation. I struggled with guilt over whether it would be “bad” to have it. Clearly it wasn’t going to be nutritious. I decided to give in and have the little treat, still staying within my calorie goals by re-arranging calories for the rest of the day. A couple of hours down the road I wanted peanut M&Ms. Where is the boundary? Where does it stop being “treating yourself” occasionally and become slipping back into bad habits? I opted not to eat the M&M’s. A system like the “Get Out Of Diet Guilt Free” cards could help me keep in perspective treat vs. habit. I think I will  begin to use the card as a balance keeping measure.

     These are the rules I have established for my own use of the cards. I will give myself 3 cheats a week. These can be used for any food that I would not consider placing on a healthy menu plan. I might use it for full fat ice cream, brownies, a hot dog or french fries. These are all foods I normally stay away from. Each card can only be used for a single serving of an item and the calories still count. I must record the calories and either adjust the days count around them (while still maintaining an otherwise healthy and balanced diet) or add additional exercise to burn off the calories.

     Would the cards help you learn to limit unhealthy food choices without feeling fully deprived? How many will you allow yourself? Maybe your rules will be different from mine. Consider how giving yourself permission for small “cheats” might help you stick to the big picture plan better.



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