Just kidding. Let's explore it a little more. Moderation is a popular term in eating, but usually only when trying to justify an unhealthy food. It sounds good doesn't it? It sounds reasonable too: eat healthy most of the time, but if you want a cookie enjoy your cookie.
The problem with me is that I don't eat just the cookie, I'll eat the box. True story, I tried to just eat a couple of Girl Scout cookies, I turned around and I had eaten the whole box. If I'm eating chips keep your hands away, fingers could become a casualty. It's not even so much that I really love junk food, I think it's because it seems to now be forbidden foods. In my mind if I have one piece I may as well eat it all because I've already eaten something I shouldn't have eaten.
When I started eating better, I tried to eat special treats in moderation, but I struggled with the moderation part. Then, I felt guilty about overeating on junk food. It was an unpleasant cycle. At the same time, I wasn't comfortable swearing off junk food and I didn't know what else to do. I thought if I stopped eating junk food altogether I would be some kind of weirdo.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, I was standing in the lobby of my work and a guest was politely refusing the candy on the receptionist's desk, explaining she "didn't do" moderation. What?!?! I thought this was how we all cheated on healthy eating and didn't feel guilty about it. She went on to explain she didn't have a lot of self-control and to avoid eating the whole jar of candy, she didn't eat any candy. At first, I felt sorry for her...never eating candy? What an unpleasant life. Then, I realized I had the same problem. I have no self-restraint. My "special treats" were no longer special, I was eating whatever was offered to me whenever it was offered.
What do I do instead? I plan out the treats, what I'm going to have and when I'm going to have it. Technically, it's still moderation I guess, but it's more controlled. For several months though, I had to do strictly no treats at all because I needed to break my cravings. Once I had that under control I could move on to occasional, planned out treats. If I start going overboard again, I'd go right back to none.
Let's take this week as an example of planning. We have a birthday party on Saturday where I'm certain there will be sweets. I can't eat have my treat be there because I won't eat one bite, or one piece. I'd be likely to take down their entire cake and leave kids in tears because they didn't get any. Instead, I'm going to have a muffin at church on Saturday night. The muffin works much better because my husband will buy just the one (I'd buy three), and then I won't be willing to go back to buy another one, so there's a limit to how many muffins I can access.
So, if you're like me and moderation is not in your vocabulary, here are some of my tips:
- You can't eat the junk if it's not there. Get it out of your house, your car, your desk at work. If there's a temptation on someone else's desk at work, avoid their desk.
- Plan your treats. By making a plan when you will enjoy your ice cream, you'll be less likely to give in to temptations as they pop up throughout the week. For awhile, I was making my special treat time every time I went through the Target checkout line. That did not work. I can no longer purchase anything while waiting to checkout.
- Have a limit. I don't mean set an arbitrary limit for yourself that you can go over if you really want more. Instead, only buy the one cookie. If you have access to more than your limit, you may eat more than your limit.
- Politely decline. I used to think I would come across rude if I declined an offer for a cookie. Now, I realized I'm going to come off even worse if I eat all of someone else's cookies. A simple, "no thank you" does the trick.
- Don't get too hungry. It's hard to make good decisions when you're hungry, and if you've crossed over to hangry, then it's really hard to see straight to healthy eating.
- Find alternatives. After having my second son, I developed a sweet tooth I never had before. So, I found some alternatives that don't make me feel guilty.
- Some of my favorites sweet alternatives include:
- Apples baked with cinnamon
- Frozen fruit blended into a creamy consistency (kind of like ice cream)
- Plain fruit
- Peanut butter without sugar
- Dark chocolate almonds (yum--recommended by my dietitian, thank you!) Side note here, I only make one serving at a time and because it takes about 15 minutes until they're hardened enough to eat, my laziness takes over and I'm never willing to make more than one serving.
- Savory alternatives
- Release your guilt. When you do get to enjoy your special treat, enjoy it, don't feel guilty about it. The guilt is not good for you. If you notice a habit of too many special treats, evaluate what changes you need to make and adjust accordingly.