I was talking to a friend the other day after the gym and she was totally frustrated. She said, “I just don’t get it. I’m eating healthy and working out a ton more than I used to, but nothing is budging on my body. Seriously! What am I doing wrong?!” She’s ready to totally throw in the towel and I get it. Weight loss can be frustrating. Every time I open Pinterest or facebook, I see the post promising me that I can get a perfect booty by just doing “these 5 moves daily”. Or, “drink this every morning and drop an easy 10 lbs in 2 weeks.” Or, “calories in versus calories out = weight loss.” That last one is definitely closer to the truth but it’s not that simple.
But here’s what catches most of us up: GOOD foods vs BAD foods.
Which foods pop into mind when you see the “banned” sign?! Which foods do you feel incredibly guilty when eating especially when the food isn’t considered part of the “clean eating” plan you’re on? “Clean” and “real” are two words that are often associated with foods that you’re told you should eat and are healthy for you. Don’t get me wrong – I’m ALL FOR eating fresh produce and lean proteins and minimizing added sugars. This is what your body runs best on. But it’s how we’re categorizing food as good or bad that can totally derail the best of intentions. Because here’s the deal. If I eat too much of any food, I could take in too many calories (cue weight gain!) and not get all the other nutrients that my body needs. It’s just a lot easier to overeat on those cookies than it is the apples.
When I asked my friend a few questions, we got to this point in how she feels at times. Let’s set up this scenario. You’ve made a pact with yourself to not eat any added sugar. You’ve been “good” all week. And then you head to dinner with friends. You ordered a super healthy dish, made all the best alterations to limit any “bad” stuff in it and are feeling pretty accomplished. Then, your friend orders the best dessert XXX that you love (fill that in with your fav! ;)). After a glass of wine, one bite wouldn’t hurt right? But, before you know, you’re halfway thru the dessert with her and start to feel SUPER guilty. Your clothes are all of a sudden tight and uncomfortable and you’re convinced you just regained the 5 lbs you worked. This is how we set ourselves up when we label foods “good” or “bad”. Emotions start to become so enmeshed with food that those choices determine if it’s a good day or a bad day. But, here’s the thing. You won’t gain weight by enjoying a dessert. If you enjoy too much too often, yes of course. However, when you feel guilty about eating a “bad” food and end up binging on it, this is going to be a road block in your ability to lose weight. But when we can relinquish the power that food can hold and really believe that all foods can have a place in our diets, start to allow ourselves to truly taste the food and love the taste of the food, this is when healthy nutrition can really soar (and weight loss!) all while still loving all our favorite foods.
Christina Fitzgerald is a Registered Dietitian (RD) with over a decade of nutrition experience. She has worked with patients at top-ranked hospitals, such as Lurie Children’s Hospital and has worked as a nutrition coach in behavior change for over 10 years. Christina lives in Barrington and is a wife and mom of three boys, living the life of a busy parent just like many of her clients!