I don’t like feeling restrained when it comes to food choices, but I believe there is a lot of value in learning restraint while trying to lose weight. In the past, when I decided to avoid certain foods, I often felt like all I wanted to do was eat whatever food I was trying to exercise restraint with.
When I weighed over 300 pounds, I had no “red light” foods. If I wanted to eat six chocolate glazed donuts I ate them. If I really wanted a chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s I loaded the children up in the car and got that shake. If I wanted chips and all we had were those little 1 oz. bags that you put in kids’ lunches, I would eat bag after bag until I was satisfied.
Fortunately, I restrained myself in public. I did not eat six donuts in front of my family, friends, or small children. In front of the “public,” I ate like a normal person. I moderated what I ate and tried not to appear as though the chocolate cupcakes sitting on the table held much appeal to me. (Of course inside my head I was screaming at myself, “If those were at my house, I’d eat every last one.)
As I began learning how to eat a healthier diet and began to lose weight, I had to decide how to handle the concept of restraint when it came to foods. Because I had tried so many commercial diets in the past, I understood that almost all diets required restraint and the limiting of certain foods.
I wanted to set myself up for success when it came to what foods I would or would not limit. I had never had any success self-limiting foods because as soon as I tried, that’s the exact food I wanted. If I was limiting candy, all I could seem to think about was candy. Then I gave in and ate as much candy as I could stuff in my mouth.
I really thought this whole concept through when I first started. Should I even try to set limits? Should I try an intuitive approach and eat when my body “told” me to eat. Should I swear off certain food groups for life?
I eventually came to realize that because of my tendencies to eat everything I said I wouldn’t, I did not want to restrict myself too harshly.
Instead I wanted to figure out how to enjoy food in a healthy way. I decided to set some guidelines which gave me some freedom but also helped me gain control over those trigger foods that I always seemed to have a hard time controlling.
Here is what the first month of my weight loss journey looked like.
Month One Limits
No chocolate at all.
Keep my fat consumption to about 30 percent.
Eat just one portion at a time.
Exercise every day (just 15 minutes at first).
No eating after dinner unless it was planned.
You can see that my month one limits were pretty strict. I was particularly strict with chocolate and nighttime snacking because I knew those two habits played a huge role in my obesity.
Did I ever stray the first month? Absolutely. But the key thing to know is that I had more good days than bad days and those days where I was successful gave me some much needed confidence in my ability to control my eating habits.
Rest of My Life
Once the first month passed, I worked on one food habit after another just like many of you do.
Sometimes when I’m reading your blogs or responding to emails where you share habits that are difficult for you to break, I mentally think, “Yes, I had that habit at one time as well!”
Another thing I did that really helped me was to figure out which emotions were attached to bad habits. That was an important part of my long-term success.
Over the years I have increased my exercise time to about 30 to 45 minutes, continued watching my portions, and still eat about 30 percent of my calories in healthy fats. Those restraints stayed in place and have been valuable to me. You notice that I do have the occasional chocolate treat and eat after dinner every once in a while!
Those restraints I kept actually allow me the freedom to make healthy choices and still enjoy life.
Have you placed restraints on certain foods or behaviors? What was the outcome? Diane