I saw this term, flexible restraint, a little while ago in a magazine I was reading, and it really stuck with me.
What is flexible restraint when it comes to weight loss? I did a web search, and one of the best definitions I came across was from the Weight Watchers website. Flexible restraint is when you monitor your eating but give yourself enough flexibility to not feel overly deprived or be so rigid as to drive yourself (and others around you) crazy.
The beauty of flexible restraint while you are losing weight is that you can give yourself as much or as little freedom when it comes to food choices. For me, I practiced flexible restraint without even knowing I was doing it.
During the first several weeks of my weight loss journey, I was very restrained when it came to how much sugar, chocolate, and high-fat foods I consumed. The flexibility factor for me at that point was basically zero. I ate no chocolate, no refined sugar, and severely limited how many high-fat foods such as chips that I ate.
That zero flexibility served me well in the first weeks because it helped me break those incredibly strong cravings I had for those kinds of foods. And believe me, the cravings were strong and powerful.
Over time; however, that zero flexibility morphed into a somewhat flexible stance when it came to my trigger foods and foods that I had a difficult time controlling my consumption of. I still did not purchase large quantities of M&M’s like I had in the past, but I occasionally let myself have one or two. I avoided buying huge bags of chips, but sometimes had a little single serving size bag if I really wanted chips.
I was practicing flexible restraint and I still do!
Although I understand that consistently making “perfect” food choices may help you lose weight at a steady pace, I also understand that it is nearly impossible for most people to sustain that kind of focus and perfection. Isn’t it better to learn to practice flexibility during your weight loss phase so you can apply those same principles when you finally reach your goal weight?
Other benefits of practicing flexible restraint include giving yourself permission to indulge without guilt. If you love, love, love a certain food but cross it off your list while losing weight, what often happens? If you are anything like I am – you start to crave that food more and more until that food is occupying a large corner of your mind. I would often give in to the craving and not by just having a small serving. No, I had deprived myself for so long that I wanted the largest serving of that food that I could find. And then that “overindulgence” often led to a total backsliding of my attempt at losing weight.
The key to practicing flexible restraint is learning the balance between allowing yourself to indulge without overindulging. That can be a fine line that takes some practice. One thing I did along the way was to utilize the “Rule of One.” It’s a simple rule:
You can have an indulgent treat if you really want it. But you can only have one at a time, and that one should be a small serving.
That simple rule gave me guidelines that built in restraint but still allowed me flexibility. It continues to work to this day.
How are you at practicing flexible restraint? Has it been hard for you or have you not yet allowed yourself this kind of flexibility? Diane