There are so many theories and ideas out there about how to eat or not eat to manage weight. I like to go with what I call “Yes Before No.” Basically, I have a list of “yes” foods that I can eat any time I want, as much as I want, without restriction. And I have a set of characteristics that make foods “no” foods, but they’re not forbidden.
A lot of diets, or at least, a lot of the old-school diets I grew up with in the 80s and 90s, give you a big list of Nos. For example, “No cookies, no candy, no baked goods, no dessert, no potatoes, no fat, no sugar, no life, no fun.”
Jesus, who wants to sign up for a big list of forbidden things? Nobody. All that’s going to happen if you give me that list is I’m going to fixate on all those things I can’t have and then they’ll be the things I crave desperately on hard days and can’t wait to get finished with the program so I can go binge on them. That’s counter-productive.
How about a list of things I can have? In fact, how about a list of things that I can not only have, but I’m required to meet a minimum? Here’s my yes list:
- Fruits – any kind
- Veggies – any kind
I can have as much as I want of all the fruits and veggies in the world. In order to not get bored, I can find new recipes and experiment with as many different kinds of fruits and veggies as exist at my local market. In fact, I am required to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day (but for me a day when I only eat 5 servings is extremely rare, I usually average around 8-10 per day).
A serving is one medium-sized piece of fruit, or a cup of veggies (leafy greens like lettuce or spinach are more like 3 cups when raw though).
I can eat as much as I want though! I don’t have to restrict myself whatsoever, and most of the time I don’t measure anything if I’m eating fruits and veggies. Why bother? More is better – my only restriction is a minimum, not a maximum! That’s how I get through things like parties and barbecues – I graze all day long on fruits and veggies, so I’m never hungry and I can munch away like a normal person.
Now that I’ve shown you my yes list, here’s what’s characteristic for a no: Stuff that’s highly processed, deep fried, or wouldn’t be recognizable as food to my ancestors. But it’s not a “No Forever.” It’s a soft no. The real no for me is: No eating other stuff until I’ve had something on my yes list first. I know I have to eat a minimum off my yes list, so if I’m feeling a craving for something that’s not so great for me, first I need to find out if it’s actual hunger, or just a passing craving based on an emotional fluctuation (like with chocolate when I’m down). After I’ve eaten some fruit or veggies, I can have the thing. Most of the time I don’t want it then.
Food is fuel, so I try to eat the things that fuel my body in the most constructive way. I know the things that are going to make me feel sluggish and bad, and a good way for me to avoid them is to stick with my yes list first. Maybe this is something that will work for you – focus on eating more of the good stuff you can have, without feeling deprived right off the bat by setting up a big list of things you can’t have. Set a goal that’s a minimum, not a list of don’ts.
Also maybe bring less of the non-supportive food into the house. It should take effort to sabotage yourself.