Designing Your Own Personal Eating Plan – A Long-Term Journey

May 22, 2018 in Foodland Chronicles, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

There are a few issues that trouble me while observing the general public go through yet another restrictive diet. (The ketogenic diet seems to be gaining popularity by the day.) Restrictive diets can lead to fewer calories and thus to weight loss. But eventually they go off the diet, unless they mold it into a long-term life-style change with their own creative stamp on it – a long-term journey. Each person is different so no one pat approach to a single type of diet is likely to appeal to each individual for the long term. People generally go off restrictive diet formulas; and the weight comes back. There is so much evidence for this; but people continue to want a quick fix and thus the allure of the quick weight loss restrictive diets.

Restrictive eating (Not just the ketogenic diet) – “Can’t eat gluten.” (I’m not talking about those with celiac disease, certainly they can’t have gluten; it’s a serious health issue.) Can’t eat carbs.” “Can’t eat fruit.” “Can’t have dairy.” “Can’t have animal products.” If you cut out certain foods or entire food groups and don’t replace them with another food or food group, it’s likely that you will lose weight. But the catch is that, first; will you stay off the restricted food or food group permanently? And second, will you replace the calories from the restricted food with other calories? Restrictive eating styles often lead to feelings of lacking willpower when the dieting goals are not met. It’s not uncommon to crave foods even more when you deprive yourself of foods that you really want to eat. It often happens when you’re extra tired or stressed that you “cheat” by eating something that is not allowed on your chosen diet.

Building in the enjoyment of the foods you love into your permanent and personal eating plan is more likely to work in the long term. This is the flip side of restriction. It’s important to not try to put a square peg into a round hole. When a restrictive eating plan is chosen that keeps you from ever enjoying your favorite foods, are you enjoying the new eating plan? Are you going to be able to stick with it in the long run? Living on someone else’s plan – not enjoying the foods you love even sometimes (however rarely), actually may elevate, in your deprived body and mind, those restricted foods to the most desirable of foods, psychologically speaking.

Creating you own sustainable style of enjoyable and nutritious eating

Note: I had completely finished writing this post when I found an article published on April 23, 2018 in the International Journal of Obesity; entitled Habit-based interventions for weight loss maintenance in adults with overweight and obesity: a randomized controlled trial. Obviously, I was pleased to find this new study. The point of weight loss is supposed to be, to maintain the loss; but it is, of course, the hardest part. This study shows that changing habits is the way to manage the most important and the most difficult element of weight loss. If you want to get an idea of how to go about changing your habits, keep reading my post.

Instead of trying another short-term diet, resolve to spend your effort on designing a personally unique healthy eating plan; one that can adapt to changing circumstances but stays based on sound principles for good health as well as yumminess. Resolve to make it a style that you can use almost all the time; and be enjoyable enough to come back to after holidays or times of less discipline. Design it as one that will continue to adapt and grow and you will thrive on almost all of the time. It makes sense to built a life-style plan and launch it in slow easy steps. You will start to eat a healthy balanced diet the majority of the time and then plan how you’re going to build a regular eating style that is both enjoyable and sustainable for you. Enjoyment of food is an important part of eating. In addition, it’s one of the joys of life. If you love ice cream, for example, maybe it would be easier and less stressful for you to decide how to enjoy your special treat. Some ideas might be:

  1. Only allow yourself a scoop away from home. You can even specify the shop where you will buy it. This option helps to make your home environment safe from temptation. You do not need to have a half-gallon in the freezer to distract your plan to eat healthily most of the time.
  2. Plan the number of days that you will enjoy ice cream. Maybe once a week is a good goal to start, depending upon your present intake, you decide, even let the time between indulgence increase as your new habits become stronger. It’s your plan. Decide on something that you will enjoy, but still be able to feel that you’re eating a healthy diet most of the time.
  3. Try frozen fruit in a high-powered blender (like Blendtec or Vitamix) – make like a soft serve. Or use Yonanas machine to convert frozen fruit to something remarkable (love mine).

You can use this same technique with bread, desserts, brownies, pizza, burgers, macaroni and cheese or whatever your comfort food is. It really has the potential to de-escalate the feeling of deprivation. You enjoy just enough of it thoroughly and then you’re back to your regular eating. The reason this is so powerful is that it has the potential to work for as long as you desire. When you go on a very restrictive eating plan, it’s not likely that you will stay on it forever. So when you go off your restrictive eating plan, of course, you gain back the lost weight.

You may want to consider thinking of designing your eating style as a long-term journey; an eating style of no forbidden or off-limits foods, just healthy eating the majority of the time. I’ve been on this journey for decades. When I discover a new food, a new way of preparing food or even a new way to deficit calories for a meal, I give it a try. A few examples are:

  1. When I originally decided to stop counting calories and switched to being careful with the use of animal foods and eating mostly plant-based it was a time of adjustment. It involved finding more and more new fruits, whole grains and vegetables to incorporate into meals. It involved fooling around with new recipes.
  2. When I started increasing beans and tofu in our diet was another time of trying new cooking techniques and recipes.
  3. My most recent change has been the discovery of how much I enjoy sheet pan roasted veggie dinners. I cut up veggies (mushrooms (Yes, I know it’s a fungus.), carrots, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, zucchini, gold potatoes or yams, onions, Brussels sprouts, - whatever I’ve got, in a giant bowl. I drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with herbs, some salt and pepper and roast until tender and browned at 500 degrees F. I sometimes add cubed chicken breast, salmon or tofu. Seriously, the flavor is wonderful and the nutrition is fabulous.
  4. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with green smoothies as a cool and nourishing lunch that may reduce inflammation. So far, they’re quite delicious.

If I’m 100% honest, I must admit that I never consume sugar-sweetened soda pop; but I don’t crave it either. I also don’t drink juice, except when I’m offered fresh squeezed oranges – maybe once a year or so. I’d rather eat a juicy orange, fiber and all. So building in juice as a treat for me wouldn’t be motivating. The point is that each of us can build our own personal eating style anyway we like and can include any less than healthy foods, to de-escalate problems with deprivation. Work toward eating healthily most of the time. If highly processed foods are on your list, experiment with real food substitutes, and with special cooking and seasoning that makes them taste great.

Admittedly, this is not a quick fix with a quick gain back. It’s worth the journey to personalize your eating plan, designed to eat healthy most of the time. Give yourself permission to continually tweak it, as you embrace new concepts for nourishing yourself and maintaining a healthy weight.