This is not the only false concept out there about weight loss and weight maintenance. In recognition of my five-year weight-maintenance anniversary, I’ve decided to share all the things I learned (and didn’t expect to learn) in my quest to maintain a 100-pound weight loss. This week’s unexpected nugget is…
Unexpected Nugget #2: The occasional indulgence hurts more than it helps.
You’ve probably been told that one of the secrets to maintaining a healthy diet is to allow yourself an occasional indulgence. It goes like this: If you completely cut out of your diet that special food that you absolutely love, what will happen? You will feel deprived of course, that’s what. These feelings of deprivation will build day in and day out until you finally explode, blowing your carefully constructed healthy eating plan to smithereens. The only way to avoid this horrific fate is to include an occasional small indulgence in your eating plan. This could mean that you allow yourself a cookie or two once a week. Or pancakes on Sunday morning. Perhaps a square of dark chocolate after dinner. These little extravagances will satisfy your cravings and keep you on the straight and narrow.
So, why does the occasional treat have the exact opposite effect on me? For me, one cookie leads to two cookies and then three and then I stop counting. Who eats one cookie anyway? If I go for a few weeks without eating cookies, here’s what happens:
The first week is torture – all I can think about are cookies.
The second week is a state of meh – something is missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
The third week is neutral – not happy but not sad either.
The fourth week is serene – what was the problem we were talking about?
To put it bluntly, the occasional indulgence only reawakens the craving beast. You would not tell an ex-smoker to have an occasional cigarette or a recovering alcoholic to have an occasional drink. It is not all that different for us recovering foodies. Our addiction is to sugar. Or salt. Or creamy, greasy stuff. Or all of the above.
You may recall a previous post about my “no-sweet” experiment. I eliminated most sweetness from my diet, eating sweet foods only if they were naturally sweet, such as fresh fruit. The result of that experiment was that my cravings decreased significantly and I felt more at peace with a low-fat, low-sugar way of eating. Recently, I’ve begun allowing a few sweet foods back in my diet and guess what? My cravings are increasing, along with a growing sense of struggle with food.
You may be thinking that if being thin means giving up cookies or pancakes or chocolate, forever, well to heck with it, you’ll just hold onto those extra pounds. Sometimes I think that too. And sometimes I don’t. It’s all part of the journey.