Low carb, low cal, low fat, paleo, paleo-ish, primal, whole wheat, wheat free and vegan. Those are the diets (or lifestyle changes that I treated as diets) I’ve tried and failed because, as we all know, diets don’t work. It was a long time ago that my mom mentioned to me that I needed to be more moderate, and being the first child that I am, I promptly told her that “I don’t do moderation”…end of discussion.
Moderation instead of Overindulgence
I thought moderation didn’t work for me – I’d try and then end up with an empty pizza box, pint of ice cream and a side of guilt. Fast forward a few years and I hear Jill Coleman and Neghar Fonooni talk about moderate eating. They made it sound SO appealing. I get to drink wine and eat chocolate every day? Sign me up, right?! Well, it turns out it’s not that easy. Eating moderately means I had to realize that eating is a mindful activity and one in which I have to be an active participant. It meant I had to face the fact that I had a sweet tooth, look it in the eyes, and deal with it.
Is it worth it?
You see that chocolate chip cookie in the window and it looks amazing: the structure looks chewy, but crisp on the edges with a buttery vanilla flavor, and the right amount (and shape!) of chocolate chips. You decide that you’re going to eat the cookie without guilt, buy it, take the first bite, AND YOU’RE SO TOTALLY UNDERWHELMED. What a great injustice; how can that cookie look so good? It. Lied. To Me.
Now what? You can’t just throw it away, right?
A few years ago, I would have eaten the shitty cookie. WTF!? Why? I don’t know if I can actually answer that with anything better than “because it was there”. So, in my mindful eating practice, I flip that thought over: what happens if I do throw it away? Nothing…really nothing bad happens. It doesn’t grow legs and run after me.
Now, if I choose to eat something – and this ranges from things like ice cream all the way to steak, to sweet potatoes to salami – I make sure it’s damn good and worth it. If the taste doesn’t equal my expectation then I put that shit down and get something else; I’m not settling for food that isn’t delicious.
The other night I had some Häagen-Dazs Strawberry ice cream and it was better than I remembered. So I ate it. Until…
The First Bite Rule
…Until the last bite I had wasn’t as good as the first. I didn’t make this rule up; Neghar Fonooni talks about it a lot and it makes so much sense. There have definitely been moments when I continued to eat a particular food simply because it’s on my plate. Remember the clean plate club? Yea, I’m no longer a member. I leave food on my plate – who would have thought that could happen?
You’ve seen it happen on TV shows like Man vs. Food when host Adam Richman is halfway through a 10 pound porterhouse and each bite is literally disgusting. There’s a reason for that – it’s called satiation and your body is signaling for you to. stop. eating. It’s science. Generally we don’t go to those extremes, but you know the feeling that I’m talking about – it’s sort of still good, but it’s not First Bite Good. We don’t need to let it get to the “I’m never having Tequila again” point. Watch out for the moment when your food isn’t as enjoyable as that first bite and stop there.
(Sidebar: satiation happens long before we get to the point of throwing up. Unless you’re practicing mindful eating, eating while in front of the tv or in a rush can confuse our satiation internal guidebook and we’ll accidentally overeat.)
10 Burpee Rule
The failsafe is the 10 Burpee Rule. Since I determined that the food was “worth it” and as I continued to eat it I wasn’t recognizing that it didn’t taste the same as when I first started. Now what?
Well, Erin Davidson Farmer of CrossFit Center City has a smart question to ask yourself:
Can you eat the next bite and feel good doing 10 burpees?
If you answered that it never feels good to do 10 burpees, we’ll be fast friends. HA! In all honesty, though, this question has prevented me from taking one more bite. This rule, in particular, helps when I’m eating savory foods – think steak, creamy sauces, and roasted potatoes. Sometimes those foods do taste great bite after bite, but then I think about doing 10 burpees with a pound or two of sweet potato in my belly and re-think that next forkful. Or, I wasn’t being honest with myself about the First Bite Rule and the 10 Burpee Rule brings me back.
No longer do I leave the table feeling so full of food that I want to unbutton my pants or lay down so I can stretch my stomach out. That feeling, as a result of practice, has become so uncomfortable to me that even thinking about it isn’t pleasant.
Putting the above three questions into practice has really helped curb overeating and overindulging – on sweet and savory foods. I don’t feel bad for eating the foods as long as I’m not making myself sick and am truly enjoying each bite. I mean, what would life be without chocolate? I ask myself these questions when I eat what people consider “treats” (ice cream, chips, candy) as well as for meals that help fuel my lifestyle. There are definitely moments when I slip up – parties, holidays and fast-stand-in-the-kitchen eating, but for the most part, I’d say I’ve embraced the moderate eating lifestyle…just don’t tell my mom.