If diets worked, then everyone who has ever gone on a diet would be thin. That’s not what happens. Most dieters are heavy. Hence, the way to lose weight for the long haul is to learn how to eat healthfully and appropriately. In chapter 1 I talked about using the Food Guide Pyramid to guide healthful food choices. In this chapter I’ll build on that information to help you choose the right portions at the right times so that you can lose weight without feeling denied or deprived. I’ll teach you nutrition skill power, which is more powerful than the willpower you might yearn for. Such was the case with Roberta, a 42-year-old computer programmer, mother of two teenagers, and fitness runner.
When reviewing her dieting history, I noticed that Roberta would diet by trying to exist on fruit for breakfast, salads for lunch, yogurt for a snack, and fish with vegetables for dinner. Her intake was spartan, to say the least, and it included a limited variety of food. I asked, “When you are not dieting, what do you eat?” She quickly listed her favorite foods (what she fed her children): cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, spaghetti for dinner. Every time she went on her diet to lose weight, she denied herself these favorite foods. She went to extremes to keep cereal and peanut butter out of her sight so that she wouldn’t eat them. She deemed them too much temptation for her weak willpower, so she had her kids hide them from her.
I encouraged Roberta to stop looking at food as being fattening and instead enjoy satisfying meals. Eating good food, after all, is one of life’s pleasures. Given that she had liked cereal, breads, and pasta since childhood, she was naive to think she could stop liking them. Instead of trying to keep these foods out of her life, I encouraged her to eat them more often. I pointed out that her standard diet foods (fruit, salad, and fish) had no power over her because she gave herself permission to eat them whenever she wanted. I encouraged her to eat cereal every day for breakfast (and even lunch, dinner, and snacks) to take the power away from that food, and I simultaneously taught her how to manage eating cereal in an appropriate portion.
If you, too, struggle with weight issues, you need to learn how to manage your favorite foods, not how to deny yourself of them. By enjoying appropriate portions of whatever you’d like to eat, as often as you’d like, you no longer need willpower to avoid them. Nutrition skill power, not willpower, enhances permanent weight loss without denial and deprivation.
One skill that enhances your ability to eat appropriate food portions is to eat mindfully (not mindlessly). That is, chew the food s-l-o-w-l-y, taste it, and savor each mouthful. By doing so, you’ll need far less quantity to be satisfied, and you’ll be content to eat a smaller portion. By mindfully eating your favorite foods, you will also diffuse the urge to do last-chance eating. (You know, “Last chance to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before I go back on my diet. I’d better have another one!”) You can enjoy more peanut butter (or whatever) when your body becomes hungry again. Nutrition skill power wins in the end.
A second skill that enhances weight loss is to choose more fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and fiber-rich foods that have low glycemic response, that is, that have the smallest effect on blood glucose (see chapter 7). Carbs with a low glycemic index (GI) promote weight loss by promoting satiety and delaying a return of hunger, which contributes to eating less in subsequent meals. High-glycemic carbs (that is, sugary sweets) produce the opposite effect. They trigger the release of more insulin, which can induce hunger and favor storage of fat.
Calorie for calorie, low-glycemic fruits, veggies, and whole grains are more satiating than are high-glycemic sodas, lollipops, and gummy bears. You still need to limit calories, but you can feel fuller on calories from low-glycemic foods. By regularly choosing low-GI carbs, you’ll not only lose weight more easily but also maintain that weight loss more easily. Furthermore, the diet is rich in the foods that can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and hypertension and are consistent with the U.S. dietary guidelines for healthy eating.