Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eat Or Be Thin: Must We Choose?

A dietitian posed a question on a professional chat board the other day. It went something like this:

 "If you had to choose between eating what you like and being overweight, or giving up foods you like to stay at your ideal weight, which would you choose?"

She was looking to start a fun and interesting back-and-forth between people who said things like

"I would never give up my wine and my cheesecake no matter what--even if I was 100 pounds overweight I wouldn't be as miserable as if I had to give up the foods I love"
or people who said,
 "I would give up everything but water if I had to in order to stay at my ideal weight. Food is never as important as looking and feeling my best 24/7".

But those responses never came.
Because the chat board was for dietitians.

So the responses came in (including my own) like this:

"People don't have to choose one or the other. They can eat foods they like in moderation, and add in a little more exercise when they take in more calories" 
"No one has to give up all their favorite foods forever; it's a matter of limiting them to occasion, planning ahead, and eating more carefully in the days that follow indulgences"
"This is a choice I make each day: some days it's most important to me to eat healthy, exercise enough, and know I'm maintaining my best. Other days it's about a little bit of slack; having dessert or skipping a work out -- and knowing if I don't work a bit harder tomorrow my pants might not button at the end of the week!"

The woman who posed the question made another entry. She expressed her disappointment in us for not having fun with the questions; for making comments that were essentially what she called "slogans we learned in school".

But the fact is, no one has to choose one of these sides and live with it forever.
Many people feel they do have to, and that is so sabotaging to their health, their weight, their diet, and their attitude.
Because they choose to eat with abandon, feeling no other options are available; they feel guilty every time they eat a "bad" food; they feel discouraged every time they get on the scale; they feel out of control when their clothing gets snug; and they feel a sense of failure with the whole cycle.

No one has to make the choice of either/or, all or nothing, fat or hungry, healthy or happy.
And that is one lesson we, as dietitians, are still trying to teach everyone who struggles with their weight.

Now, you know there are three choices: Which do you choose?

(1) Eat whatever you want, whenever you want, never exercise and be overweight and possibly unhealthy

(2) Exercise often, restrict what you eat constantly, avoid any of your favorite indulgences for the rest of your life and maintain an ideal weight

(3) Limit your treats to 4 or 5 a week, eat reasonable portion sizes, exercise 3 to 4 times a week, and be happy, healthy and at a comfortable and pleasing weight


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