Finding Balance: Dieting vs. Overindulging

Finding Your Food Consumption

Guest Post by Lindsay Krasna, GRIT by Brit Registered Dietitian

A client of mine that’s been struggling with her weight recently asked me how she can achieve a healthy body and optimize my health without “dieting” or “restricting.” She has been trying to understand the difference between these concepts for much of her life, and I believe she’s not alone in her confusion! In my work as a nutrition counselor, I come across this all this all the time. Our society’s diet-obsessed culture and conflicting media messages about nutrition make the answer to this question very unclear. Eggs are good for you one day, and bad the next. Low-fat is definitely the way to go one day, no wait, low-calorie, or low-carb the next. Don’t eat above your daily Weight Watchers points allotment, or else you’ll gain weight. Gosh, how discouraging this can be!

So really, how does one find a sustainable approach to eating well and maintaining a healthy body, without going crazy and depriving one’s self of their nutrient needs? How can one healthfully set boundaries around their intake of less nutrient dense foods while honoring their tastes and body’s nutritional requirements?

I believe the answer comes down to blending our natural, intuitive cues with our cerebral knowledge about nutrition.

Here are a few definitions to make these concepts more clear:

  • Dieting: consistently following a set of (oftentimes unscientifically based) rigid food rules or guidelines while ignoring your body’s intuitive cues and/or food preferences.
  • Overindulging: consistently eating beyond your body’s fullness cues for non-physical reasons, and/or consistently choosing foods that contribute limited nutrition value.
  • Healthy eating: consistently blending basic nutrition principles (cerebral knowledge) with your body’s intuitive hunger-fullness cues and taste preferences (internal knowledge).

Notice I use the term *consistently* in all 3 definitions. This is because it is totally normal and natural to under- or over-eat from time to time! Intake can vary in quality and quantity in the face of strong emotions, unplanned events, lack of time, special occasions, etc. As long as it’s not a regular reoccurrence. It’s also important not to overlook the fact that there are all kinds of environmental factors out there that can detract from the reliability of our internal cues, and interfere with our ability to eat mindfully and trust our bodies’ natural intuitive cues. Some examples include expanding portion sizes at restaurants, artificial sweeteners and food additives, eating on the go, technology distractions, and social pressures — to name a few). BUT, if you can learn to become more aware of these influences, you will have the power to offset them, and get back to listening to our body’s natural cues. A good nutritionist can help you work towards this.

Sounds simple, I know. And it really is. Not saying it’s easy though. It comes down to practice and trust. Trusting your body’s own internal regulation system is the key to good health. It IS possible to pay mind to good nutrition principles, while still honoring your body. I’ve seen it happen, and experienced it for myself. When you can start connecting your head with your stomach…. This is where the magic of real nutrition happens!

*Disclaimer: this message is targeted for a generally healthy individual. If you have a specific condition such as diabetes, kidney disease, a GI disease, etc., you will certainly need to follow more specified dietary rules to optimize your health. 

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  1. I’ve been eating ‘CLEAN’ since July 12th and I’ve lost probably more than 6lbs now and it’s still coming off. I don’t have too much to lose but I do have concentrated fat around my belly which has always been the hardest to budge. I’ve been into fitness for some time now but couldn’t shift the belly bulge because I liked my food and chocolate too much. I finally got sick of it and thought I’m not having a bulging belly for summer again.

    I’m not following any plan per Se but i adhere to the EAT CLEAN rules as much as possible. I’ve tried many ‘diets’ – including the low carb, which I felt absolutely awful on, expensive and unsustainable. I really don’t believe the human body should be starved of that much carbs. Nonsense. Anyways, I’ve switched refined carbs, such as white pastas over to wholewheat/spelt pastas, and the number one rule is NO ADDED SUGAR/ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS.

    I think it’s the removal of added sugar that has helped me lose. I think sugar is the main culprit – it’s sweet, addictive, you can’t see it when added to foods, it’s refined, has tons of calories and the body sees it as a toxin and reacts to it as such. Some call it the ‘White Poison.’

    People just would not believe how much added sugar there is in the things we buy – jars of sauces, tins, anything. I had to give away a lot. However, oddly after a few days I have had no cravings for sweet things as such, but I did have a piece of chocolate birthday fudge cake since it was my birthday last week. 🙂 Many healthy nutritional programs advocate a cheat meal once a week so I treated it as such. Although most of the time I’ve been happy not to cheat. Though I’m sure it helps many people psychologically.

    This is the only nutritional plan I’ve felt good on, where I have no hunger pangs and where I wake up each morning and my belly looks smaller. So far, it’s absolutely working for me. And there are tons of resources and recipes online for EATING CLEAN. 🙂

    1. Hey Linzi! Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thorough reply! The points you outlined aboved are indeed true. Personally, I struggle with my consuption of refined sugar – I know I’ve got to consciously cut back. In fact, I’m going to try to “eat clean” this week. It’s so good to hear that you’ve had success by eating clean. I think that many of the fad diets that completely eliminate carbs, or some type of food are simply unsustainable. Please keep in touch and all the best to you! luv, Brit

      1. You’re welcome Brit! It’s definitely a hot topic. I read for ages how ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ but it’s only since last month I was able to put that into action. I came back from a holiday in the sun disgusted with my belly… really it’s the only part of my body i dislike. I workout almost on a daily basis and I’ve toned up in all areas but the belly would not budge much. So, I started this eat clean thing and haven’t looked back. It’s really not difficult to implement if you can just get passed the refined carbs, sugar thing. But it’s good to keep in mind that a treat once a week is fine.

        I’m a major chocolate lover and pastries too…. but I think my will power this time to get what I want has been able to beat any cravings. When I see a cake or something I like I just think to myself how I’ll look if I keep this up…. or I tell myself that I’ll have it as a treat when the the time comes. But really I think the more you carry on with this the less you crave sweet things.

        I found that reading about sugar helped me psychologically too. We all love sweet things, but when you read about how it reacts in our bodies you may think twice. I’m not talking about naturally occurring sugars here either… i.e. in fruit… just to clarify. Oh, I love honey and it’s fine in moderation. If i bake a cake I use that instead of sugar. Does the job nicely.

        Oh, and one of my secret weapons is WHEY PROTEIN. I use natural whey protein – unflavoured and absolutely nothing artificial added…. I use that to make up shakes using anything from bananas, natural peanut butter, flaxseeds etc. I either use almond milk (can be expensive) or water. Tastes good.

        And the other secret weapon is OATMEAL, which I usually flavour with fruit jam sweetened with apple juice concentrate… tastes yummy.

        I’ll definitely keep in touch regarding my progress…. it’s all new for me but it’s working and I have no hunger pangs and I feel good!!!