Banishing Black or White Thinking– Or why “All or Nothing” is not the way to approach a Healthful Lifestyle
Too often, women are caught up in “black or white” thinking when it comes to weight loss. In our never ending quest for perfection and beauty, a high fat meal or a week without exercise can spiral downwards into feelings of failure that lead us to “fall off the wagon,” so to speak. It is never the occasional treat that causes weight gain–rather a consistent set of behaviors engaged in over time.
It is “black or white” thinking that leads us to label some foods as bad and some as good. We attach morals to food–feeling virtuous when we eat something “good”–and punishing ourselves when we eat something “bad”.
What we neglect to do, is see that all foods are neither “black” nor “white.” Nothing edible is “good” or “bad.” Chocolate is full of antioxidants that are helpful in ridding our body of free radicals that can contribute to the growth of cancer. Fatty foods like avocado and nuts contain heart healthy oils that help to prevent disease and raise “good cholesterol” levels. Cheeses provide protein and calcium…and the list goes on.
Sometimes, it is easy to view healthful eating as restrictive, rather than a quest for variety. Our “black or white” thinking causes us to focus on what is forbidden rather than what is possible. A healthier mindset would be to see potential for variety and pleasure in our meals.
A healthful diet offers brilliant bursts of colors, textures, and flavors. Fresh and juicy ripe fruits to satisfy our sweet cravings; crisp and crunchy vegetables to provide savory tastes to our palates. Lean proteins prepared in low fat ways–grilled and flavorful meats seasoned with herbs. Heart healthy fats like mellow avocado and nuts to provide satiety and added nutrition.
Over the years, I’ve seen images of our food guide pyramid that range from a cornucopia to a clinical chart. I gravitate towards the images of abundance when counseling patients for health. So many foods to choose from! Nothing is forbidden or off limits.
If you select the majority of your foods from whole grains, fresh produce, and lean proteins, then you have some wiggle room for a glass of wine, a bite of gourmet cheese, and small amounts of high quality sweets.
I urge you to eat for enjoyment. Choose the best quality foods that satisfy your appetite. Don’t punish yourself for enjoying the occasional treat. You can always start again at the next meal or snack. Remember: nothing is forbidden. It is merely a matter of “how much” or “how often”.
I find that when I am eating whole foods, I am generally much more satisfied. However, when my diet is “off balance” and I am eating more processed foods that are stripped of flavor and provide less satiety, then I am more likely to eat mindlessly.
If I notice a spike in hunger and an increased need to eat, then I get myself back on track with fresh fruits and vegetables. I add a cup of berries to my usual whole grain toast with honey for breakfast. I snack on raw veggies with my sandwich at lunch, or build a salad full of bright and satisfying produce. I make soups full of whole grains and dark greens. I eat lean proteins and provide volume with low calorie vegetables. Soon, my body finds what it is looking for and the need to snack on processed foods that are tasteless and empty goes away.
Your body will find a balance if you fuel it mindfully. You merely have to listen to your own hunger and feed yourself healthy foods on a regular basis.
There will be days when nothing goes according to plan and you find yourself discouraged. Instead, focus on starting again as soon as possible and try not to dwell. It is what we do over time that matters.
Remember: There are no bad foods! If you strive to eat healthfully each day, you will have plenty of room in your nutrition plan for some treats.