I’ve referred to Dinneen Diette and her “Eat Without Guilt” approach before, but was never really able to articulate what her approach was exactly, or why it worked. She just wrote this article for her newsletter which pretty much sums it up. This is exactly what my problem was before, and exactly how it ended up changing, and pretty much exactly how I’ve experienced that past several months. I’m sharing her article here because I really did not think, back in January, that any of this was possible. (my comments in red!) When she said that she ate brie and croissants, I felt like she had to be lying, but now… I get it. Thank you, Dinneen!
How a Shift Towards Food Can Create a Shift on the Scale
by Dinneen Diette
A few years ago I had a major shift in the way I thought about food and eating, and it has improved my health and waistline ever since.
In a snapshot, this is how I used to view food:
I associated unhealthy food with pleasure and healthy foods with pain. Yes!! Totally!!
You see, when I was eating healthy food, the whole time I’d be wishing I could be eating a hamburger and fries instead. I’d be thinking about how tasty and juicy it would be, and how THAT was what I wanted, not the salad. Exactly. Salad felt like the “healthy” but less wonderful choice.
And then I’d want some ice cream, and not some fruit for dessert. Yup!!
The Reward Factor
Think about it. Often we ‘reward’ ourselves with something like chocolate or ice cream when we’ve ‘been good’ or ‘deserved a break’ where the salad feels like a punishment. We think “I have to eat this salad to stay thin” and anything remotely guilty becomes something that’s a reward for being good.
We often learn this as children. Remember your parents saying you could have the cake after you finished your dinner? Or if you were quiet in the store Mom said she’d buy you a treat or take you to a burger place or to the ice cream shop? Not only do I remember this (over and over and over) as a child, I am also guilty of doing this as a parent. I’m sorry, girls. REALLY.
So even at a young age we learned that these foods were treats and something we got if we were “good.”
The Stress Factor
When I got older, after a busy day at work I’d come come tired and stressed and would reward myself with junk food, comfort food or a treat. It was almost like a medication, I used it to make myself feel good. Is this sounding familiar to anybody??
The Chore Factor
But this is a problem. If you associate unhealthy foods with pleasure and healthy foods with pain, then eating right will always be difficult. Mentally, you’re telling yourself that eating healthy food is a burden or chore, so what do you expect? Eventually you will lose the battle as we all want to feel good. (emphasis mine)
The Pleasure Principle
When I lived in France, I saw how they took such pleasure in all foods. Eating foods, even healthy ones, became something that I enjoyed, instead of dreading.
And there wasn’t a focus on good foods or bad foods. They do eat a lot of healthy foods, but they look at them as something that nourishes and does the body good. Things like sweets and desserts were looked upon as something to be enjoyed for a special occasion, like a dinner with friends. Not something to be used to soothe. (again, my emphasis. What a concept!!!!!)
They don’t use food so much for comfort either. It’s nourishment and something that gives us energy and vitality.
Shifting My Mindset Towards Food
So I slowly shifted my mindset. The way I eat now is:
All foods are okay, but healthy foods make me FEEL better in the long-run.
I get pleasure out of all foods, even healthy ones. And I don’t look at any food as punishment or pain anymore.
You see, once I started eating better and healthier foods, I started to feel better. I remember one day I went to have a burger and fries (I wanted a taste of home!). Though in the moment I felt good, afterwards I felt stuffed and uncomfortable. Then all afternoon I was tired and not effective in getting any work done. I just wanted to sit in front of the TV and do nothing.
And this would happen over and over. I started to notice how these once pleasurable foods were making me feel like crap. I never noticed this BEFORE because I was *always* eating unhealthy foods, so I always felt like crap! and that felt normal.
So I slowly started to eat better and started to see that the healthy foods WERE actually making me feel better! AMAZING!!!
Same With Exercise
Just like exercise. When you first start, it becomes such a drag. I can’t even describe how painful and dreaded exercise was – for YEARS – even when I had a trainer! It was soooo hard for me. Like you “have to” get out there and walk. But then every week you find you can walk longer, then faster, and before you know it you start looking forward to the exercise (yes, that DOES happen). And that has finally, finally happened for me, too! Yay for endorphins!!! You find your body feeling better and enjoying it. Often when people start to exercise regularly, they wonder why they didn’t do it earlier. The key word there is “regularly.” I don’t think I did it often enough to get any benefits before, just the aches of it.
Ditto for Food
Same with food. The more I ate better, the better I felt. So I started to gravitate towards the healthier foods as I knew it would give me energy and that extra boost to get through the day. No longer did I have those afternoon crashes. And I was so much more productive at work that I found myself having more free time. YES! YES! YES!! (well, I don’t know about the “free time” part…)
There’s Room for All
Now this doesn’t mean I never eat unhealthy foods. I have found there’s a place for all foods in life. It’s about how much and how often I eat them. This is what I love about this approach. It is so… pleasurable and unpunishing and unjudgmental. As I know that healthier foods will make me feel better, I naturally turn to them more often. Yes!
So instead of using food to make you feel better, use it as a way to get energy and you’ll see dramatic changes in your health and waistline (and the scale!) over time.
Change your mindset, and you’ll start to see a shift….everywhere. You said it, Dinneen. Thank you so so much.
© 2009, Dinneen Diette. All Rights Reserved.
Dinneen Diette is founder of Eat Without Guilt.com, a speaker, and contributor to various online health & wellness magazines, newsletters and websites. She helps and guides you to attain the dream of a slimmer, sexier and healthier you! To receive her easy tips, action steps, how-to articles and Special Report for FREE, visit www.EatWithoutGuilt.com.
April 28, 2009 at 10:49 am
This made me think of two things: First, your twitter post when you were miserable in Trader Joe’s and focused on all the things you wanted but couldn’t eat.
Trader Joe’s is always a mini-test for me: I react in one of two ways. Either I focus exclusively on the healthy foods (self-talk: “what’s tasty that will be healthy?”), or I ask myself “what do I want that won’t be good for me?”
Since I’ve begun to realize that this is how I think, it’s been much easier to walk away only with the tasty things that aren’t going to harm me. Putting the blinkers on and sticking to the non-processed, high-quality foods at Trader Joe’s really does put flavorful food on my table.
So the ultimate question for me at Trader Joe’s (the only really tempting grocery I go to, since unhealthy treats available elsewhere just don’t have the same sort of appeal for me) is “how do I want to feel later?” If I ask that question, it’s much harder to buy the things I know I’ll regret once they are consumed. But I really, really have to work to be honest about what I am doing.
Then there was brunch this weekend in Manhattan at Popover’s with my daughter. She and I share the same body type (essentially tiny, but she is still, and I am not so much now). She is a healthy, vibrant young woman, just about exactly the size I was when I was in my 20s and early 30s. At brunch, we both chose “healthy” foods. She has an hereditary cholesterol problem (father’s side) versus my strictly dietary cholesterol issue (when I eat right, my blood values are perfect).
My daughter’s choices would have made her doctor really, really happy; mine were “healthy” but, I realized later, included hundreds of calories more, virtually all due to fat, because I didn’t really think about the details. My daughter, on the other hand, just zipped through the menu choosing exactly what she needed to eat based on her guidelines.
My choosing to not think about those “details” (the sautéed onions, the olives, the whole eggs) on a daily basis accounts perfectly for the difference in our weights. (No, I didn’t experience menopausal weight gain; I gained it the old-fashioned way, by eating too much.)
But what really struck me was that the meal was wonderful, not because there was a lot of good food (there was, for both of us), but because there was a lot of really good company and a little good food, eaten at a leisurely pace. The food was nice, but the experience was what was satisfying. We never eat at home like that; there’s just no time to relax and enjoy meals.
I’m rapidly becoming convinced that, for me, it’s not about the food. It’s almost 100% about the behavior. If I could devote all of my time to finding, preparing, choosing and eating healthy foods in a leisurely fashion, in the company of someone I love (or with a good book!), I’d probably feel far more satisfied with what I eat, and be far healthier.
But finding ways to make that kind of experience sustainable is proving elusive. I can eat right, enjoy food and maintain my blood levels (and weight) where they should be if I do nothing else. But that’s just not a sustainable approach when life also comprises so much else that needs attention, too.
The challenge for me is to find a way to resolve the big issue of “how does healthy eating fit into my life?”. Allowing myself a guilt-free croissant now and then doesn’t even begin to address that issue.
April 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm
Just discovered your blog! Thanks for sharing this article — this is something I’ve been trying to work towards recently.
April 28, 2009 at 8:52 pm
I think the bottom line is we all need to find what works for us, what is sustainable, maintainable, etc. For me, I can do without simple carbs and sugar -in fact I need to, for my diabetes. I can’t do without daily half and half in my coffee, daily cheese. I could not tolerate seeing whole eggs and olives and sauteed onions as “extras” -they are my staples!! If I see that I am not where I want to be, weight-wise, I’d rather “make it up” in burning calories- taking an extra, longer walk or run.
Once I get the tiniest whiff of feeling deprived, I know I’m bound to swing the other way and go overboard. Amazingly, I have not felt deprived since January 17th, and during this period I’ve gone out to eat a LOT, have eaten lots of “good fat,” like avocados, nuts, olives, etc. It’s worked for me so far, and I think everyone needs to find their own personal, maintainable solution.
That’s what I am finding so great about this time around – I haven’t felt deprived, nor have I eaten anything I feel any regret about, other than the first week or so when I was experimenting with buffets and such. But even then, I was learning.
April 28, 2009 at 9:05 pm
Congrats on ‘getting it.’ I’ve been working with this type of approach to eating for over 30 years, on both a professional and personal basis, and I truly believe it’s the only true way to eat to take care of ourselves. Dinneen is a wonderful communicator of this approach.