In the News: More of Us Happily Balanced Between Living and Dieting


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

The French playwright Molière said "Il faut manger pour vivre et non pas vivre pour manger." ("We must eat to live and not live to eat.")

That quotation comes from his play "L'Avare" ("The Miser") and provides a fitting comparison. Watching weight is, in a sense, a corporeal form of frugality. We count calories like pennies, keeping a white-knuckled grip on our shopping carts as Scrooge would his billfold. We spend much of our lives trying to find a balance between gorging and fasting, and for many of us, that means diets, calorie counting, and meals filled with stress, agony and guilt.

Living to eat left our society in the middle of an obesity crisis, so we started living to not eat, by turning to every witch doctor, quick fix and magic potion we could. Now, according to a New York Times article, we're starting to find a balance.

More of us are switching gears into what's called "positive eating;" that is, we're including healthy, whole foods on our dinner plates, nixing the restrictive diets and turning away food analogs that replace "forbidden" treats.

We've realized—after experimenting with shakes, bars and packets of chocolate-flavored powder--that there is no Balm of Gilead in the world of weight loss and maintenance. (And that includes "positive eating," too.)
NYT's Tara Parker-Pope notes a few other shifts in our eating habits:
"Even the Calorie Control Council, which represents makers of commercial diet foods, notes the percentage of people who are dieting has declined — to 29 percent in 2007 from 33 percent in 2004.

"And there are other indicators of a shift in eating habits. In May, the market research firm Information Resources reported that 53 percent of consumers say they are cooking from scratch more than they did just six months ago, in part, no doubt, because of the rising cost of prepared foods.

"Sales of organic foods have surged, and the number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled since the mid-1990s."

The story poses the question of "whether better eating can translate into weight loss."

It worked for Nicole. And it has worked for others, too. (Will it work for you? You're the only one who can answer that question.)

I spent my teens and early 20s cycling between fasting and gluttony, and I've found that while the ideal maintenance plan for my waistline is calorie counting, the ideal plan for my sanity is moderation and this positive eating concept (though I don't call it that).

Have you changed the way you eat? Are you cooking at home more? Have you sworn off "diet" foods or added healthy fats (think nuts, avocados) back into your diet?

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  • 43
    I've definitely changed my eating habits since beginning to Spark. It's given me many more great ideas for cooking and combining veggies, whole grains, and fruits. I've always cooked from scratch but used to feel I had to have a meat and a starch. Now guess what, I'm often happy with neither as long as there is protein in the picture. I eat a lot of fish and love tofu when seasoned up nicely. Main struggle is to plan ahead so that when I'm tired, I don't lapse into old habits or make my dinner from cheese and crackers...
    The one prepared thing I use is Lean Cuisine frozen dinners which often save me when exhausted. No fast food, no sodas, and I'm becoming less and less tempted by salty snacks... - 5/31/2012   2:05:40 PM
  • 42
    I love my seasonal vegies and fruit!
    Always have.
    I never liked the taste of diet foods, fake stuff tastes really gross to me.
    I gain fat if I don't exercise and eat more than 1 or 2 take aways a week. - 3/26/2010   6:59:03 PM
  • 41
    YES. YES. YES! Plus, I'm way happier with my daily dose of avocado :) MmmmmMMMm! - 8/3/2009   6:11:42 PM
  • 40
    I have found that eating a meal with more than one item is the way I stop the snacking. I used to eat one item, eat one more, then have something else and it extended all day. Now I put multiple foods on my plate and eat them at one time. Then I stop. It has really cut down on the constant eating. - 2/5/2009   11:04:42 AM
  • 39
    Yes! I stay away from diet foods now and I'm definitely eating at home a lot more often. - 12/21/2008   10:48:12 AM
    I don't believe only 30% of people are dieting. Most people here are technically "dieting", but now its the in thing to call it a lifestyle change. If they re-did the poll and asked "are you making a lifestyle change to lose weight" I think it would be most people.. - 12/4/2008   7:46:04 AM
    I have never look at food labels before. I am now starting to be more aware of what I'm putting in my body - 9/30/2008   11:16:16 AM
  • CLAWW855
    I am more conscience of what I eat, and am definitely cooking alot more from scratch. I am going to the farmers market more frequently. What is surprising to me is how good the food tastes!! I don't feel the least bit deprived. - 9/29/2008   1:59:54 PM
  • 35
    I have started cooking more and trying to use whole wheat products such as bread and pasta. I am not a vegetable eater by any means but am even trying to incorporate them into more of my meals. I try to freeze leftovers and use them for lunches instead of buying frozen meals which are higher in fats and sodium. I wouldn't say that I am a healthy eater but I do try to make healthier choices. - 9/29/2008   8:42:07 AM
  • 34
    I have definitely switched over to eating more nutritious, whole foods and reincorporated healthy fats and other foods I thought I couldn't eat anymore (bananas, potatoes, etc). I cook a lot from scratch. It's working; I don't cycle between fasting and bingeing anymore and I am actually losing weight. - 9/26/2008   7:42:54 PM
    Although overweight since about forty, I've always eaten a pretty good diet, but even healthful foods can make you fat if you eat too much of them, based on my experience. For me, losing weight meant portion control and exercise--and not giving up foods l love. I plan my eating each day and juggle what I want to meet my goals, which means when calories are two high and/or my percentage of protein, carbs, and fats are way off, I cut out something or substitute something. Spark's Food Track is such a terrific tool for me. Thanks, as always, to Spark! - 9/26/2008   12:57:26 PM
    I am back to cooking from scratch and feeling better everyday. Good blog. - 9/26/2008   10:27:20 AM
  • 31
    This probably sounds completely insane....but I am eating more, and am obsessed with food now (a good obsessed, reading labels constantly, think ahead to my day before I eat something, don't want to go over my calories, making batches of soups for lunches that I freeze, etc). BUT I am losing weight !!! I feel better, move more, sleep better. I plan my lunches and breakfast inadvance (I never used to eat breakfast before I joined spark). I have healthy food in my cubicle at work, I have carry very little cash on me so that I am not tempted to run to McDonalds or the vending machine. - 9/26/2008   9:19:34 AM
  • 30
    I've absolutely changed the way I eat. My diet isn't perfect, but I have certainly stopped using diet foods and now I just choose nutritious foods. I am slowly eliminating most processed food from my diet and I am eating much healthier. My body has thanked me with a 62-pound weight loss. - 9/26/2008   9:11:02 AM
  • 29
    I've been cooking 'from scratch' for quite awhile now to include stewing my own tomatoes! It's not easier, its not less expensive. Bottom line, it's healthier!
    Good blog! - 9/26/2008   7:39:45 AM
  • 28
    I am also very aware of the foods and liquids I consume. - 9/26/2008   6:24:54 AM
    Since I stopped dieting , I have lost 40+ pounds! My SIL asked what diet I was doing and I told her I wasn't, I journal. Even when I eat junk I just reach my calorie intake for the day and stop eating. With exercise added in It's not a problem. I also make more veggie dishes and have added beans and nuts for healthier protien. - 9/26/2008   5:59:49 AM
  • 26
    I'm much more aware of what I eat now. - 9/26/2008   12:37:00 AM
  • 25
    Since I joined SP I have been adding the good fats into my foods and I am cooking at home.
    I am eating more healthy that ever thanks to SP.

    Keep up the good work on these great articles. - 9/26/2008   12:13:55 AM
  • 24
    You mean I'm not the only one that gave up on faux brownies and faux entrees?
    - 9/25/2008   10:21:34 PM
  • 23
    I've been doing all that for years, I'm just doing it better now. I am alone now so it is easier to follow my own eating choices and habits. I don't stop eating things I like just eat less and less often. - 9/25/2008   10:01:34 PM
    I've done all listed, starting with adding Spices to my cooking that I hadn't tried before. Also, sneaking fruits & nuts onto Salads. And we definitely cook & eat at home more. - 9/25/2008   6:54:52 PM
  • 21
    My Hubby loves to plan meals as well as shop & prepare them too. It's his cup of tea so we declared him our Cookee yrs ago. I am the Cooker (I eat & clean up)!

    However; his frequent business travels leaves me on my own. He used to cook ahead for me until we both realized we only do leftovers out of guilt - so let the waste go to our waists. Now I go vegetarian when he is gone.

    I guess that makes me a Flexitarian. It has helped me find new products that are great new additions to both of our diets. - 9/25/2008   3:25:14 PM
  • 20
    When my husband is out of town for work, I'm able to use more whole and less processed foods, but when he's home he craves the stuff. So I have to bounce between eating the way I want to when he's gone and being very restrictive and careful when he's home due to the change in type of food. I don't buy organic but I cook simple meals for myself that don't always include meat. My husband could never live that way, so this is my compromise. I really do feel better eating clean and I'm hopeful that bit by bit, I'll be able to bring my husband around to this way of eating so we can both live a healthier lifestyle. We have always done a lot of cooking in my house, but it's WHAT we cook that separates us. - 9/25/2008   2:49:57 PM
  • 19
    We are eating at home more. We are also eating smarter. I no longer drink diet Coke although I cannot convince my husband to stop. If he does not drink diet Coke he has something with sugar in it so that proves counter productive. We eat more fruits and veggies than we used too. I have cut down on the amount of meat I eat. It is a lifestyle change at this point, I make decisions without having to do a lot of thought and usually the decisions are the right decisions. I have been on Spark since January and have make great progress. - 9/25/2008   2:48:08 PM
  • 18
    We ate out about 5 days a week before I started SP. Bad for our health & weight. But now I do more cooking at home with fresh ingredients. I make my bread when possible & Oatmeal is a favorite breakfast food. I still induge in a Subway Sandwhich or even a french fry or two. But that is a splurge that I can enjoy much more now. Plus my taste buds have changed. I like the taste of fresh foods much more than before..and I am going to be sad when the last ripe tomato is gone from my garden. - 9/25/2008   1:28:47 PM
  • 17
    I make all our suppers and the children use sliced meats not processed meats for lunches. We don't usually buy meat from the store, nor vegetables. We process our meat from Chickens that we buy as chicks and we grow our own veggies. My family also hunts so I know what is added to our meat. We do have to buy milk, fruits, and bread. I need to learn how to make our own bread so I know what is going into that also. So, we do eat rather healthy........just not enough exercise and that is where I am increasing and making sure I do more of. I have switched to Canola, Olive, or Grapeseed oils. For desserts we do puddings, apple dishes. Prices on fruit does limit the fresh fruit around here....but, I watch the ads and use coupons. - 9/25/2008   12:33:58 PM
  • 16
    Very limited food budget, there are foods that I can't buy because of cost, such as alot of "fresh fruits and vegetables" and have to buy economic frozen packaging, taking just what is need for the meals and keeping the rest for another meal in freezer, otherwise it will spoil. But am eating healther by planning out meals. - 9/25/2008   12:17:51 PM
    I eat anywhere from 4-6 small meals a day and most of them cooked from scratch, I make veg. soups and they make great low cal. low carb lunches. Cooking can be fun if you make it that way and trying new recipes is exciting. - 9/25/2008   11:30:01 AM
  • 14
    Since I moved in with my boyfriend and we've budgeted our food costs, I've been cooking nearly every night. Granted that sometimes "cooking" means Hamburger Helper, but we've been very careful not to eat any fast foods. And this hasn't had anything to do with dieting, but rather just cost reasons.

    Since this move, I've noticed changes in myself. I eat what I want. I "indulge" every once in awhile and eat "bad" foods, but when I track my calories, I'm still in my range because when I eat these "bad" foods, it takes less to fill me up.

    So I truly believe that if you only eat when you're hungry and stop eating when you're full (remember to chew slowly), you can eat whatever you want in moderation. It's time to use food as fuel and you can even enjoy what you eat as long as you remember not to overfill the tank. (I think of it as overfilling my gas tank, lots of money lost!) - 9/25/2008   11:28:29 AM
  • 13
    We have been cooking from scratch for years and shunning most processed foods. Moderation is the problem for me. When I forget to pay attention to how much I am eating, I overeat the good foods. When I get lazy, I will eat whatever is in front of me, even white foods. I went through the "diet" foods very briefly when I realized I was just substituting one evil with another. Now I snack on nuts and fruits and veggie rather than protein shakes, energy bars, etc. - 9/25/2008   11:19:03 AM
  • 12
    I started training for a half marathon and it has really driven home the facts that food is a fuel and how it affects the body - it has been an amazing last few months! I always felt diet was a four letter word and it was about lifestyle but was horrible at practicing what I preached. Now I look at food from a different perspective - sure I have bad days - but 80% of the time I am consistent - which is amazing and cool! - 9/25/2008   11:09:01 AM
  • 11
    I'm finally eating 7 times a day and never feel hungry and have lost 156 pounds. need I say more. I exercise 6 days a week now , 3 years ago i could barely walk a block.
    Eating healthy and making healthy choices is the only way to live.

    Kitt - 9/25/2008   10:59:02 AM
    I cook from scratch and have done it for the past 3 yrs or so ...and i also lost 40 lbs yeah, eating healthy helps wt weight loss :) - 9/25/2008   10:58:21 AM
    The thing I love about the lifestyle of sparkpeople is for the first time in 30 years I am not dieting. I chose to eat what I want and I don't feel deprived. It makes losing weight so much less stressful. - 9/25/2008   10:42:55 AM
  • 8
    We're slowly getting into the habit of using more whole grains. It's more than tripled what we used to eat but the kids haven't completely OKed whole wheat pastas yet but I get by using 1/2 and 1/2 mixed. - 9/25/2008   10:40:27 AM
  • 7
    I have changed my eating habits. I eat alot more produce and fresh meats then I used to. I used to live off the fast and easy pre fixed foods. Shortly before SP I started wondering what was in these things and would look up some of the chemicals. Finding out what was in the foods made me swear them off. Now I cook almost every night. I go to the butcher and get smoked meats for days that I dont have time to cook. Salad is now my fast food.
    Portion control is hard with the pre packaged stuff. I never really knew if it was really 2 servings in the package or 2.5 or 4.
    I will occasionaly use a prepackaged side dish. But it is MUCH less then I used to. - 9/25/2008   10:23:21 AM
  • 6
    Americans seem to have a love/hate relationship with food - either it's "good for you" and tastes awful, or it's "bad" and tasty. So very not true!

    Portion size is so much more important than food content to me. I would much rather eat 1 oz of really good, extra-sharp cheddar coupled with some fresh French bread and a 4-oz glass of red wine than gorge on the same calorie equivalent of fat-free cheese on low-calorie squishy "diet" bread and a low-carb beer or whatever.

    Let's bring artistry and taste back to our food! Let's bring back old traditions of leisurely meals of reasonable portion sizes of homemade, nutritionally balanced, tasty food! - 9/25/2008   9:55:07 AM
  • MICHAELA2780
    I never was in to "diet" foods...except in college when I tried Slim Fast for a few months...but due to the economy, I am definitely cooking from scratch more often...and since I started changing my lifestyle and losing weight, I have definitely added healthy foods in to my diet, without completely giving my indulgences. - 9/25/2008   9:33:09 AM
  • 4
  • 3
    Before I got married I ate mostly veggies, fresh fruits, chicken breasts, and pasta. My hubby liked having a bread and a fruit and dairy with every dinner and usually required a snack afterwards. I gained 60 lbs living with him. Since leaving I've been eating more veggies, leaner meats, beans, etc. and have lost 13 lbs so far. I'm not counting calories on a daily basis, just eating a lot of produce. I've also found that I don't feel I need to eat everything on my plate every time. Since I only cook for me, I don't have a problem wiping what I don't eat into a container for the next day. - 9/25/2008   9:10:23 AM
  • 2
    I've always cooked at home, we rarely go out for dinner. I have started buying whole grain product and I have noticed that I always look at the labels of things. I hardly ever looked at them before. I always try to offer healthy snacks to my daughter. I try to always have the good stuff she likes, carrots,apples, bananas ect... I do let her eat some junk but i've noticed that I do it in moderation now.
    I've also noticed that I always grab the small plates for myself, so that I can trick my mind into thinking that I'm eating a lot. I'm slowly changing ,which is good I think. - 9/25/2008   9:05:07 AM
  • 1
    i eat more whole foods, and try to minimize use of processed foods (i still love my fiber one bars!). before i got married, i ate frozen dinners almost every night. i'd die a happy woman if i never had to eat another one again. - 9/25/2008   8:58:29 AM

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