The Moderation Myth
Monday, December 07, 2009
Over the past 5 (I'm going to have to change that to 6 soon since I started this process on January 5, 2004!) 6 years I've developed a lot of tools and tricks to help me lose weight and keep it off. I've had to do this. And you have to do it too. There is almost nothing of my pre-January 2004 lifestyle that contributed to health - most of it, in fact, can firmly be looked at as a direct cause of or, at the least, contributing factor to, my obesity. And so, a lot of things have had to change, permanently.
One of the hardest things I've had to do is eliminate foods from my diet. Now, if you read all of the helpful dieticians' advice out there, most of it will tell you moderation in all things is the key to successful weight loss. But, somehow they neglect to define moderation.
When I've lost weight in the past, I've used moderation - instead of a full piece of cake, I'd have a half. Instead of a full chocolate bar, I'd eat a third. Instead of french fries with gravy, I'd have french fries plain - and leave a few on my plate. I'd do these three things on the same day and feel virtuous with my restraint. Technically, that's moderation - I was certainly eating less than I had before but I was still eating way too much and didn't lose weight. I'd also spend the next week sucking back every piece of sugar laced drug I could find - jonesing for that other half of cake like an addict selling her soul for a hit of cocaine.
The other issue with moderation is that I can't moderate all foods - I can't, for example, eat a single potato chip - not even if it is the only potato chip in the house and the corner store up the street is completely sold out. I have a car. I know where the grocery store is. I cannot eat potato chips in moderation because I have no control over potato chips. They hold all the power. I think most of us with obesity (and many who are overweight) have foods that are more powerful than we are; that trigger binge eating and the resultant psychic stress. My list is a mile long - chips, french fries, gummy bears, M&Ms, peanuts, pistachios, chocolate chip cookies, white chocolate, fudge, pizza, marshmallows, shortbread cookies, raspberries, etc... raspberries? Yes, they make the list - I've been known to eat 2 quarts in a single sitting - check out the NI for that indulgence!
The list is very long - I wish it weren't. I also wish I were a millionaire and could spend my days oil painting so, I've learned that I can't have everything. And so I have foods from which I abstain. No moderation is currently possible.
To me, moderation applies simply to portion control of healthy foods - not trigger foods. Until I learned that moderation meant 3 ounces of steak was okay, 8 ounces not so much, I could diet until I was blue in the face and sabotage my efforts at every turn. I would LOVE to have a normal relationship with food - where a bowl of Cheetos sitting on a table at a party would NOT call to me all night making me anxious as I desperately employ all of my non-food reward tricks to avoid eating them. Cheetos can't be moderated either. Dr. Kessler (author of "The End of Overeating" ) assures me that, with the passage of time and successful application of strategies to reward myself for not indulging, I'll be able to approach a bowl of Cheetos with confidence. I'm doubtful - maybe that'll happen within the next 6 years! In the meantime, I'll abstain.
I'm also learning that many, many, many things that I used to eat aren't worth the price of admission whether they are in moderate amounts or not. My dietary history is filled with so many over-processed, chemical laden catastrophes masquerading as food that I feel a little queasy recalling their presence in my life. There simply is no point in eating these "foods" in any quantity ever again.
Initially it was hard to give up favourite foods. KFC is my drug of choice. I struggled with striking things from my life - and I took a long time doing so, eliminating one food at a time and making sure it was "out of my system" before taking another off my list. (I wrote a long blog about foods I no longer eat in my www.fatchickthinbody.blogspot.
com blog if you're interested) It's one of the reasons it took me so long to lose 85 pounds but is THE reason I know I will never be fat again.
So - moderation may be a useful carrot to dangle in front of those new to weight loss: "Come on, it won't be so bad, you can still eat all of your favourties, I promise" but I'm not a fan. For me, it's an unsustainable illusion and I have 20 years of chronic dieting and obesity to back that up. Good foods in moderation and exercise in moderation - those are the moderate things I can live with.
January 11, 2010
Ilove this contribution from Lauren145 who wrote:
"To add to the discussion about moderation which you introduced in your blog I found the following quote:
Extremism in pursuit of permanent lifestyle change is no vice. Moderation in defense of failure to change is no virtue.
This comes from a book I read recently called "The Nine Truths about Weight Loss" by Daniel Kirschenbaum. He claims that people who want to control their weight permanently have to approach it the way athletes approach their training. Many of us have very resistant biology and will not lose any other way. "
I'm am so tired of being accused by my friends and family of being "obsessed" because of my rigid approach to eating. While I doubt I will ever be erudite enough to quote this precisely correct, I may have it printed on business cards to hand out when words fail.