It’s probably crossed all of our minds at one point or another, and perhaps we’ve even attempted it: completely cutting out our favorite indulgences from our diet. No looking at, buying, or eating the foods we absolutely love and crave. But has that worked for you, or even for others who have tried this way to weight loss? Maybe it has, and maybe you’re still going. The problem is, it won’t stick. At one point or another, your extreme restriction (yes, it is extreme) will come back to haunt you. It may even undo all the hard work you’ve done to shed a few pounds. How is that possible you ask? I’ve completely avoided desserts and fast food for three months, but the one day that I was out on a road trip, I overloaded on both!!! It’s really quite simple…
Self-control and deprivation: two concepts that nag at all of us when we try to lose weight. They are also the key to the puzzle of restriction. You see, Social Psychologists have suggested that we have a limited capacity for self-control. Once we’ve reached the limit, it becomes harder for us to exercise self-control. It is, as it seems, a limited psychological resource. Deprivation, on the other hand, pushes us to ignore our own rules of self-control & has us doing things we did not necessarily expect. When we’ve been deprived of something we “love” for long enough, we may overreact when exposed to it once again.
Restriction of food by avoiding certain ones, either for the self or for others, triggers both self-control and deprivation issues. It may work short-term, cutting out the delicious foods that make it hard to lose weight, but it is not a solution. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or trying to keep your family from gaining weight, the key is to master self-control and to eat everything in moderation.
When it comes to your personal goals, building self-control takes time and should be done gradually. My weakness is anything sweet. I absolutely love desserts and could eat some every day. When I noticed my weight climbing, I realized that eating dessert every day was no longer an option. My initial reaction was to cut myself off from dessert completely. It worked for a few months, and then I went on vacation. Dessert was everywhere and, because I had not learned self-control, I found myself eating a great deal too much dessert. The result? The needle went back up on the scale, and I had to start all over again.
This time, I decided to try eating dessert in moderation. I allowed myself dessert every once in a while. It was hard at first, because I was used to eating some whenever the chance presented itself. Within a month, however, it became much easier. Dessert became just another food group that was a part of my diet. Sometimes, I would prefer to eat a piece of chocolate every day instead of dessert at the end of the week. It gave me a sense of sweet tooth satisfaction, but did not hurt my weight goals.
The walk-away lesson is this: Learning self-control is possible. Once you put your mind to it, you can start pushing yourself gradually towards your ultimate goal of control. Just keep in mind that you have to be patient and persistent. Self-control is a powerful thing, and takes effort to attain. Be sure, however far you go with your control, that you do not overdo it and end up at the opposite extreme of obsessive eating and calculation!
When it comes to your kids, self-control over eating is very important. They are still young, and are still in the process of learning how to navigate the world. If they seem to enjoy junk food too much, do not resort to restriction. Research has shown that there exists a correlation between restriction and overweight/obesity. It also suggests that parental control of eating can lead to the development of eating disorders. Can you avoid pushing your kids in either direction? Yes!
Just as you’ve taught yourself self-control and have avoided complete deprivation, so too teach your children. Show and present them with the right portion sizes. (Ask your weight loss coach about them!) Make junk food an occasional treat and always pack them nutritious and delicious lunches. Be flexible! If your kid really wants an ice cream bar on a day when you’ve got fruit salad for dessert, give it to him. You can use this moment to teach him about balance and trade-offs in eating.
More important than these suggestions is the focus on teaching your kids how to make healthy choices on their own. The best way to do that? Modeling. Be a good example and they will follow suit. Don’t be too restrictive in your eating and they will learn that you can enjoy all types of foods. Make healthy food fun and enjoyable and they will learn to love it. Make good health your motivator and your kids will realize that their eating is important for their health. If you have picky kids, show them how you’ve overcome some picky choices of your own.
There are a myriad of ways in which parents can teach their children how to eat and choose healthy. Restriction is not one of them. Doing this right, both for yourself and for them, takes a gradual yet steady process. Learning self-control may be hard for all of you, but it can be done one tiny step at a time. And always remember that your ultimate goal is to live a life of moderation. Eating everything under the sun without hurting yourself!