“Eating styles are coping mechanisms.” This is a statement I often make to my overweight clients in my Latham, NY office, just north of Albany. I go on to say, “When we are bored, food is stimulating. When we are anxious, the foods we chose can calm our nerves. If we are lonely, food gives us comfort. If there is something we want to avoid, food is a satisfying distraction. If we long for validation, food is our reward. Food choices reflect our cultural heritage, and family traditions. In other words, food is everything, and because of that, losing weight is complex and difficult.”
Now that spring weather has finally begun to arrive in the Northeast, many of us are thinking about wearing more revealing clothing than we wore in the cold months. This leads people to want to be rid of the extra pounds they acquired during the winter, ASAP. I explain to clients that deprivation diets only work when people are on them. If people lose weight quickly, sticking to a punishing plan, they are relieved after they reach their goal because they want to again eat the foods from which they abstained. This approach destines most people to a life of yo-yo dieting, with wild swings in their weight. They are either on a diet, or completely off that diet.
My approach to this dilemma is to completely abandon the entire concept of dieting. I tell people no food needs to be forbidden. Forbidden foods become too powerful, plaguing us until we succumb and binge. Rather, I focus on a caloric budget, mindful eating, and moderate exercise. All of us are quirky when it comes to food. So, clients and I brainstorm to develop individualized strategies, tailored to each person’s particular needs and wants. With an emphasis on delicious produce and whole grains, while minimizing animal protein, there can be room for treats one would normally eliminate on a traditional weight reduction diet. My goal is to create a plan that is so pleasurable, so successful, that there is no reason to abandon it. Here’s to your good health!