While there’s plenty to be said for the tried-and-true strategy of daily calorie counting, many people seem to easily manage their weight by simply following a few “food rules” they’ve set up for themselves. They know which foods (or eating behaviors) get them into trouble – and they also know that as long as they stick to their self-imposed rules, it doesn’t take much more than that to keep their weight in check.
For instance, here are a few of my food rules:
- I don’t drink fruit juice
- I have a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal and snack
- I don’t drink wine during the week
- I don’t eat deep-fried foods
These items are on my personal list because – if I follow them most of the time – they help me keep my weight where I want it to be. I like fruit juice, but the calorie cost is too high, so I eat my fruit rather than drink it. When I make it a “rule” to have a fruit and/or a vegetable with every meal, it’s easy to get all my servings in for the day. And while I could easily enjoy a glass of wine every night, I’m aware of the calories, so I save it for the weekends.
And just for the record, I’m no different from anyone else – I break my rules from time to time. I really do try to avoid fried foods, but I’ve been known to swipe a French fry or two from a friend’s plate in a moment of weakness.
Some people may need time to establish food rules and make them work. Most of my overweight patients, for instance, can name a few foods they won’t eat – but it’s only because they don’t like them. (In case you’re interested, the top three seem to be liver, Brussels sprouts and lima beans). But, when asked if there are foods they avoid because they think they shouldn’t eat them, they’ll say, “that’s my problem – I eat everything!” For these folks, establishing rules can help, but it may not be enough to help them reign in their calories effectively. So, I’ll usually help them identify some of their biggest dietary offenders, have them keep track of their calories for a while, and then work to establish some “rules to live by”.
But when it does work, eating according to your own guidelines can be a great way to establish a healthy approach to eating and weight management. And the rules don’t always have to be about foods you do or don’t eat – your rules might be more behavioral ones, like “I don’t take second helpings.” Or even, “I don’t get up in the middle of the night and have a snack.” (You’d be surprised how many people do that). It’s your personal list of do’s and don’ts – so do what works for you. Many people find that by establishing a few rules, their approach to eating is simplified –and that instead of being a slave to calorie counting, it just feels more natural to simply “eat my way every day”. *
*Written by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD. Susan is a paid consultant for Herbalife.
*Article originally posted on Discover Good Nutrition
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