Restrict versus restraint – which do you prefer?

It seems to me that the majority of weight-loss programmes and diet plans that I hear about really put all their emphasis on what you’re not allowed to eat.  You must cut out this type of food or avoid this food group to lose weight fast.  Your Calorie intake most not exceed this number or one day a week you must avoid food altogether!

In my experience of working with clients who have ‘tried it all’ and yo-yo dieted for years (usually getting bigger each time they abandon the latest fad) I find this sort of approach eventually leads to a poor relationship with food.  Clients often talk to me about food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and I can see that this leads to all sorts of unhelpful thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  When it comes to the ‘good’ food they often eat unlimited quantities without considering how much they may really need.  When it comes to the ‘bad’ food they try to avoid it at all costs; telling themselves that it’s not allowed and that they’re bad if they eat it.  Of course nobody can go without the treats they love for ever so when these foods are eaten they leave strong feelings of guilt.  What I have found with a lot of clients is this feeling of guilt surrounding eating ‘bad’ foods is linked to thoughts of ‘I’ve blown it’ or ‘I’m hopeless’ or ‘I will never/can’t lose weight’ etc.  Unfortunately this combination of unhelpful thinking and guilt, then leads to eating more of the ‘bad’ food or even completely bingeing and feeling horrendous afterwards.  It can end up being a cycle that people get stuck in and often hide away from other people.

Eating treats seems to lead to a cycle of guilt & overeating for a lot of people - wouldn't it be nice to enjoy that one treat then stop there...
Eating treats seems to lead to a cycle of guilt & overeating for a lot of people – wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy that one treat then stop there…

I think a much more helpful approach is to avoid thinking about weight-loss as requiring dietary ‘restriction’.  Instead focus first on what your body needs to be healthy – food is our fuel at the end of the day and all food provides some nutritional contribution.  The important thing is to start by eating regular, balanced meals and you will find you’re less likely to reach for the treats.  Then instead of looking at the treats as ‘bad’ try to think of them as an important part of a healthy diet (I certainly do!).  However with all foods we need to think about our portion sizes and exercise some restraint, particularly with the treats.  Luckily just a few small changes will lead to a nice steady weight-loss – remember slow weight-loss is positive.  Drastic changes and restriction are more likely to lead to fast weight-loss, but are less likely to be as sustainable in the longer term.

This is something I specialise in helping people with – learning to focus on small changes and exercising a certain degree of restraint without complete restriction.  I enjoy helping people change their mindset so that they can finally enjoy food guilt-free, because I love food and I really believe that enjoying all your favourite foods can go hand-in-hand with managing a healthy weight.

If you’re ready to work on getting rid of your guilt around eating then click here for more info on how I could help you or if you have any queries on how we could work together get in touch.

Louise Tanner-Stokes
Hi I'm Louise, a Food Relationship Coach and registered Dietitian with a passion for helping mums to ditch the diets for good. I want to help you feel good about yourself, feel in control of your eating and enjoy your food again - normal food and especially the cake and chocolate!

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