How do you eat good food without going overboard?

Well, I have completed my mission and posted a blog from all three of my sisters and my best food friend!! I had hoped this blog would be a community effort and had originally pitched both Eric and Elisha (my sister in San Diego, registered dietitian and foodie, who guest blogged below) to do a blog that all three of us write, since we have an equal love of food, with varying degrees of view points on food related topics. However the busy lives they both have prevented them from putting in a full commitment, and until my employment status changed I had been talking about this for months, without action. My sister and I discuss food fairly often and while we disagree on some topics, I do listen to her (ok, sometimes I pretend I don’t) and I do highly value her opinion. So as I ventured into a break up with sugar and an attempt to cut out most processed foods, I thought about how I can continue to review restaurants and cook for this blog while not completely indulging in the food I love. And I am proud to say, that three weeks into my new food habits, I have posted some great stuff, exercised more and lost 9 lbs.

I hope you enjoy her post!!

So Steph asked me to write a little on her blog. Being that inspiration tends to only come to me in the kitchen, I insisted on a question. Her burning question: How do you eat good food without going overboard? My first response: a long article, women’s interest magazine style, presenting diets that I think are helpful for someone who overeats along with the pros and cons of them. Proofreading my little schpeel I thought again about Stephanie’s question. I then proceeded to delete the entire thing. My second response… you just stop eating.
Steph’s question is a good one. It’s the focus of a growing body of research and gets public health programs funded. It’s elusiveness keeps hospitals full with people suffering from obesity-related chronic diseases and is the basis of a thriving commercial weight loss industry. The approaches resulting from all of this focus run the gamut from very useful and simplistic methods like halving your oversized restaurant meal or eating more in the morning so you eat less throughout the day, to pharmacological interventions that control your appetite, to surgeries that physically restrict how much food you can put in your stomach.
The complexity of this question lies in the seemingly endless factors that play into what and how much we put into our mouths. Unfortunately, none of these factors have been found to play a strong enough role that just one of them can be used as the golden answer. There is an intricate system of compounds released from your GI tract and fat cells that tell you when its time to eat and when its time to stop. There are the habits that we grew up with. Your parents didn’t serve vegetables at your meals or family gatherings were centered around a junk food bingefest. There are social factors. Some research suggests that you eat more or less based on what your eating companion consumes. Your intake can also be influenced by environmental cues like the size or color of your dishes, the presence of distractions like watching TV, or the food ads you are exposed to. You may be driven to eat more if there is not enough food available on a regular basis, whether self-imposed by dieting or poor planning on a busy schedule or if there was a time when you had to go without. There are emotional factors learned when you were given a cookie every time you were upset or when you did something good. Some of us learned to turn to food to deal with the stresses of navigating life.
So lets look again at Steph’s billion dollar question. How do you eat good food without going overboard? I say start with learning more about what a balanced diet looks like and kind of aim for that in general. Then examine the foods you tend to go overboard on and ask yourself why. Do you actually love the food, the excitement of being bad, the fun of eating out with your friends or loved ones, the distraction it provides from your daily grind? Stop eating for reasons that don’t have anything to do with food. Seek enjoyment and enrichment in other areas of your life. When you do eat the foods you truly love, ditch the guilt and savor them in the moment. Pay attention to how you feel and learn to recognize the amount of that food that leaves you feeling satisfied. I doubt you’ll find that balance between satisfaction and guilt in a supersized container. Learn to recognize that you do not have to eat it all to enjoy it. Let go of the thoughts about a time when you will not have what you are currently experiencing anymore. Unless you are on your deathbed, there will always likely be another great meal. Love and respect yourself and keep things in perspective. Eating a piece of cheesecake is not going to hurt you. Eating more food than you need on a regular basis is what can lead to the chronic illnesses that are related to diet. Getting stressed out over that piece of cheesecake will probably just make you eat more cheesecake. It takes dedication and patience to learn a new way of thinking about food. Forget about practice makes perfect, keep working on it and remember that practice makes it better than yesterday.

Guest blogging from San Diego – Elisha Daigneault

My sister and my son!