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Every day, there’s another article in your Facebook feed about how one person lived to 105 by having a shot of whiskey every day. Does this mean you should rush down to your liquor store and buy a magnum of whiskey? No.

Dietary recommendations have tended to cycle through opposing extremes. For example, in the 1990s, fat was bad. Carbs were hot and fat-free/low-fat versions of all foods flooded the market. Now carbs are bad and keto diet plans are hot. Coffee was good. Then it was bad. Now it’s good again!

So, what is good today might be bad tomorrow. How do you deal? The reality of it is that there is no magic pill—not yet, anyway—that will help you lose those pounds and keep them off. Only patience, redefining your relationship with food, and exercise will do that for you. Nutritionists and dietitians are the front lines of this battle of the bulge, and they have a message for the general public: “Moderation and exercise are the keys to a healthier body weight.”

As Genna Sampson, RD, APD, says, “Moderation is about finding a balance between two extremes—deprivation and overindulging. Strategies and habits that can be maintained long term as part of a lifestyle to avoid a yo-yo effect between these extremes. It’s not a license to eat whatever we want whenever we want, but finding a balance.”[1]

Diets that severely restrict caloric intake will wind up having a deleterious effect on your weight. Relying on “yo-yo dieting”—the cyclical loss and gain of weight—will eventually negate any weight loss you may have experienced.

As explained on WebMD, “Your fat cells make a hormone called leptin. It tells your brain when you have enough fat stored up. As you lose weight, less fat means less leptin. That makes you hungry. Plus, your body slows things down to save energy. So once you quit the diet, you have an oversized appetite but you burn fewer calories. That’s partly why after several cycles of yo-yo diets, you might weigh more than when you started.”[2]

Nutritionists suggest some behavioral modifications that may help you reestablish a healthier relationship with food.

  1. Stop thinking of food as “good” and “bad,” instead opting for the terms “everyday” and “sometimes” foods.
  2. Differentiate regular, daily eating occasions from special occasions where you may indulge.
  3. If you do overdo it, make sure you have a day of eating light soups or salads.
  4. Include a small treat, such as a row of chocolate or glass of wine, in your daily eating plan.
  5. To normalize foods rather than view them as “treats” that should not be eaten, practice keeping high-fat foods in the house and not eating them just because they are there.
  6. Stop hiding food: You and the kids both know it is there.
  7. If you crave sweet foods, satisfy the food craving but also make it part of a balanced snack so that you are kept full for a couple of hours after eating it.
  8. Always ask yourself, “What do I really feel like eating?”
  9. If you are experiencing constant cravings, check if your baseline diet is well balanced—an unbalanced diet can result in constant hunger and food cravings.
  10. Remember the mantra of “quality over quantity” when indulging—if it is not great quality chocolate, cake, cheese, or dessert, don’t waste your calories, instead saving them for something you love to eat.[3]

And remember: Including moderate exercise in this new regimen will help you reach your long-term health goals.

[1] Sampson, G. (2014, February 6). What does everything in moderation really mean? DietitianWithoutBorders.com. Retrieved from http://dietitianwithoutborders.com/what-does-everything-in-moderation-really-mean/.
[2] Ratini, M. (2018, February 23). What Happens to Your Body When You Yo-Yo Diet. WebMD.com. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-yo-yo-diet-effect.
[3] Burrell, S. Eating in moderation. Taste.com.au. Retrieved from https://www.taste.com.au/healthy/articles/eating-in-moderation/guLTUnFb.