Have you ever said something similar to the following statements:
I need to cut bread and sweets from my diet.
Once I stopped having [insert mouth-wateringly delicious food or beverage here], I lost ten pounds.
Statements of elimination like these are so common that nearly every week I hear one from a friend, client, or random health-conscious dude on the street.
Hey, I totally get this mentality.
In a moment I’ll make a case for a different approach, but there are TWO reasons why so many folks would use this strategy for losing weight.
First, certain foods in our culture have been thoroughly demonized. For example, we’ve have been taught in recent decades:
Waving a red flag and making absolutist statements like the ones above can be pretty darn compelling (and scary!), though they don’t leave much room for nuance or other explanations.
With so many foods getting bad publicity, it’s no wonder you may be inclined to strip them completely from your daily consumption when you want the scale to be friendlier.
The other big reason eliminating foods is a common strategy is that so many different diets and programs insistthat you do.
Whole 30 asks you to eliminate dairy.
Paleo insists grains are no good.
The Keto Diet asks you to reduce your carb intake to about 5% of total daily calories – pretty dang close to elimination.
With people naturally trusting these popular approaches, they follow suit, but it usually makes eating better a rough ride.
For now, I will set aside the nutritional merits of those strategies for another time.
Here’s the bigger issue with those elimination strategies: for 99% of the population, they are difficult to sustain past several weeks, and especially past several months.
Have you ever tried? Then you know what I’m talking about.
It’s not a long-term solution for most people.
Here’s just a few reasons:
Sure, food elimination strategies may yield short-term results - and that DOES feel good, but it yields long-term pain because you either a) struggle mightily every week to sustain it; or b) ultimately break the rule and gain some or all of the weight back.
Let’s discuss a better way to lose weight without the pain of blacklisting your favorite foods.
(I mean, am I supposed to nevergo out for Mexican food again? That’s just crazy talk!)
Here’s one of my favorites: “Reduce through substitution.”
Let’s break that down.
For example, let’s say you suspect eating a dessert every night is a major reason for your weight.
Elimination strategy would say ditch all desserts and sugar for all time!
Instead, our plan would be to find a substitutefor that dessert that could be an improvement, such as as having dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Or, it could be having only half of your usual amount of dessert, and replacing the other half with fruit.
TIP: Having a similar but slightly healthier food to substitute for your old one makes you feel less deprived.
Second, you don’t have to substitute this food EVERY TIME, but only occasionally to start. That way you don’t have to go cold turkey, yet you are still moving forward by REDUCING the food that was giving you some trouble.
The strategy of “Reduce through substitution” is FAR more doable and sanity-friendly!
Let me know what you think below in the comments!