Does eating "everything in moderation" really help you reach your health and fitness goals?

Does eating "everything in moderation" really help you reach your health and fitness goals?

Last week, I returned from spending 16 days in Hawaii for my honeymoon. It was simply amazing! It felt like I was living in paradise. Not only did my husband and I enjoy cultural activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, and sailboat tours, but we also enjoyed amazing foods and drinks. We went into the trip with the mindset that we could eat and drink anything we wanted, in moderation of course.  After all, it was our honeymoon! 

Today, it's common to hear that you can enjoy ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you want in moderation and still remain healthy or lose weight. Is this really true? While I wish this were the whole truth, unfortunately it's not. Technically, if you lived by this rule, you could eat a cinnamon roll for breakfast, one piece of pizza for lunch, and a small serving of chicken fingers and fries for dinner, while still losing weight. Each serving size listed above is small, but there is barely any nutritional value to any of the meals.

Instead of teaching my clients that they can eat anything and everything they want in moderation, I work with them to find their "special foods."

Special foods are the ones that you LOVE.  I'm talking about the ones that you almost always have a craving for.  Can you think of yours?  I found a new one of my special foods in Hawaii.  It was a flavor of gelato called sandy beach, and it was heavenly!  It had a smooth peanut butter flavor with pieces of graham crackers and sea salt mixed in.  My husband and I enjoyed sandy beach a few times throughout our vacation, and each time it was more amazing than we remembered!

If you've been following me for a little while, you know that I do NOT believe in cutting out your favorite foods!  By eliminating entire food groups or your favorite foods, you are simply setting yourself up for failure.  Life is too short to NOT enjoy your special foods!  However, they still need to be enjoyed in moderation and on occasion. Check out these tips to help you enjoy your treats in moderation:

1. Be sure your special foods are ones you LOVE!

On one of the first days we were in Hawaii, we took surf lessons in the early afternoon. After we finished, we were exhausted, tired, and hot. We found a shaved ice stand, and since it's famous in Hawaii, we had to give it a try. We decided to share one, and boy am I glad we did! I quickly learned after my first bite that shaved ice is NOT one of my special foods. The mixture of ice with flavored juice just doesn't do it for me. And that's okay!

Be sure that your special food is a treat for you, and that you truly ENJOY eating it! Be sure it's worth eating for YOU. If you get into the habit of eating special foods that you don't love, you'll start to lose track of the meaning of moderation.

2. Pay attention to your hunger cues, and know when to stop!

Especially when it's a guilty pleasure, it's extremely easy to over-eat our favorite foods! Before you even take the first date, check in with your hunger levels. Are you already feeling full or stuff? If so, it's better to hold off on your special treat until another time. If you don't feel full yet, you can definitely enjoy your special food, but remember to enjoy it slowly and to always pay attention to how you're feeling. As soon as you feel about 80% full, it's a good idea to stop.

3. Stick to the smallest size possible.

Every time my husband and I got sandy beach on vacation, we made sure to get the smallest size they offered. This is important for a few reasons. First, and most obvious, it will prevent you from over-eating. Second, research suggests that the more sugar and junk food you eat, the more you crave it. Fight those cravings by sticking to the smallest serving of only your absolute favorite guilty pleasure's!

Remember, you're only setting yourself up for failure by never allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods and drinks!  Sweet treats are meant to be enjoyed!  Just be mindful about how often and how much you choose to eat.  If you eat whole, nutrient-dense food the majority of time, you can definitely lose weight or stay healthy by occasionally enjoying a small portion of your special foods!