I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend titled, “The Don’t-Let-It-in-the-House Diet.” In the article, Dan Ariely, who teaches psychology at Duke University, was discussing how our short term search for eating pleasure often overwhelms our long term goal of being healthy.
Ariely believes that dieting is really against our nature as humans. Further, he believes that a diet is one of the most difficult commitments to stick with, even more difficult than stopping smoking. These are both things to consider before starting any diet.
First, dieting is not natural. Humans (like all animals) have a built in drive for survival. When we restrict calorie intake or avoid certain foods, that can go against our natural survival tendencies. Not too many years ago, food was generally much harder to come by, so we ate whenever we could. The very functioning of our bodies is focused on food being scarce.
When we overly restrict the number of calories we take in (like with some diets), or eliminate entire food groups (like not eating carbs, as some “experts” preach), our bodies go into survival mode. They try to store energy for later use or make up for whatever is missing. In extreme situations, our body may even begin shedding muscle, which takes more energy to maintain, and add fat which can later be converted into energy.
Second, food is not something you can just do without. That’s what makes a diet so difficult to maintain. Your body doesn’t need tobacco. It can do without it entirely, so you can choose to either be a smoker or not. With eating, the questions are how much to eat and when to stop eating. Since there are no specific rules, it is hard to stick to any particular diet. What happens if you eat a dessert that’s not part of your diet? Nothing, at least not right away. What happens if you eat too many calories? You may feel stuffed for a short time, but that goes away.
Ariely’s solution to both of these issues is to practice what he calls the “don’t-let-it-in-the-house diet.” If you don’t have any ice cream in the house, for example, then you’re likely to eat a lot less ice cream. If you have fresh fruits and vegetables available in your refrigerator instead of junk food, then you’re likely to eat more fruits and vegetables.
It seems pretty simple, and it can be. You might want to try it before you try the next fad diet.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
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You may also want to read: Healthy Eating: Try the “Rule of 2″, Childhood Obesity: Education is Essential, Healthy Kids: Focus on Snacks