Friday, February 17

Eat Treats and Be Merry

Janelle and her Valentine's Day haul
Valentine’s Day morning Janelle, my third-grader and resident sugaraholic, skipped onto the bus holding a bag full of valentines for her classmates and a decorated shoebox ready to receive the day’s bounty. Aside from Christmas and Halloween this is her favorite holiday. Who can blame her? Who doesn’t like chocolate? I can walk by bowls overflowing with Jolly Ranchers, Nerds, Fruit Rollups, even candy bars, these don’t entice me. But a box of chocolate confections, well, those will make me pause and most likely, indulge.

Seems I’m not the only one tempted. This week Americans will purchase 58 million pounds of chocolate candy worth $345 million. And that’s just the chocolate. We’ll spend another $103 million on other candy, for a whopping $448 million in total.

Since I author a health blog, I’m sure you’re bracing yourself for the onslaught of discourse about how bad candy is for you, how many empty calories it contains, blah blah blah. I hate to disappoint you, but no, that’s not what’s on my mind this week.

Actually, Valentine’s Day reminds me that there's a place in life for all kinds of food.

The reason that most diets fail is that they’re too restrictive. No one can maintain a lifestyle that forbids an entire food category, especially if it’s one they love.

I can imagine what would happen if I forbade Janelle from ever having chocolate again. She’d cry, tell me how unfair it is, sulk around the house for days and then, probably start sneaking it. She’d eat it at friend’s houses or eat it behind the closed door of the pantry. I’d turn her into a closet eater by labeling chocolate as “bad.” And worst of all, chocolate would be elevated to forbidden status, which only makes it more desirable.

Instead, I believe in the philosophy that all foods are available to me, some, like candy, are simply to be enjoyed occasionally and in moderation.

This is the same position championed by the American Dietetic Association which states,

“… all foods can fit into a healthful eating style. The ADA strives to communicate healthful eating messages to the public that emphasize the total diet, or overall pattern of food eaten, rather than any one food or meal. If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity, all foods can fit into a healthful diet…The value of a food should be determined within the context of the total diet because classifying foods as "good" or "bad" may foster unhealthy eating behaviors.”

The trick is moderation and making sure it’s only an occasional thing, not a habit. It goes back to my 80/20 rule—80 percent of the time do the right thing (eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats), 20 percent of the time splurge a little. 

Enjoy your treats this week, then get back on track. It’s all part of a healthy lifestyle.

1 comment:

  1. Love your inspiring writing style, Ms. Stiles. Your sense of humor and common sense views on exercise and good nutrition help motivate and encourage me to embark on a healthier, guilt free path to weight loss, and keep my chocolate and tiramasu too. Thank you.