We deprive ourselves of things we love for fear of bingeing, then we over-exercise so as not to feel guilty about slip-ups. What happened to the fine art of moderation ?
From the woman who won’t have a biscuit in case she ends up eating the whole packet, to the running fanatic who won’t stop until she’s done her allotted distance, I see many people trapped in cycles of excess and deprivation.
Some of us, it seems don’t know how to achieve consistent moderation in our lives.
Any kind of extreme or obsessive behavior is unhealthy for your body, mind and soul.
We certainly know that eating nothing but sweets and refined carbs is unhealthy, but we fail to recognise that too much unhealthy behavior can do damage too.
Too much of a good thing- For example, while regular exercise is, of course, good for us, over exercising is not. While normal exercise gives most people a boost, excessive exercise can lead to obsessive and solitary behavior, leading to exclusion from family and friends. It almost equates to addiction.
Treat yourself - A little of what we fancy appears to do us good, even if the benefit of a piece of cake or a glass of wine is simply the feel-good effect of a treat.
If you are going to indulge in something, you should do so joyfully and not guiltily. Constantly depriving ourselves of little indulgences is a fast track to feeling awful.
And cutting out certain foods because you don’t trust yourself to have just one will often trigger binge-eating, the thing you tried so hard to resist. Stretches of deprivation followed by excess also causes our health to suffer, especially our immune system, not to mention the psychological impact of veering between extremes.
There are plenty of things that you can enjoy – dark chocolate, red wine, a nice steak – that are good for you as well. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so fixed in definitions of what is good and bad for us. Exercise, fruit and green tea (good). Carbs, saturated fat and chocolate (bad). We tend to label things in very black and white terms, yet all we need is to start seeing things in shades of grey.
Balancing act-We don’t need to resign ourselves to a lifetime of all or nothing – learning the fine art of moderation is possible…
Flex Your Self-Control – learning to exercise self-control is crucial. Practice small acts of self-control regularly and you become better at self-control in the long run. Practising self-control in one area of your life can have a positive spill-over effect into other domains. If you can be more moderate with your emotions, your family, your working life, you will take a more moderate approach to your health and wellbeing, too.
Control your impulses – recognise that our drive to indulge isn’t a moral failing. It’s not your fault, it’s how our brains are designed. You need to take responsibility by recognizing that. Professor Paul Gilbert suggests treating impulsiveness by creating a space between first noticing the impulse and then indulging in it. If your problem is overeating, put a note on your fridge saying ,“Do you really need to eat me?” Give yourself 10 seconds where you can knock out the impulsive tendency and give the thinking brain a chance to kick in. Your emotional brain’s reaction is instant, your rational brain needs slightly longer.
Develop a compassionate attitude towards yourself - create a friendly understanding voice in your head which can forgive you and strengthen your determination instead of making you feel terrible.. Use language which empowers rather than critical talk. As Louise Hay would say, “Love Yourself !”.
Change your language – The terms good or bad aren’t helpful. A woman will say she has been good when she’s eaten just 500 calories in a day or done excessive exercise, but that’s extremely bad for you. It’s important to educate yourself before applying definitions.
Use your senses – The key to being satisfied with just one glass or portion is to be mindful of what and how we eat and drink. Savour every mouthful and enjoy every last taste and smell and feel.
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Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !