Controlled indulgence, a sensible strategy for weight loss

I'll see your Banana Split and raise you a Coffee and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Why do we ever deprive ourselves of things we love in order to hasten our progress towards a goal?


When I first got the crazy idea to lose some weight, I was pretty fed up with my existing habits: “Dammit, I’m sick of feeling like a chub, but I can’t stop myself from drinking beers and indulging in late-night quesedilla binges. That’s it, no more beer, no more cheese, no nothing until I’ve lost these lovehandles!”

Trouble was, by the next weekend, I was back at the stove, bottle of Full Moon Pale Rye Ale in one hand, spatula in the other, cookin’ up a mean colby-cheese quesadilla, augmented with fresh salsa and sour cream.

Deprivation is definitely not the answer.

Jane Brody offers some wise advice on dieting without deprevation, an act that “feeds desire and can lead to overindulgence at the first opportunity.” Jane’s philosophy of “controlled indulgence” enabled her to drop 35 pounds and live to tell the tale. She explains how one of her favorite indulgences, ice cream, fits into the “diet”:

My approach starts with smart selection. I read the nutrition label; the only ice cream I buy provides a maximum of 150 calories a serving, and usually less, 100 to 130. Most are the slow-churned reduced-fat flavors, and some are frozen yogurt. But none are fat free or sugar free, which to me tastes ersatz.Equally important, of course, is how much to eat at any one time. One serving. Do you know what a serving of ice cream is? It is half a cup. I bought some half-cup containers and measure out my daily indulgence. And I made a rule for myself. If I start eating more than that half cup, all the ice cream has to go. Because I would rather have it around when I want it, I stick to the half cup.

The the beauty of controlled indulgence is that it is grounded on the enjoyment of food. Slow down, chew your food, and enjoy every last bit of it:

I do not count calories or make lists of everything I eat each day. In fact, I have no idea how many calories I consume on a typical day. I eat for enjoyment — foods that I like, most of which happen to be good for me, and in quantities that I find satisfying.

This slower-is-better, less-is-more approach helps explain Why French Women Don’t Get Fat.

“The French don’t traditionally wolf down a meal at their desk or while commuting in traffic,” [French chef, Laurence Hauben] said. “They sit down with family or colleagues at a table, taking the time to relax and share conversation. When you are talking, you are not eating, and because you are relaxed, the hormones released help in the assimilation of calories, unlike the stress hormones we are riddled with here, which trigger hoarding of fat. In other words, eat 800 calories while sitting at a café in Paris, and they will get spent. Eat 800 calories while sitting in your car in traffic on the freeway, and most of them will settle in your hips or gut.”

The trick to lifelong change is to embrace slowness, and enjoy more of life along the way. Losing weight isn’t the hard part; it’s the impatience that’s a real doozy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *