Diet advisor: “Eat everything in moderation.”
Diet advisor: “Yes.”
You: “What about donut holes? And miniature peanut butter cups?”
Diet advisor: “Yes. Moderation still.”
You: “My donut hole moderation runs anywhere from 1-1.5 dozen, depending on my craving, and my peanut butter cup moderation is strictly determined by the number remaining in the bag, PLUS how much stress I’ve encountered before reaching for said bag.”
Diet advisor: “I’m firing you. Rules are rules.”
You: “But if you could just be more specific, maybe I could stick with the rules. Puh-leeezze don’t fire me.”
Diet advisor: “Specifics don’t exist. You should know your own level of moderation. Still fired. And furthermore, until you get your moderation in check, don’t even THINK about calling me for help.”
Sound familiar? Lord, I hope not – at least not as an exchange with a live person. But perhaps that’s the message you hear swirling about in the world of dieting and eating “clean”; simply find the right moderation for YOU, don’t deviate from it, and you’re good.
That’s good ‘ole moderation for ‘ya – too loose, too vague, too unhelpful.
Especially when you try to rely on moderation in situations where basic nutrition isn’t even a consideration; like stress eating. Or emotional eating. Or eating when you don’t feel well. Or eating when you’re over-hungry, over-tired, or just over-everything.
The scenario in the intro is 100% fabricated by moi. Yet, there are nuances of truth. Most people working one-on-one with me struggle with emotional or stress eating – it’s far more common than you can even imagine.
And in my breast cancer community? If you were a stress eater BEFORE your diagnosis, the behavior certainly won’t suddenly be replaced with “balanced eating habits supportive of recovery.”
In fact, those stress eating behaviors are likely to ESCALATE, potentially spiraling out of control as you obsess over the “right” way to eat for your cancer.
All of which leads me to share some ideas in figuring out the whole “moderation” thing.
The red light, yellow light, green light approach to moderation and choice, aka “Stoplight Nutrition” is used most often in child nutrition, but it also resonates with adults. While I like the general concept, it can still leave too much open to interpretation, and for good reason. You can’t bog kids (or adults!) down with too much detail before you lose them.
Red Light Foods = Stop & Think!
Very little, if any, nutritional value. Tend to be high in calories, sugar and fat. Considered a treat, limit to a couple each week.
Yellow Light Foods = Slow Down!
Whole grains and lean proteins. Contain nutrients, could be moderately high in calories and fat, still important to be aware of portion size. Make up most of the diet.
Green Light Foods – Go!
Fruits, veggies, water, nonfat milk. High nutritional value, low in calories, sugar and fat. The healthiest choice, include most often.
Stoplight Nutrition is also portrayed as:
Red = Rarely (Whoa!)
Yellow = Sometimes (Slow!)
Green = Anytime (Go!)
Here’s my pared down way of using this information. Every time you make a decision about what and how much to eat, of ANY food (on its own or in combination) use these two steps:
Is the food something I would eat. . . .
You don’t even need me to give you examples here – you KNOW what goes into these categories!
Ask yourself (and be honest!):
- Am I hungry?
- Yes = eat.
- No = wait.
- What type of hungry am I?
- “I would eat an apple” hungry = eat.
- “I wouldn’t eat an apple, but I would eat cake” hungry = wait.
Notice I didn’t say “Don’t eat!”, I said “Wait.” If you’re NOT truly hungry, the urge to eat will leave you, especially if you get involved doing something else. If you ARE truly hungry, you won’t get “unhungry” simply by waiting – you’ll get hungrier (it’s why that apple sounds so appealing.)
Practice, practice, practice. You’ll get really good at this, but be patient – changing hard-wired habits takes time.
P.S. This post is courtesy of a week where time scurried away, leaving me unable to do a deep dive into the remaining three topics I want to cover from FNCE . . .but, they’re on the way.
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