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Ask Bob Greene's Team: How do I tell the difference between treats and cheats?
If you have a question, send it to us!
It goes without saying that polishing off a pint of Ben & Jerry’s--even if it’s low- fat--is not a good idea, but we’ve also learned (from repeated experience) that swearing off ice cream forever doesn’t work, either. But the tricky thing about “eating in moderation” is that what we think that means--and what the scale thinks that means--are two different things. So how do you draw the line between what you deserve and what you could do without? Best Life nutritionists, Stephanie Clarke, M.S., R.D. and Willow Jarosh, M.S., R.D., gave us three questions to ask ourselves before giving in to the foods we love.
1. Does it fit into your daily calorie budget?
Clarke and Jarosh tell clients on a typical 1600-calorie-a-day eating plan that they have about 100 or 150 calories a day that they can swap out with whatever their heart desires. The catch is that most of us have no idea how many calories we eat in a day, and it’s very common to experience temporary snack black-outs in the face of temptation ("I’ve hardly eaten anything today, so I surely have enough leftover calories for a few potato chips," we’ll think, forgetting about the handfuls of nuts we ate at our desk or the whole milk we put in our coffee). They’re big fans of food journals to keep us on track. And they get it: tracking what you eat, either with an old-fashioned pen and paper or a new multi-function app, can feel obsessive. But as they tell clients (and as studies keep proving), this technique really helps keep the weight off.
2. Will it leave you feeling satisfied or shameful?
When a client confesses to eating something they think they shouldn’t have, Clarke and Jarosh ask, “Did you enjoy it?” A splurge should make us happy because it just satisfies a craving for sweet or salty or both (margaritas all around!). A binge, the nutritionists explain, is spur-of-the moment overindulgence that will leave us feeling full—and also full of guilt. They say that the mistake that most people make has to do with portions: they think only an entire candy bar will help with their craving, when actually two pieces would probably do the trick. This makes them skip the candy altogether, leading them to either fill up on other foods or to binge later in the week.
3. Will it turn you into a Cookie Monster?
While Clarke and Jarosh encourage planned-for daily treats, they say it’s almost impossible to budget for a binge. They also say that by having regular small indulgences instead of holding out for a big one later will take away the urgent "COOKIES!" feeling of needing to consume as much as possible before your treat time is up.
Treat planning made easy
Control your cravings and enjoy what you eat
Food journal short-cuts
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.