Deprivation: The Saboteur of Weight Loss

You will never win a war that you wage against yourself. Yet, so many of my patients engage in these futile tactics during weight-loss attempts. Some describe the internal battle as an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel whispers, “Don’t touch that cookie!” and the devil counters, “How dare you tell me what to do! I’ll show you and eat the whole box!”

Posted on | Katie Rickel, PhD | Comments ()

You will never win a war that you wage against yourself. Yet, so many of my patients engage in these futile tactics during weight-loss attempts. Some describe the internal battle as an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.  The angel whispers, “Don’t touch that cookie!” and the devil counters, “How dare you tell me what to do! I’ll show you and eat the whole box!” 

Deprivation almost always backfires, and the weight management field is beginning to recognize this fact. In that spirit, Dr. Oz introduced the Eat What You Love Diet in a recent issue of Good Housekeeping. Here are some tips for defending against deprivation without sabotaging your weight-loss efforts.

Focus on Favorites

By definition, losing weight will require you to restrict your calories. Thus, you need to be selective about which calories you consume within that limited budget. A meal plan containing low-calorie but bland and unappetizing foods may be doable for a few days, but eventually frustration and boredom will lead you to abandon the plan altogether.  Instead, design a menu that you will look forward to eating, even if it looks repetitious.  Love sweet potatoes? Have one every day! Abhor tilapia? Leave it off your grocery list. 

 

Savor Special Treats

Does the thought of turning down Grandma Joan’s pumpkin pie make you angry and resentful? Then plan to have it! Before you arrive, decide upon a reasonable portion size and then enjoy without guilt. Acknowledge that the additional calories may bring you over your caloric budget for the day, and accept that your choice may slow your weight-loss progress slightly.  However, if indulging in this treat in a controlled fashion will prevent you from going home and binging on everything in your freezer later, then you have saved yourself many more calories than you spent on the piece of pie.

Honor Your Hierarchy

Most people have what I call a “trigger hierarchy,” a way to rank tempting foods from “impossible to resist” to “acceptable to turn down.” As aforementioned, you need to be eating foods that are appealing and appetizing, but you may choose to exclude the foods at the top of that hierarchy if they are just too difficult to manage. These would be foods that you have difficulty limiting in quantity or foods that trigger other cravings. 

Personally, I decided long ago that keeping peanut butter in my home is a set-up for disaster because I have trouble eating it in reasonable amounts. Do I feel deprived of peanut butter? No way. I am just choosing not to fight that battle; since it is my choice, I remain feeling empowered and in control of my food decisions. 

 

Your weight management efforts should never feel like punishment. Quite the opposite: Making decisions about your food that will bring you closer to your larger life goals can be a rewarding and fulfilling pursuit. If you focus on foods that you enjoy, allow yourself some wiggle room on occasion, and make conscious decisions about staying away from foods that cause you more grief than pleasure, you will never feel deprived.  Make your own rules in this game, and you increase your chances of winning.

Blog written by Katie Rickel, PhD
Dr. Katie Rickel is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in weight management and health behavior modification. She...