Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I Don't Buy the "I Don't" Approach to Dietary Discretion

Not sure if you caught the LA Times last week and their piece on the utility of using the words, "I Don't", in place of, "I Can't", when considering a dietary indulgence. The crux of the piece is that when you want a cookie let's say, rather than tell yourself that you can't have one, tell yourself that you don't eat them.

The recommendations didn't come out of nowhere either, they came from a paper published in August's Journal of Consumer Research where researchers found that when it came to resisting cravings self talk saying, "I don't", was 3 times as effective as saying, "no", and 8 times as effective as saying, "I can't".

My issue isn't with whether or not the words, "I don't", are good ones (clearly they're better than "no" and "I can't"), my issue is whether or not blind restriction is a sustainable long term strategy.  My experience says that it isn't, and that blind restriction, the belief that if you're trying to manage weight or live healthfully you simply can't (or don't) eat nutritionally bereft but hedonically wonderful foods, is one of the reasons so many dieters ultimately fail.

Thinking you're going to live a life where you're not allowed to take pleasure from food? I don't think that's realistic and I don't think it's a good plan as I agree with the article, we're hardwired to enjoy the bad stuff.

As always I'm a broken record. It's about the healthiest life that you can enjoy, not the healthiest life that you can tolerate, and that means the smallest amount of bad-for-you indulgence that you need to enjoy your life, and that amount should definitely not be none.  Saying "I don't" every time you face the desire to take pleasure from food just means that you're on a diet - something that history has likely already taught you is a temporary state of being.  If you really want to say I don't, how about saying, "I don't diet", the next time you think that blind restriction is the way to go.