Does anyone else remember playing that game as a kid? Life was so much simpler then and food was so much less confusing to me.
Years ago, when I was in Weight Watchers, I was introduced to the concept of red light foods. These are the foods that we just don’t seem able to eat with control. Those foods where just one bite might send us on a binge. The foods that can easily lead to overeating. The foods that are our kryptonite. For some of us, they are “triggers” that lead us to eat more of them or something else.
Over the years it seems my personal list of red light foods has grown and grown. I still remember the first food I ever classified this way – it was a low point Weight Watchers bar. Chocolate. Intended to be a reasonable treat. I could rarely stop at just one. So I wisely decided not to buy them, not to bring them into my house, not to tempt myself or test my self-control. And that was that. Or so I thought.
Fast forward many dieting roller-coaster years later. To foods that I could seemingly once eat with control and moderation. Foods that somehow now are too tempting for me to keep around. Like bagels and Triscuits and peanut butter. For me, the best approach to red light foods has been to stop and put on the brakes and just not eat them at all. And just not have them in the house. Period.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a lifetime of healthy eating. As my banished food list grew longer and longer, I started to rethink the whole notion of labeling these foods as off limits. Was the very thing I did to help control my eating actually causing me to spiral out of control with certain foods?! Was I making a classic “dieter” mistake by labeling foods as “bad?” Was my belief that I could not handle moderation becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? In my mind, banishment was better than binging. But some astute questions and comments from readers and other bloggers has made me question my thinking and approach. Not to mention it seemingly isn’t working for me:(
I am a very black and white thinker. And I like guidelines with eating. Most of the time. So to me it made sense to just avoid certain foods that were not my friend right now. Maybe reintroduce them later or maybe not. Practical. And I like practical. And I certainly have found that the longer I go without eating certain foods, like bread, the less I think about them until eventually you could wave a piece under my nose without me drooling over the food in your hand. Or even wanting it in the least. So is it a good thing to banish some foods? And let me be clear that I am talking about those foods that really set me off, triggering cravings and more eating and binging. THOSE foods. Not necessarily all treats or splurges or whatever else you might call them. Not an overall “all or nothing” mentality (which is a top for another day) – just as it relates to a few key trigger foods.
One last thought thanks to Oprah and Geneen Roth (posts here and here). They said that banishing foods is a symptom that I don’t trust myself. Well – duh! But is not trusting myself with bread such a horrible thing? Does it imply that I don’t trust myself in other ways? I don’t know. Just one more thing that boggles my mind. And I wonder what they’d say in response to David Kessler who certainly seems to think that science backs up the idea that certain foods make us want to eat more.
I’d really like to hear what you think about all this. Red light foods – do you have any? Food banishment – is it a good or bad thing? Why do some foods suddenly (or gradually) become a problem? How do you handle them? Do you think that for some of us there are just certain foods that will always trigger overeating?
I really, really want to know what you think. And I expect lots of different opinions so don’t be shy to disagree.