One, Two, Three, Red Light

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.



Filed under cheating/overeating, dieting, food

68 responses to “One, Two, Three, Red Light

  1. man I have only a moment as the child is SCREAMING 🙂 so Ill be back.

    wanted to say for HER we dont do the redlight…for me Ive discovered there are indeed a few I now intuitively dont eat.

    more soon 🙂

  2. Mon

    Mmmmm, interesting topic! Yes, I do have red light foods or at least, red light food groups. I keep none of these in my house (if I can help it) but know they will creep in anyhow (after trick or treating for example!!).

    When this happens I simply allow myself small indulgences (only small) which seems to work for me. I am always wary of the nutritionally empty but calorie rich food item that promises so much but in reality offers very little to my overall wellbeing. I have worked too hard to create a better version of myself to allow the little devils to change that.
    So yes I do have red light foods but don’t worry too much if they make it into my radar. I just use it as an opportunity to practice what I preach!!
    I also like to remind myself of the axiom that says nothing tastes as good as staying in shape!!

    Thanks for an interesting topic to discuss!!

    • Karen

      You are so strong:) I wish I could keep all of mine out of my house. But it seems rather unfair to tell my husband he can no longer eat his bread every day because it sits there and lures me in.

  3. Hey Karen,
    Gosh, I know what you mean. There’s not a pat answer to this question. I think it all boils down to what works for you. With a side not that sometimes we have to re-evaluate our choices and tweak them to fit our lives as we grow and change!

    I’m doing WW and I’m familiar with the red light foods! I have made a choice that’s working for me right now. I allow myself to eat what I want provided I have the points for it. However, I’ve made the choice not to keep certain foods in the house. Ice cream…that’s a huge one for me. When I want ice cream, I go to McD’s and get a cone. Or if I’m over someone’s house and it’s offered to me I have a small bowl.

    I remember the first time I did WW and made it to goal/lifetime…I NEVER ate high point foods. Pizza, ice cream, french fries…etc… That was a huge mistake for me because I didn’t learn how to live with those foods. Abstaining works for me until it doesn’t! Giving myself the freedom to eat these foods when I want them/have room for them, has given me freedom to say no! I don’t feel like I have to eat it all now because I know that another opportunity will come along!

    This is the most successful I’ve felt/been in a long time! I’m averaging about 1.1 pounds a week lost….but I feel like I’m living and enjoying the process!

    I understand where you’re coming from and I hope that you find your answer!!! Sorry for the long response!!!

    Take care!!!

    • Karen

      Great job on your progress:) When I did WW, I was the queen of finding low point foods. Many were not very healthy but they still met the criteria. I did not have a lot to lose back then and got to lifetime and stupidly stopped going. Gained it all back plus. Story of my yo-yo life. Which is why I soooo agree with your first point that we have to find what works for us and sometimes change to meet our lives.

  4. Karen, you know some of my thoughts on this but I will say that as a whole, I banish no foods. Now saying that, there are plenty I just don’t bring into the house as I always want more like that dang Kashi Go Lean granola cereal. Yes, decent make up but I just want to eat too much of it. BUT I also know if I want it, I can have it in a portion controlled way.

    Breads, which are hard for you.. me, I love bread & so I have found ones that I really like the make up, that have good fiber & some protein & also not too high in calories & carbs. I have liked my bread or bagel dry as an adult so I am lucky that way… but I am able to fit the bread into my food program. Bagels, I love but I have decided to limit those as the calories & other make up of them, not as good. They are not banished & I even keep some in the freezer & am able to not go after them, I think because I know I can have one if I want.

    For me, when I was younger, I limited too much so that every family get together, I would have my treats to WAY EXCESS as I knew I was not going to eat “fun stuff” again till the next holiday or bday. As I learned that if I just let myself have a treat here & there & stopped being so restrictive in my mind, the clean eating I did during the week became easier as I always knew if I really wanted something, I could have it & that thought process kept me from eating to excess…..

    I think all or nothing for some people just leads to more probs. You have to find that balance that works for you.

    Me, I eat very clean during the week & weekend BUT I still have my breads in there & the weekend I have my cookie treats & I always know if I want something I can have it as I always am living “my lifestyle of health”. I don’t feel the need to eat 5-10 cookies anymore because I know there is another day I will have them… just me…

    • Karen

      LOL – yes, I was pretty sure I knew what you would say. I could actually hear your voice in my head when I was writing that post:) And, I have been thinking about you this week. I am actually trying something new… letting myself eat bread again. (As opposed to attempting to avoid it then binging on it.) I still really feel that “craving” feeling about it but am experimenting to see if letting myself eat it more will make that craving go away. Reading this comment made me wonder if I should walk away from the bread my husband is buying and see if another one would be satisfying but not quite so tempting.

  5. Here’s what I’ve learned about “redlight” or “trigger” foods. Yes, everyone has them and yes, they should be banished. AT TIMES, but probably not for always! My worst offenders are Triscuits, Chips and Kettle Popcorn. The vast majority of the time those simply cannot be in my house. However, when I am white sugar/white flour free and have been successfully on-plan for several weeks, they can be in my pantry for my husband or for me in appropriate quantities. The trick is, knowing immediately (not three binges down the road) when they need to be banished or sent to work with Mr. B! The easiest thing is to just not have them in the house and enjoy somewhere else or not at all during out-of-control periods. I’ll admit, it did lessen the OMG feelings, when I told myself I didn’t have to never enjoy kettle popcorn ever again! I just had to refrain from having 20 packs of it laying in the pantry.

    • Karen

      I am the same way – once I get them out of my system I could have them around and not even feel the least bit tempted. Funny how many people I have encountered that have trouble with Triscuits. And it is all “good” ingredients.

  6. Hey Karen, this is a really great topic, something many weight-conscious folks confront at some point along the journey. One of the things I’ve learned over the past two years is that I don’t help myself when I demonize a particular type of food or a certain food item. There are foods I have a hard time controlling myself around. I usually don’t buy them or bring them in to the home (pizza). Yet as I’ve focused overall on strengthening my healthy portion control muscle, I’ve found that I can be around pizza, for example, and only eat one or two slices. It takes some effort, but I can do it. I wouldn’t bring extras home, ’cause I’ll eat those too! But I did away with my thought that pizza is a “bad” food that I can never eat because that approach did not help me. Bagels, crackers, peanut butter…yes, like you I keep them out of the house, for my own sake tho, not because I view them as “bad” food. I think at certain points of my journey I had to keep triggers at a distance; now I’m not as out of control around food. Better habits, better response techniques. I’m yellow light now around many foods, not red light anymore! But there are times when you may need a red light response to a food, and I think people should do what works for them at any given moment.

    • Karen

      I’d like to think that I could eventually reintroduce foods and be able to eat them in moderation. Once upon a time I ate bagels, crackers and PB without binging. Which is what started me wondering what had changed and if I was bringing this craving mentality on with my own behavior. Now pizza. Yum.

  7. You and I share a common nemisis… evil Peanut Butter. Yes, with dieting I need to be VERy strick and black and white. NO peanut butter in the house. No nuts – and it theire are nuts that are kept on a shelf out of my reach. [Normally pulling up a chair is something that makes me thinkm ok STOP!] New York Pizza. Cheesecake. Oh my list goes on! As for food banishment, I think it’s good. It’s not like your banishing an entire foodgroups which could be bad. Moderation doesn not work for some of us, I am one of those people.

    • Karen

      Poor PB, getting such a bad rap from us. As I sit here typing I realize that I currently have no cravings for it at all, having gotten it out of my mouth and house for a while now. Dare I bring it back? Not sure. Maybe ot yet. Glad to know I am not alone:)

  8. I’m with Jody (again) on this: nothing is banished, but that’s because I’ve never been a true ‘binger.” OK, so I had 2 pieces of pizza yesterday and some cheesy bread, when I should’ve only had one slice of pizza (combo lunch/dinner), and no cheesy bread. I didn’t have 3-4 pieces of both. Yeah, I still gained over a pound. But a pound will be gone by the middle of the week. I guess because my ‘too much’ comes in relatively small doses, just lots of small doses, day after day, I don’t feel quite so out of control as you apparently do. I do know that each body is different, and so is each brain, heart, and soul. There is no one-size-fits-all-fix for obesity like there isn’t one-size-fits-all-fix for any particular disease, either. Different antibiotics work for different things, and other medications entirely different for other types of disease. So I think it’s unreasonable for anyone to feel one way is the only, right way, for everyone. Other than less calories in = weight loss. More movement = healthier heart. Beyond that, and how you get to those ‘less calories’ and ‘more movement’ is up to each adult to figure out. You are still working on figuring out for you, and I think it’s a really healthy thing that you are stepping back to reflect on what isn’t working for you, apparently.

    Me, I can eat half a bagel with 2 tbs. of lite margarine on it, and be fine. For you, that might not work. Now. But if you find these red light foods increasing because of your abstinence, obviously that isn’t going to work at all, either, because it sets you up for feeling so deprived no wonder you have occasional cheats that lead to binges. You are trying an all or nothing method that makes you feel too deprived. I don’t know the answers. But, try something new. Give yourself a week or two to test drive it, and see if your results are any better. Maybe South Beach isn’t the answer, and Weight Watchers is. Or a Mediterranean Diet. Who knows what will work for you? Maybe a set # of calories, like 1200-1300 a day, and no matter what you eat, you just can’t exceed that. If that means you have a bagel but each significantly less at lunch or dinner to make up for it, that’s not so bad, is it? But bottom line, you DO have to exert some self control, on a mostly daily limit. There is just no way to skirt that, my friend.

    :: hugs ::

    • Karen

      I used to read your posts a while back where you described you amazing restraint with crackers and chocolate and onion rings and just wonder at the willpower you had. Yes, I have been rethinking my “plan.” And while I understand the math of calories in vs. calories out, I am not sure that for me personally, certain calories in won’t lead to more and more calories:( I never imagined there was so much thinking involved in trying to lose weight and live healthy!

      • I measure out all of them:

        16 Wheat Thin (low fat). not one.single.more.

        Onion rings: 4 allowed. Not 3. Not 5. Not a whole basket or half a basket.

        Chocolate; 100-150 calories a day.

        It’s all about education (knowing the caloric value of everything), and caring more about the end game/goal, then about the knee-jerk reaction/satisfaction of the moments whilst eating the extra stuff. Portion control because it’s that, or your way…NONE of it. I’d rather learn the self control of portion control and at least get a little of what I love, than none at all. 🙂

  9. I’m much earlier on here in my journey and I just have to “banish” concentrated sweets. It’s not only because I’m a total sugar addict, but I have type 2 diabetes and if I don’t get this under control, I’m heading for a nasty future. So, banished foods for me are definitely concentrated sweets. I try to read the labels carefully and decide, based on the number of grams of sugar in a food, or carbs, if it’s something that’s going to mess with my blood sugar. As one who is glucose intolerant, it doesn’t take much to spike my sugar and send me crashing, starting that vicious cycle of wanting MORE sugar and carbs.

    I personally like the idea of “red light” foods. That might work for me.

  10. Karen, great post. Years ago when I first started losing weight, I banished chocolate after realizing I was eating it three times a day. While I allowed myself other sweets, I didn’t eat chocolate for 11 years and stopped craving it after the first couple of months. Back in 2004, out of curiosity, I tried chocolate again…and it became clear that once I start, I just can’t stop. So I don’t keep chocolate in the house and when I do enjoy it, it is as an occasional treat at a restaurant or party. Same goes with almond butter. Sure, it is supposed to be healthier than sweets – and it is – but I tend to eat a cup of it at a time. Therefore, I don’t keep it at home either. Guess the answer to your question is to be self-aware. I can ignore most foods except those two items, so why keep them here and create a constant temptation?

    • Karen

      Thanks for sharing that Shira. You have been so successful at this for a while now that I appreciate hearing what has worked for you.

  11. sunnydaze

    I agree with Jody and Sunny. Banishing ceratin foods can make you feel deprived and may cause a binge. I believe that you can eat anything in moderation if you stay within your calorie limits. I also agree that maybe it is time for you to rethink the plan that you are on. I like WW because I can eat whatever I want as long as I stay within my points. Eventually you learn to eat healthier so that you can have more food but I like that nothing is off limits so I never feel deprived.

    • Karen

      Yep, I am rethinking my plan. Maybe the time has come to count calories or go back to WW. Although I hear the latter is going through a plan overhaul. I sure did hate counting points and had a bad habit of finding the lowest point, highest volume foods and they were not always the healthy options.

  12. I say people look like what they do. When I look at David Kessler and Oprah it’s pretty obvious to me which one know the way it works in diet land.

  13. Played the game as a kid many times. I play the game with traffic today. Even though the light is red, I don’t always adhere to it. Yes, I take my chances when I turn right on red without a full stop, orrun it altogether at 3a.m…. no different than eating ‘red’ food. There is risk to both, immediate and long term (if you keep doing it eventually you will wreck)… The guideline ought to be keep them to as near zero as you can tolerate. I agree with comments you cannot banish them altogether.

    • Karen

      Loved this. Made me laugh. I always enjoy a good analogy. You probably would have liked my other title that I didn’t use “Do you stop for red lights?”

  14. I’m all for moderation in theory, but I know that macaroni and cheese is like the cocaine addict taking a hit. I don’t trust myself around that stuff and it’s not worth trusting myself for. Maybe one day it won’t tempt me, but right now, I know I can’t control it.

    Very thought provoking post.

    And, to answer your ?, my daughter has just turned 16 and she seems fine having her new boyfriend eat meals with us. I think she was relieved that we didn’t say grace as we normally due, which occurred out of circumstance, not on purpose. She hasn’t been to his place yet…hmmmm…maybe it’s a boy thing!?!

    • Karen

      Oh I forgot about all things pasta! I have not had pasta all year. Except a few bites of someone else’s once or twice. My problem with pasta is that I don’t eat a normal sized portion. My biggest temptation is when my son comes home from college. He eats mac and cheese almost daily.

  15. I don’t have anything on my forbidden list, but there are foods I tend not to keep in the house. Like cookies or potato chips. If I want them, I get them in single servings somewhere else. For me, removing the ‘forbidden’ designation and telling myself I could have them whenever I wanted helped me learn to live with those foods in a healthier way. Go figure…

    • Karen

      Interesting coincidence, just last night I had some wheat crackers I had found that were in individual packages and it got me wondering about that as a technique. Of course they cost a ton more that way and I am cheap:(

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  17. For the most part, I don’t forbid certain foods. I also don’t torture myself either. I won’t make my FAVORITE carmelized onion tart when I don’t have people coming over. No one but me likes it at home and if I don’t share it, I will eat the entire thing. Same goes with Dorittos. If I bring home nacho flavored for the kids, I may get 1-2 servings max. But if I get the HOT ones, only I am eatting them and I will eat them all.

    As for trigger foods, I have learned the foods are okay in a meal, I just can’t eat them by themselves. Desserts must be AFTER a meal. I normally eat less because I am almost full already. (I hate being stuffed) I won’t go back for seconds either. If I eat it as a snack, then I can easily have 2-3 servings. And sugar by itself just makes me hungry 1-2 hours later, but with a meal, I am good for 4-6 hours.

    • Karen

      That last part is very interesting. My confession – I eat bread alone as a snack. Slowly nibbling it. And I have suspected that if I ate it with protein, like as a sandwich, I could moderate it better. But what I know/suspect and what I do are not always in sync. Actually, if I was a South Beach Diet purist, I am pretty sure I would only eat bread with protein or healthy fat. Hmm.

  18. D

    Yes, great post. I have “red light” foods and I have learned that I just cannot have certain things – like candy. Once I have one, I cannot stop – or I choose not to stop, I don’t know. But I need firm rules for my eating and then I seem to be more successful. It’s what works for me.

  19. See, I think in shades of grey and so I believe that everyone is different and that what I want for myself may be different than what you want for yourself.

    The whole idea of being able to trust myself became very important to me over the past year. Before that, it was easier to have red light foods.

    I think like everything else (especially “lifestyle changes” and nurturing self-acceptance) trust is something that develops…it’s something that we must practice regularly. It’s not like one day we don’t have it and then the next day we do and it’s all good and we can forget about it. And I so I think takes some experimentation, which can be scary.

    I think I am now pretty much “safe” with any food in terms of a binge. Although it didn’t use to be that way. I used to binge on purpose and then when I decided it was time to really lose weight, I developed a list of red light foods…on the list were Goldfish crackers, Smarties candies, Smartfood popcorn, certain sugary cereals…and so on. Today the Goldfish and the Smartfood could still be a problem but the thing is…I don’t really want these foods. If I were to buy a bag and eat the whole thing, I guess I’d just shrug my shoulders and say “okay, I’m not okay with that.”

    Might I sometimes eat something I don’t necessarily need or perhaps eat a little more than I need? Yes. But I haven’t binged in a very long time. Now, I also recognize that what I consider “not bingeing” and what you consider it to be might be different. Speaking Women, Food & God language, I am a permitter and what I think that means for me is that I tend to operate from a position of “what can I get away with?” Although that is changing too and I think it’s mostly because I physically can’t get away with much any more…I am still not sure what exactly has caused this change, but my instincts tell me it’s hormonal. So, getting back to trust…does that mean if I didn’t have these hormonal issues that make it hard for me to eat too much, I wouldn’t be able to trust myself? Hmmmmm…

    BTW, I loved Kessler’s book too (in addition to Roth’s books). I believe it’s a matter of cobbling together the information and the tools that work for each of us individually. And it’s also about evolving…and healing.

    • Karen

      Thank you for sharing that. I really do think I need to find ways to live in the gray, not just with eating, actually. Funny you mention Goldfish because I used to eat those once upon a time and could actually count out a serving (which is quite a lot of little fish) and stop there. I have a book on my nightstand about intuitive eating and there certainly are some things in there that hit the nail on the head as far as describing me. Clearly I have work to do and things to figure out.

  20. It’s funny, I am in a similar quandary, wondering whether I should be restricting foods that set me off or trying to allow them into my life so that they don’t set me off. I don’t know what is “right” but I do know I do better with eating healthy and losing weight if the red light foods (oh yes, I do have a lot of them) aren’t in the house.

  21. HI Karen,
    I am catching up on blog reading now that I am back from fall break. So this comment will cover the past few posts that you have done. Your last couple of posts are intriguing to me. I will weigh in:

    1. Red light foods: For me it is butter. Butter on or in anything is difficult for me. But, here is the thing since I started this journey, I have limited my butter (that I actual smear on something) to toast on the weekends. That has been enough for me. I eat every bite slowly and carefully. One of my favorite weekend treats is 1 tsp butter (100 calories) with 1 teaspoon of our own honey (another 100). That indulgence makes me feel that I am getting a treat and am not deprived. Because I do not eat other processed foods with butter, I have no problem with the butter factor. BTW: I really like the evidence based reasoning of David Kessler. Science does back up what he says about marketing of foods with slat, sugar and fats. I really like his book and his credibility factor is gigantic.
    2. Bad week, bad day or falling off the wagon: I used to throw in the towel and once I went off plan, that was it. That is why I always gained back a few pounds more than I lost. But, this time if I am off, I just go back. I am losing slow (20 pounds in 4 months is not fast), but steady. It took over 12 years fro me to get to my starting weight, thus if it takes me 10 months or a year, I don’t care, I will keep getting on back. Something is very different about the way I go about my plan because this time I got the message: life or death. Period. But, that said, I have to say I am enjoying the process of losing weight and this journey. I relish each day that I put on my old clothes and they are lose and baggy. I wear them as constant reminders as to how far I have come. I have really begun to understand why I eat and that has been illuminating. I am not perfect in my plan, but I am sticking close to it. I am loving the new me, physically, loving the fact that I have more stamina in things physical. Love it that I could hike 7 straight miles in Yosemite. I am not going back. Never. No way.
    We all signed on to the 100 challenge for different and varied reasons. I say if it is not motivating you-feel free to give it up. What I will ask is this: what will motivate you (or has motivated you) to continue forward on your journey? Is there something that was your tipping point? I am asking because fro many years I was in denial about how serious my weight issue was. Like I said: life or death. I chose life. Your blogging friend, Michele

    • Karen

      Oh, heavy sigh at your thought provoking last paragraph. I need to really ask what motivates me. Often in the past it was an event, like a trip or seeing someone I had not seen in a long time. And that kind of motivation is probably part of my yo-yo issue… I’d lose for that reason and then the reason goes away. If I had to guess right now without thinking about it, I’d say I like myself more when I am being healthy. It is probably a control thing. I don’t like the out-of-control Karen. Oh, I need to think about this!

  22. I think we each have to do what works for us. I don’t overeat certain foods because I’m deprived; I overeat certain foods because once I have one bite I don’t want to stop.

  23. There is a lot of disagreement out in the blogosphere on this topic. I am a firm believer that we just have to do what works for us, as long as it is sustainable. I have red light foods. I also have red light foods that I slip up and eat sometimes (and always wish I did not). Some people cannot make it with that kind of limitations. Others, like me, thrive with them.

    • Karen

      My husband seems to be one who wants to have a food here that would tempt him so he can then have strength and success in resisting that temptation. Of course that seems to backfire a lot. But our approaches are very different and I know that I drive him crazy with my wanting to keep junk food out of the house.

  24. I WISH I knew the answer to this! I think, though, that I am becoming more and more of the banisher type of person. Try as I might, there are just some things I cannot eat in moderation. I really can’t bring them into the house, and yet I do, time and time again. And each time, I eat too much.

  25. Great topic Karen! I love what Jody, Sunny and Dr J had to say!

    I think you know where I stand on this subject already. From all that I have read there are physiological and psychological reasons that we eat or over eat certain foods.

    I don’t swear off any food groups but I do make healthy choices about 90% of the time! I don’t eat high carb foods on an empty tummy as I know it will lead to a binge. High sugar foods are make me want more so if I want a sugary dessert it always has to be eaten right after a balanced healthy meal so It won’t cause a blood sugar hike and followed by a crash and a craving for more.

    Once in a while I snack on something that triggers a little overindulgence and then I am reminded why I don’t make carby snacks a part of my regular routine.

    I have abnormally low blood sugar and I am very sensitive to carbs so do pay attention to when I eat and what I eat.

    Everyone has to find what works for them. I think I have found my balance. I know you will find yours as well.

    • Karen

      Yes, I thought I might be able to predict your response:) I am sure I have told you before that I really hope that someday I eat like you do. You seem so balanced and have an approach that seems so doable for long-term. The part about eating with meals is interesting; someone else said something similar and I had not thought much about that before.

  26. Hi Karen, what a great topic! As you know, I’m in a 12-step program for my weight issues so I haven’t eaten what I’d call my “binge foods” for (exactly) ten years and 14 weeks! That’d be all dessert/chocolate, pizza, fried food, figs, fast food, and almost all nuts (except if they show up honestly, like on a salad!) Recently I had to add melted cheese to the list. I had to face the fact that having the kind of craving I could get for it and the way I’d lie when I wrote my food down at night (I use points to record) was out of control. I feel 100% better without it.

    People in my program do whatever they want based on their eating/bingeing history. It’s up to the individual. I know I can’t handle “a bite” of something. I would immediately fall right back into my binge mode and it would be like the intervening 10 years had never occurred. I have no doubt that the nearly 90 pounds I lost and more would be back so fast that I wouldn’t know what hit me. So I take this – what we call our recovery – very seriously. I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep it.

    • Karen

      I had forgotten about that program and you are not the only blogger I follow who is using abstinence successfully. Hmmm. So that makes me curious… have you found “acceptable” substitutes for things, like do you make a pizza alternative?

  27. I’m a huge fan of red light foods. I cannot be trusted with sugar, bread, chips, anything like that. Cookies, candy, nope nope nope. I do so much better just not having those things, and then I start listening to what works for a lot of people = moderation, and then here I am 5 lbs heavier. I can’t do moderation. I feel better physically and mentally when I eliminate those foods.

  28. I use to have red light foods and OH YES! GREEN light foods. It depended on where my emotions were because they could be the same foods…Now, I have learned to have a YELLOW light for lots of foods. Use caution..slow down..merge it in slowly…

    Oreo cookies are one of these foods. If I am urging to have some, I look at my emotions for 15 to 20 minutes. If it is still there I allow it PORTION controlled.

    Honestly, that is how I got through Halloween. All weekend I left a tootsie roll pop in the bottom of my purse. I did well until I saw it…then I did the 15 to 20 minute rule and the urge passed. That is how I learn to trust me and my emotions. Doesn’t work for everyone BUT that is what is working for me right now.

    • Karen

      Great idea! I should try that. I think I’d need to set a timer to keep to it. When I am eating well all the time, I can have Oreos in the house for my teen and never be tempted. When I am not eating well, look out!

  29. Oh my, what a great topic! Red light foods… oh how I love thee!

    In February 2010 I threw away 2 big, black garbage bags full of red light foods… slowly they have found their way back into my cupboards as my hubby and children requested them. I find that the best way for me to avoid these delectables is to keep working out to lose weight. I mean, when I work out for 1 hour per day, six days a week I realize that NOTHING tastes as feeling good feels… and there you have it – my theory 😉

    Visiting from SITS… love your blog!

    I am following now 😉 Make it a great day!

  30. Joy

    There are foods that I have trouble with for sure. Cinnamon Rolls for one! Yummy! However, I have found a couple of tricks that work for our household. I always felt bad, that we can’t have a little treat around, because I could not control myself. So I found, if I can put it in the freezer, it’s like it’s not even in the house. I could totally be in the mood for something, search the entire house for goodies and never think to look in the freezer! The other thing I do is, if its something that cannot be frozen, I put it in a sealed container and put it on a high shelf in my upstair closet. I really have to go to a lot of work to get it. By the time I drag the ladder up the stairs, I have had time to rethink my decision and before I know it, I’ve changed my mind.

    Anyway this works for me.

    • Karen

      Oh this made me laugh. I tried the freezer trick and discovered, to my dismay, some foods are even better frozen! Like lemon bars:( Now that high shelf thing might work for me. And, my husband is a foot taller so he could reach stuff if he wanted it.

  31. I find the more food I restrict the harder it is, I have to go back and rethink things but for the most part I try to keep anything I can’t eat out of the house- but yeah- when you limit your choices things you wouldn’t have cared about before also start to become more tempting! I’m not even a fan of cake but I sure as heck am starting to want it more… *sigh* That’s a sign that I’m doing something wrong imo.

  32. Great topic! I just found your blog from another I am following.

    I swear my red light foods change depending on that time of month… it’s awful… some days all I crave is salty, other days it’s sweet. It’s incredibly frustrating. Some days I have self control, other days it’s a free for all with one pretzel starting a half bag binge. It’s hard to keep everything out of my house though… especially carbs. The only thing I try to do is pick out healthier versions on the things I crave and portion out my snacks telling myself, that is all I’m having.

    I used to be a big believer in banishing all foods while dieting… but quickly changed that tune because you can’t go all your life without eating some things you love… and if you do, you eventually go on a binge and feel super guilty. I just try to take one day at a time, work out hard 6 days a week and if I slip up, don’t get too flustered.

    I know this isn’t great advice, but I just wanted to let you know that we’re all in your shoes when it comes to food! We all have our weaknesses. 🙂

    • Karen

      Thanks for stopping by and for weighing in Laura. Funny you should mention pretzels. We used to always have a huge tub from Costco, kept in the basement for my son and his friends. For some reason one day, after going ages and ages without eating or wanting pretzels, I made the mistake of having some. Yep, set me off for more and more. Right now we are out of them and maybe that is a good thing:)

  33. Hi stopping on over from the Hot 100 challenge.

    I agree that we shouldn’t label foods as “bad” versus “good”. However, I do find that there are foods that I overindulge on…they call my name and have a hold on me that I’m amazed at sometimes.

    Brownies would be one of those. So, do I never make or eat them? No. I make them once in a while, usually for a function so I know they won’t be sitting around the house. If they are in the house (because my kids like them as well) then I stop and think about my mood/time of the month/etc and decide if it’s safe to have just one or should I skip them this time around. I have better strength at certain times of the month than others and I’m learning to work with it.

    Sorry to write so much, but basically I think instead of calling things “bad” I’ve had to realize that there are simply some treats I can’t have while I’m losing because I haven’t been able to break the hold they have on my tastebuds yet. Someday I plan to make them a part of my life, within moderation.

    Also…Geneen Roth is great and her articles are what first sent me on my own journey!

    Hang in there…keep staying “tired off falling off the band wagon” and just hang on until your motivation comes back. It will… 🙂

    • Karen

      Oh brownies. Can’t have those around. Sometimes we make them to bring somewhere and I even resort to having my husband do the baking. On my diet forum there is a recipe for black bean brownies and I have not tried it – I figure it will remind me too much of the real thing. Thanks for stopping by:)

  34. OMG. I used to LOVE that game when I was a kid. It was seriously my favorite game. I would get so excited when we all got together to play games because I knew we would play that one.

    Also, I totally get this post. For a while I thought I couldn’t control myself around sugary things like cookies, brownies, etc. So I labeled them off limits and just didn’t eat them. Only recently have I come around to knowing that I can trust myself. I can eat one cookie and I’ll survive. There is no food for me that’s off limits now, and I like that. It take a little more mental work, but it’s worth it to know that I’m not creating a huge list of “bad” foods I have to spend time ignoring.

  35. Boy do I have red light foods. I used to go monkey for Cheetos ( the crunchy fried ones), and could never stop unless i ate the whole bag. Then I would have orange fingers for 2 days and mega shame. You know what I did in desperation? I MADE a VOW to GOD that I would never eat them again. It’s been 2 years. I wish I never made that vow. I miss my Cheeto’s. I’ve never admitted that out loud before.

  36. This one I go round and round about. I think during the true program/weight loss phase there must be red light foods. I think it is the way we re-train ourselves to make other choices – by taking some of our usual ones completely off the table, so to speak!

    When I am on program – nothing can blast me off. I will not be tempted, nor do I crave those trigger foods. They can be iin the house and I will not eat them. I don’t even like trying to come up with alternatives because then I am thinking about those things I no longer eat. I think the Kessler book helped me see the folly of “substitutes”.

    However, when moving into a different plan or maintenence it becomes tricky. When I moved from product based plan to real food I struggled and had to eliminate some foods that I was not able to regulate as easily (like peanut butter). I don’t think it will be out of my life forever but for now, it is too tempting to overindulge.

    Even saying whole wheat only didn’t completely help with my love of breads. Now I just don’t buy any bread that I like (fortunatly I am picky). I sometimes have those thin buns, but mostly I manage without bread. The same goes for sugar – I don’t do “sweets” and I don’t worry about the little bit contained in this or that food or condiment.

    When I go off plan, it can be with a trigger or red light food, but not always. For me it has more to do with what is going on in my head than the food in front of me.

    • Karen

      It makes a big difference to me if I am eating well consistently (or not) too. Amazing how that impacts my willpower with certain foods. Bread and peanut butter… sigh.

  37. Well, I definitely loved the game! but my only red lights foods are the ones that I love, yet don’t sit well in my stomach no-mo. As in, I feel heavy or bloated or just plain old blarg. I feel that way about pizza lately. Been eating too much. But I won’t label that food red. I’ll slow it down to a yellow.

    • Karen

      Oh I have not eaten pizza much at all this year, since I began my last attempt to really improve my eating. But for some reason I have been thinking a lot about it lately. And wondering if it is time to go for a pizza alternative. I used to make “pizzas” for myself on whole wheat tortillas with black beans, veggies, and of course cheese and sauce on top.

  38. Someday I hope to be one of the first to comment on one of your posts so that it doesn’t take me 15 minutes to read all the comments and by then I’ve almost forgotten what I wanted to say about your post…. like now….

    Oh yes, I guess you know where I stand on the question of not eating “red light foods.” I’ve just written a post about it. But I’m relatively new to abstinence. There IS, I admit, a niggling fear in the back of my mind, that I’ll have an ever-expanding list of abstinence foods until I can’t eat anything at all. Absurd, maybe, but I’ve noticed already the same thing you’ve experienced, that new foods jump up, wave their stickly little arms, beckon me forward and pop themselves repeatedly into my mouth. Hmmmmmmm….. There just aren’t any easy answers, are there?!

    • Karen

      Oh you make me laugh:) You probably read Linda’s comment then. Maybe we are destined to an ever growing list of foods because we are not really getting at the problem, just the symptom? So when we ban one food another will takes it place? That is, if it is not about the foods themselves but about something else altogether. Just thinking out loud.

  39. I have a TON of red light foods. Unfortunately, I have tried many times to follow Geneen Roth’s reccomendation, but have gone CRAZY with these foods. The problem is that I really can’t trust myself around these foods- time and time again proves that. I have no idea how to get out of that cycle.

    Right now I am eating whatever I want (in private) and it is a nightmare. I have gained so much weight. But, I STILL feel deprived. Weight watchers ruined me.

  40. Interesting. In a perfect world everyone would eat what they want in moderation, but in reality, it seems like most of us have foods that trigger us to overeat them. I know for me it’s chocolate-and those darn Goldfish crackers. Not having them in the house works for me, but that might not be the answer for everyone. I suppose you have to figure out what works for you. If avoiding an unhealthy choice works for you, it seems like a good option.

    • Karen

      Funny you mention Goldfish. Just yesterday I was looking at them in the store and seeing the words “whole grain” on the label. Of course when I read closer it seems to me that there is still a lot of processed flour in there too.

  41. Pingback: Waisting Time , Archive » Hot 100 – Week 6 Update

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