“I can’t just stop at one!”

26th March, 2015

As a dietitian, one of the most common things I hear clients say is “I don’t keep that in the house as I can’t just stop at one” or “if I open a packet of chocolate I’ll eat the whole lot.”

There are a number of different reasons for this type of experience with eating. Here are some of the key ones.

  • The belief that you shouldn’t eat the food
  • The thought that the food is bad for you or naughty
  • A belief that eating the food will result in weight gain
  • You don’t believe you have any self control
  • You feel you’re not allowed to eat more of the food if you wanted to
  • When the food is eaten to cope with emotional feelings (to provide comfort)
  • You feel you’re addicted to the food (or something in the food) and abstinence is the only way to manage things

While everyone is different in their capacity to overcome these factors, I strongly believe that the overwhelming majority of people can learn how to change their experience with their “problem” foods.

For some people it may be as simple as changing their belief that the food in question is bad and allowing themselves to eat the food when they decide they really feel like it. I have seen this change in many clients.

For some people there are strong emotional ties to certain food and letting go of well-established beliefs that the food is bad or fattening can take quite some time. If you are also an emotional eater, which is very common, then the task can be much more complex.

If you are an emotional eater and use food as a means to control unpleasant thoughts and feelings, then you must firstly acknowledge what your triggers are and look at how you might be able to manage them before you are likely to be able to enjoy your comfort food in smaller amounts. I have seen this change in many clients but it takes persistence and a focus on being kind to yourself. This can be complex and take time and you may need help from a skilled professional who works in this area, such as a dietitian.

If you prefer just to avoid certain food as you feel you’ll eat too much or that that’s the best for you, then provided you have a sound relationship with food and your body and you eat as freely as you wish to, then the restriction is likely not an issue for you.

If you are one to say “I can’t just stop at one” and you do eat a whole block of chocolate in one go, but you enjoy each mouthful and feel good afterwards, are fit and healthy and eat a varied diet, then it’s probably not an issue. Just ensure you have your dental check-ups!

If you avoid certain food as a way to help manage your eating or body weight, but you continually end up over-eating the food in question or some other food and have moments where you feel out of control with your eating or weight, then the food restriction is not actually helping you.

If you’re not someone that feels they can enjoy everything in moderation but you would like to be able to, then you need to start by addressing the factors I have just discussed. As mentioned, you may need to seek help from a dietitian skilled in this area.