Telling someone who’s trying to lose weight, to “Never eat fast food” is bad advice.
Quick story: A client I’m working with confessed to me that she was feeling guilty about eating fast food; burger, fries, soda, the other day. I looked at her confused and asked “Okay, and…?”. She asks me “Well isn’t that bad?” My response was “Not necessarily, look at it in the context of your overall eating habits.”
I then asked her “Why did you have that meal?” Her response “I was out all day with the baby running errands. By the end of day I was so exhausted and hungry and I knew I didn’t have anything ready at home. So, I went to the drive-thru and got that meal”
My response “You feel guilty for being exhausted and hungry after running around all day with your baby and then eating what was convenient? Is fast food the best option most of the time? No, but it isn’t something you need to feel guilty about. Since you’re using a food tracker, you’re already aware of the nutrition content of that meal. Fast food can fit into your overall eating plan. It’s just a matter of learning to adjust your eating habits in response to those days where fast food feels like the best or only option.”
End of Story.
So, does that scenario feel familiar to anyone? It certainly does to me. Telling someone to never eat fast food is setting them up for failure. That advice ignores the reality of most people’s lives and worse, it doesn’t teach the person how to fit a variety of foods into their lives.
Instead help them learn:
- What makes up their food
- How much their body actually needs of the various nutrients
- Better options for convenience foods
- Habits that will make the better food choices easier
If the person hasn’t had anything to eat all day and decides to grab a burger, fries and soda for dinner, help them understand that while that may not be supportive of their goals, it also isn’t likely to knock them off track too much; so long as we get them back to the good habits that we’re trying to build.