Don’t Diet. Be Happy.

emojivegetablesFruit and vegetables aren’t just healthy; they actually make you happy!  This rather unusual finding comes from a study done in Australia.  The researchers found that people who went from eating practically zero fruit and vegetables to eating 8 servings a day experienced increased feelings of happiness and life satisfaction.  They studied over 12,000 people over several years, and found that the effect showed up within 2 years of making diet changes.

How much is this in real life terms?  Based on the rough weight estimates in the study, it’s about 640 grams or almost 1-1/2 lbs of edible fruit/vegetables a day.  It’s actually not that hard to achieve.  One orange equals about 130 grams or 1/4 lb of edible fruit.  Think of 6 similar-sized servings of fruit or vegetables every day.

Now that you’re happier..

Think more about eating healthy foods you enjoy instead of obsessing about all the “bad” foods you supposedly have to restrict.  That turns out to be the path to diet success.  When it comes to dieting, focusing on the negatives — “Don’t eat this!  No Sweets!  Avoid that!  Don’t eat food you enjoy — is a recipe for failure.  A plan that’s all about endless lists of “BAD” foods, restriction, deprivation and guilt doesn’t work.

New research confirms what some nutrition experts have known for awhile: people who are successful at weight control and healthy choices focus more on the healthy foods they enjoy, rather than obsessing about what they supposedly can’t eat.  Interestingly, the researchers found that people with low self-control focused more on restricting so-called “bad” foods, while forcing themselves to eat supposedly healthier foods they didn’t like.  A set up for failure.

My Walk Talk Nutrition co-host Kathy Isacks has a great term for making food choices: is it “calorie worthy”?   You might enjoy a 500 calorie piece of cheesecake once a year.  You might mindlessly chow down on a 500 calorie plate full of potato chips every day.  Are those daily potato chips “calorie worthy” in your diet plan?  Probably not.  But you might make room for an occasional calorie worthy cheesecake treat in your calorie bank.  You still stick to a weight control plan, but you include foods you enjoy.

Anyway, the research is interesting, but it doesn’t give any advice on how to change from a negative-focused low self-control dieter to a high self-control positive-oriented dieter.  Maybe if you start by eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, you’ll feel happier and have more life satisfaction, allowing you to then think more about enjoyable healthy foods and less about restrictions and deprivation.

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