Cut It Out: Identifying Your "Problem Foods"

Someones a french fry is just a french fry...except when it's not.

I have realized, in these days since ending my first ever Whole30 Challenge, that there are going to be some foods that I just don’t bring back into my life. Even after a month, I can say that my weakness for a piece of cheesecake, and the subsequent awful feeling after I cave, just isn’t worth it. I won’t say “never,” but barring some deeply celebratory circumstance, I’m saying buh-bye to cheesecake.

DietBet is about moderation and healthy choices, not deprivation, so why should I give up on cheesecake altogether? Because I’ve designated it a “problem food”: something that it’s just not worth it to let into my diet.

This is all well and good for me, one person saying no to cheesecake, but how can you tell whether something is a “problem food” or something it’s fine to splurge on occasionally? The questions below should help you decide!

1. How long does it make me feel good, versus how long it makes me feel bad?

You can recognize problem foods when they are fleeting pleasures, not savored at all, with after-effects that linger.

For me, with sugary desserts, the sluggishness, mental fog, and physical fatigue make it no longer worth it to have a dessert at a work lunch. The time I spend eating it is seconds, and the unhappiness afterwards is long-lasting.

(Note: this isn’t about guilt, though I know a lot of folks who feel guilt with certain problem foods. I am talking about physical symptoms that make the particular food not worth it.)

2. Do I really choose the food, or does it choose me every time it’s available?

I hate to say it, but pizza is this way for me; I don’t choose to eat pizza, but rather make a beeline for it whenever it is available! I am working toward moderation with pizza in particular, but if I cannot master the pizza monster inside, I may cut it out in order to be able to know my own choice is in control.

Many people see foods that for other people are “problem foods” and can take them or leave them; it’s when I feel like I can never leave that last slice that I feel like I need to make a change.

3. Is there a healthier substitute that I enjoy but can eat moderately?

So many foods have modifications that make them healthier and also make them less overwhelmingly crave-able. I love toast, but whereas I always want a 2nd or 3rd piece of white toast, I’m usually quite satisfied with one piece of whole wheat toast. Keeping the healthier alternative around means getting something you like without tempting yourself with something you cannot handle.

If you know a food makes you feel bad or feel helpless, or if there’s a healthier version you still enjoy, it might be worth cutting that food out. This isn’t meant to be an outside-imposed rule: it’s a personal choice, and I’m feeling freer as I consider which foods I want to live without in order to feel stronger, more alert, and more in control of my habits.

Make it WayBetter

Is there a new healthy food you’ve been meaning to try, but never gave it a chance? Look up 3 recipes including that new food and see if you can replace a “problem food” in your life with something novel and nutritious!