eat right.

Take the ‘Fat’ out of Fat Tuesday

Mardi-Gras
Photo courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Mardi Gras 2014 is almost over and Fat Tuesday is coming to an end. For those not in the know, Fat Tuesday refers to the practice of eating richer and fattier foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten Season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Or simply, as many people do, eating and drinking as much ‘bad’ things as you can before you give them up for Lent. While you don’t have to be religious to take part in Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday festivities, many people take part in this process to enjoy one last party and eat and drink copious amounts of foods they will later consider off limits.

While many people may give up sweets, alcohol, fast food, or even meat for Lent, oftentimes they quickly come back to these foods as soon as their 40-plus day fast is over. Whether it is done for religious purposes or simply, as many people, to force themselves to give up a certain food they have problems saying ‘no’ to, many miss the opportunity to use this time as a way to make long lasting behavior changes. Don’t get me wrong; I am not a proponent of dietary abstinence – giving up a food simply makes you crave it even more and usually leads to binging or eating more of it than you normally would. Even if you are giving up on sweets, for example, during Lent, take this opportunity to find other substitutes to replace the desire to eat sweet foods. You could try substituting fruit, for instance, instead of that afternoon candy bar from the vending machine at work. (for a related post, see my blog on Vending Machine Voodoo for tips on how to never visit this mechanical dietary dynamo ever again). Instead of substituting with food, you could try to increase your activity or go for a walk every time you get a craving for something sweet. Eating more fruit and increasing your daily activity are good changes that will help you live healthier and will likely help you avoid binging once Lent has come to an end. If you choose to abstain from imbibing during this period, focus on why you feel you need to give up alcohol at all. Are you simply trying to cut calories or is there a bigger issue? Regardless of the reason, look for healthy switches so when the fast is over, you can have a better game plan and won’t have spent that last 40 days craving a glass of wine.

If you are fasting these next 40 days and have decided to give one of your most tempting treats up, take time to not only find healthier substitutes, but also regain control so you can enjoy these foods in a healthy, moderate way once the fast is over. Avoiding foods you enjoy doesn’t lead to a satisfying diet and will only cause you to enter into a viscous cycle of deprivation and binging. This will indeed put a lot of ‘fat’ into Fat Tuesday and well into the rest of the year.

Restriction Binge Cycle
Restriction Binge Cycle

Stop this cycle by avoiding extremes. Fat Tuesday doesn’t have to be so ‘fat’ after all.

Be well,

Dr. A

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