This column is on families, so what does losing weight have to do with marriage or parenting or children?
The core reason most of us want to take care of ourselves is so that we can better take care of our families. Too much weight may undermine both the quality and the quantity of time we have with our children, and the added vigor and confidence we can gain by being in better shape could help us to be better at our two most important roles of spouse and parent.
We have been longtime critics of what we call fad diets — the kind of weight loss programs that come and go like a new style or a new fashion, the kind where you count everything from calories to carbs to proteins and take all the pleasure out of eating.
What we have always wanted was something more practical than that, and more logical. Finally, when we couldn’t find the diet book we wanted, Richard decided to write it. It is a new book called “The Half-Diet Diet,” but it turned out to be more than just a weight loss program because we discovered that what really interested us was the love/hate relationship we have with our appetites — all of our appetites.
We have always loved the appetite metaphor used by Alma in the Book of Mormon.
He calls appetites “passions” and compares them to a horse that needs to be bridled.
In this view of things, appetites are not inherently bad or ugly; they are not things we want to kill or get rid of. Rather, they are things of great beauty but so strong that they can hurt us if we do not channel and control their power with a bridle.
You don’t curse the horse or kill it; you appreciate it and control it in a way that it serves you and gives you joy. Appetites are the same. We think the appetite for food is very similar to all of our other appetites, and by learning to control one, we can discover how to control them all.
At its best, your food appetite, far from being your enemy, can be the sensor that tells you what your body needs. (Your appetite probably isn’t doing that for you right now because you’ve messed it up a bit. But you can fix it to where the things that sound, look, smell or taste the best to you actually are the best for you.) So the basic beginning premise of this diet is that our appetites are good; our senses are good; the earth is good; and natural food, in all its variety, is good.
The problem is that appetites don’t know when to quit. They tell us what we want, but they don’t tell us how much of it we need. There’s no overload bell or backup beeper.
Of course, everyone should consult their doctor about dieting, but here is the basic, simple, logical principle of the Half-Diet Diet: Eat what you want, but only eat half as much (half of your normal portion, half of what your appetite wants). Along with eating only half as much, you eat twice as slow. Take smaller bites; set your fork down in between bites; and savor, sip and smell instead of gulping, guzzling and gorging. Eating half as much half as quickly takes the same amount of time, and you will enjoy it more.
As simple as that sounds, it makes eminent sense. Here’s why:
In our opinion, Americans eat about twice as much as they need. And the problem is that we eat too much junk food. Low-quality food does have nutrients in it, but we have to eat a lot more of it to get the nourishment we need. (The body can get the same amount of what it needs out of twice as much bad food as it can out of half as much good food.)
The job of our food appetite is to get enough nutrients into our body. So by controlling the quantity of food we eat, we also begin to control the quality. As we discipline the size of our portions and as the appetite finds that it can’t change those quantities, its only other option for getting the nutrients it needs is to demand higher quality. Thus, in our experience, if we stick to the half portions, vegetables and fruits and other wholesome foods begin to look better and better to us, while junk food gradually loses its appeal.
There is a little more to it than that, such as drinking a tall glass of water before each meal and finding a type of daily exercise that you enjoy, but the basic core of the diet is to simply eat half of three meals a day and to have no snacks in between other than fruit or vegetables.
According to Statistics Brain Research Institute, the top New Year’s resolution, year after year, is to lose weight. If you have tried it before and failed, or if you have lost weight but then gained it back, you may need a new approach — something simpler, and something that you can sustain over weeks, months, even years.
And remind yourself of your “family motivation.” It is hard to eat slowly when you feel hungry, and it is very hard to stop when you have eaten half of a meal. But if you remember that you are doing it for your children, for your spouse and for your present or future grandchildren as well as for yourself, you will find that you can do it and that it gradually becomes a habit — a good habit that can save your life.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak worldwide on family issues. Their new books are “The Turning” and “Life in Full.” See valuesparenting.com or eyrealm.com.