In the conference call last week(audio link), Dr. Hill said that instead of focusing too much on what to eat (low-carb, low-fat, etc.), we should cut back on how much we eat. That really hit home for me. In recent years we have seen the low-fat craze (Susan Powter and her "Fat makes you fat!" mantra), low-carb fanatacism, "healthy fats," "dark chocolate is so good for you, it's practically a vitamin," and on and on. It can get pretty confusing. In the most recent issue of Health magazine, there is a feature on how sushi can blow your diet. It warns you of the dangers of imitation wasabi, which contains fat and sugar. Yes, it does, but it's also 7 calories a tablespoon and burns your mouth, so how much diet damage can anyone really do with it?
I'm not saying that what we eat doesn't matter, but if we start thinking of some foods as "healthy" and others as "bad" without paying attention to things like calories and portions, we're likely to make things harder on ourselves than we need to be. For a while, I had completely stopped putting butter on my bread because butter was fat and it made you fat. I ate two or three rolls but didn't butter them. Now that I know that one pat of real butter is only 36 calories and one Weight Watchers point, I figure it's better for to have one roll with butter, if that will satisfy me, than to empty the bread basket and congratulate myself on eating a fat-free snack. I've also stopped bothering with artificial sweeteners, except in sodas, because a teaspoon of sugar is 15 calories. I don't put sugar in my coffee or on my cereal, but for strawberries or in recipes, I'd rather stick to the real thing and not have that yucky artificial sweetener aftertaste.
Having a currency for making food decisions helps. Calories are fine, if you can keep track of them. I've never been good with numbers, so it's easier for me to use Weight Watchers points, which are smaller numbers to add up. It's having a set of guidelines for making choices that matters. Within those guidelines, I think that it's important to choose things that keep you satisfied and provide nutritional benefits, of course.
Everyone's big criticism of Weight Watchers is that you could eat nothing but Pop Tarts and still be under your points. Try it sometime, though, and you'll figure out that 25 points of Pop Tarts is a lot less satisfying than 25 points of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, lowfat dairy and all that other good stuff. Maybe it's time to stop combing the headlines for guidance on what we should eat and just listen to our guts. Literally.