Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important for people with arthritis. It helps keep inflammation in check, reduces excess pressure on joints, makes exercise easier and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is of particular concern if you have an inflammatory form of arthritis. Yet every day we deal with diet distractions that can cause us to overeat or make unhealthy food choices.
That’s why it’s important to understand your eating triggers and learn strategies to deal with them, says Courtney Burtscher, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. Here are five common diet downfalls – and how to overcome each.
1. At a party, you make multiple trips to the dessert tray and drink too much wine – like everyone else there.
Why you cave: It’s the mirroring effect, says Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and New York Times bestselling author. “We see what others are eating and do what they’re doing.”
Solution: Sit down, Albers-Bowling says. When you move around at parties you tend to graze more. Another tactic: Eat a healthy meal or snack before you go to the party, and veer away from resolve-busting alcohol.
2. At a restaurant you order an appetizer, entrée and dessert because they are available for one fixed price.
Why you cave: People want to get the most for their money, Burtscher says, and “it can distort our perception of what’s healthy.”
Solution: This food trigger requires a mindset change, Albers says. Consider that unhealthy but budget-friendly foods can lead to weight gain and poorer health in the long run. Burtscher offers a more immediate strategy: “Take a minute and think to yourself, ‘Is this what I want or need?’”
3. You ate an entire bag of potato chips because you were feeling a little blue.
Why you cave: “When we eat food based on mood, we’re going for instant pleasure,” says Albers-Bowling, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food (New Harbinger Publications Inc).
Solution: Choose a different kind of comfort – a hot bath, warm tea or a massage – instead of eating.
4. The portion size looks OK to you. Besides, you ordered something fairly healthy.
Why you cave: Calculating portion size isn’t easy. Numerous studies show that we are poor guessers when it comes to the amount of calories, fat, sodium and sugar in a meal.
Solution: Many restaurants have nutritional information on their websites, Albers-Bowling says, so you might be able to figure out what to order – and whether to ask for half of it in a take-home bag – before you get there.
Use visual cues to avoid portion distortion. A single serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards; a single serving of potatoes is about the size of a fist.
5. Your mother pushes you to try the sugar cookies she just baked.
Why you cave: You don’t want to offend. Every family has “food pushers” who are hard to turn down, even for the most dedicated dieter, says Albers-Bowling.
Solution: Be direct about your eating goals. If that’s not possible, “Tell her, ‘I love your cookies so much. I’m going to put some in a baggy and take them home,’” Albers-Bowling says.
- 8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation
- 5 Easy Ways to Control Food Portions
- How to Overcome Overeating
- How Fat Affects Arthritis