Does feasting on your favorite foods satisfy your cravings for them—or just make you want them more?
But first, pizza.
That was Kim Kardashian’s plan before overhauling her diet, as she revealed on Sunday’s episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. On the show, Kim, Khloé, and Kim’s BFF Jonathan Cheban ventured around New York City for a couple of slices of pizza, followed by chocolate ice cream cones with rainbow sprinkles. It was all part of a final food indulgence before Kim would embark on a “lifestyle change” that she hopes will give her a “good body.” (As if she wasn't already #bodygoals!)
We don’t have the details on what exactly Kim’s lifestyle change will entail, but Cheban’s already betting she’ll fall off the wagon. “I’ve heard about ‘lifestyle changes’ before,” he said. “I’ll see her at Cipriani—she cannot resist that pasta.”
“I’m really going to be dedicated and committed,” Kim fired back. “You’ll see.”
Sorry Kim, we've got disappointing news for you: Feasting on your favorite foods before banning them from your diet sets you up for failure, as Cheban predicted. “If you’re starting a diet on this notion that you have to restrict foods you love, that means the diet is unsustainable and you’re going to fail,” says Julie Upton, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health.
That's because a binge-then-restrict plan requires a heck of a lot of willpower, especially if you’re denying yourself foods you really crave, explains Claudia T. Felty, PhD, RD. “Over time, you’re going to be around those foods and you’re going to be tempted by them,” she says. “When you set them up as foods you binge on now and then never eat again, that binge mentality comes back.”
Plenty of dieters believe that a Kim-style “last supper” will jumpstart lasting eating-habit changes, Upton says, but what it really does is “jumpstart the desire to get off the diet and [eat] the foods they’ve been restricting!”
When you decide a food you love is entirely off limits, you're more likely to fixate on that no-no. “We want what we can’t have,” Felty says, and this longing can actually trigger more intense cravings. Plus, telling yourself you simply "can't" have certain foods turns eating into a moral issue. “It sets up this 'good food' versus 'bad food' mentality that, for a lot of people, feeds an unhealthy relationship with foods that they love,” Upton adds.
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A smarter approach is identifying an eating plan that meshes with your lifestyle and food preferences and then taking small, sustainable steps to keep at it. “For someone who loves pasta or bread, a ketogenic diet is never going to work, because they’re going to constantly crave those foods,” Upton says. Instead, following a Mediterranean-style diet that allows for some grains can lead to slow and steady weight loss, she says.
Felty and Upton both recommend the 80-20 rule. For 80% of the time, stick to a healthy eating plan; 20% of the time, enjoy the treats you love that don’t necessarily fit that plan on a daily basis, like pizza and ice cream. As long as you're also exercising regularly and you consume them in reasonable quantities, incorporating those treat foods 20% of the time won't derail your weight loss goals, Felty says.