My Weight Problem Kept Me Away From 'Bad' Food for Way Too Long

reaching for cake

Some people steer clear of dairy or gluten for fear of inflammation or an upset stomach. Others make conscious choices to abstain from animal products because of their personal convictions about the environment or long-term health concerns. But for me, I've consciously (and even subconsciously!) stuck to a laundry list of "no-no" foods that have absolutely nothing to do with an allergy and everything to do with fear.

Growing up with a "weight problem" and always on a diet or "weight loss plan," from pediatrician-recommended shakes to calorie-counting and portion control, I internalized knowledge every weight watcher generally recognizes as true about certain foods: No matter which plan you're following (or if you're not even on a particular plan at all), there are foods that are off the table.

For instance, if you have any hope at all of slimming down, you pretty much have no business eating the following ...

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"White" foods, including white bread, rice, potatoes, and any form of processed sugar like candy, cookies, cake, and brownies

Burgers

Mayo

Fried foods, including potato chips, fries, and fried chicken

Oh, and butter. Especially butter!

It's pretty tough to go through life without any of those, but I made it work by picking my battles. Meaning that if dessert was going to happen, I'd rather go for low-fat ice cream over a donut any day. In fact, who needs to ever have that donut? What a total waste of calories and fat, I'd think. I can do without! 

And by doing without, I mean FULLY without.

My mother-in-law, knowing how health-conscious I am, used to drive me nuts by constantly saying things like, "I made dinner, but I know you can't have (fill-in-forbidden-food-here)."

In response, I'd say, "I'm not on a diet with any sort of restricted food list. I can have anything I want. Just in moderation."

But I didn't mean it.

Whether consciously or not, I was still refusing to eat a sizeable list of specific "fat-making," forbidden foods. And it took me until I was 30 to realize just how much I've been missing out ...

How much I've been missing out on wonderful breakfast favorites like croissants and all other manner of buttery pastries. (Even when I was in Paris, argh!) Empty calories, I'd tell myself. Who needs it? Or delightful desserts like full-fat ice cream. Because there are so many low-fat options instead! Mac 'n' cheese? Only in my dreams! Cheesecake? Fugetaboutit -- pure evil! French fries and onion rings and wings? Not in a million years.

Obviously, all those foods are best eaten in moderation, some on very rare occasions. But to avoid them completely? How terribly sad is it to deny yourself something so pleasurable and delicious altogether over the course of a lifetime? What's the point of that?

I realized never eating something because of its "bad" reputation, or because I got it stuck in my head that it's not worth it, or because I worry it's a food reserved for people with more smoothly operating metabolisms is only fearmongering myself.

Furthermore, it caters to some backasswards, twisted idea that people who struggle with their weight don't "deserve," can't "handle," aren't "allowed" to indulge occasionally. When that is anything but the case.

In fact, denial only leads to resentment and stress -- and often can drive a person to do a 180 and go hog wild, blowing any and all healthy eating out of the water.

Thankfully, I've come a long way from those dark days when I was an overweight kid who didn't know any better. I've gotten off the fad diet train by doing a lot of research and going through a good bit of trial and error. What makes the most sense for me is eating clean, whole foods -- lots o' veggies, lean protein, and high-fiber complex carbs -- most of the time.

And if I'm doing that, there's definitely no reason I shouldn't trust myself to have a croissant or fries or any of those formerly "forbidden" foods once in a while. I'm happier for it. And you know what they say about happy people, right? They're healthier to boot!

Are there foods you've forbidden yourself from having? How do you feel about it?


Image via ©iStock.com/Marina_Ph

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