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estriction is a common trait of weight loss diets. While the restriction of carbohydrates, calories and portion sizes can lead to nutrient deficiencies, a weakened immune system and altered metabolism, intentional deprivation of certain foods can also have an effect on eating behaviours. A study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked into the effect that restricting added sugars can have on behaviour. Added sugars can come in the form of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup added to foods in processing, including sugar-sweetened beverages, store-bought baked goods, candy and sweetened cereal. The study included obese and normal weight men and women who routinely consumed over 10 per cent of their calories from added sugar.  (The World Health Organization recommends no more that 10 per cent



of an individual’s diet be comprised of added sugars.) The study found that restricting the participants’ intake of added sugar increased their desire to seek out those foods and increased how hard they were prepared to work to gain access to foods high in added sugars. In other words, the participants were told to consume less added sugar, they did so but then craved foods with added sugar even more.               Although this is only one study, it’s the first to assess whether an imposed restriction on a certain food (foods high in added sugars) to promote a healthy diet, increases an individual’s drive to seek out that food. If you’ve tried to restrict

your intake of any food or nutrient, the results of this study may sound familiar to you. Have you told yourself you can’t have bread? Or dessert? Or fast food? Then it’s all you can think about! Abruptly restricting your intake of certain foods may not be the most effective way of producing a change in habit. Also, if the change you’re making is not something that can be sustained for the rest of your life, you may want to consider a less aggressive approach.   Changes in eating behaviours and habits take time and consideration beyond simply cutting out “problematic” foods. Evidence supports the recommendations of eating meals with others, learning to enjoy your food, cooking more often and being mindful of eating habits. Being aware of when you’re hungry and full, is a useful, intuitive skill that can be developed over time.   These recommendations may seem vague but that vagueness allows for less

restriction and a sense of freedom in deciding what specific approach is right for you. Goals don’t need to be huge, allor-nothing standards. For example, if you want to start eating less meat, start with one meatless meal a week. Once that becomes doable, make it two meals a week. If “eating less meat” is what you want to do, but you normally eat meat every day, going on a vegan diet may be a struggle. Taking baby steps towards a healthy diet and lifestyle is an approach that not only promotes healthy diets for the long term, but also allows you to feel less restricted and controlled by food. For more information on setting dietrelated goals, go to and search “goals.” — Kelsey Leckovic is a registered dietitian with Northern Health working in chronic disease management.

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