Rationalization is NOT an aerobic exercise!


Apparently, it’s OK to eat anything we want—anything—just so the eating is done under certain specific conditions. As part of my weekly effort to enlighten and stimulate, I will try to itemize—and attempt to analyze—a few of these (allegedly) tried-and-true diet schemes.


Food Rationalization #1: You can’t gain weight if you eat in the dark. This has a dual benefit: Not only do you stay skinny, but you save electricity as well. So what’s the big deal about being seen putting food into your mouth?

When nobody’s looking, some people engage in what’s called ‘secret eating.’ The appeal of secret eating is that there are (almost) no consequences. You don’t have to listen to another person criticize you, and you don’t have to feel embarrassed by eating excessively when you know you’re a bit plump. The bad news is that your body sees you eat. The calories are exactly the same whether or not there are innocent bystanders. In an age where we can order a bag of goodies simply by speaking clearly into the clown’s mouth, it could also be called ‘anonymous eating.’

Food Rationalization #2:Everything is fair game—from a restaurant-size can of mayo to a deep-fried Hostess Ho-Ho—if it’s somebody’s birthday, wedding, anniversary or funeral. The same applies if any of these occasions are in your honor (except maybe for the last one). What is it about celebrations that can open the floodgates to acid reflux and gall bladder attacks? Does happiness plus love equal food? (If you were ever a child, you probably know the answer to that question.)

The key here is the underlying premise that ‘exceptions are OK.’ Well, of course exceptions are OK. But be honest: Is overindulging the exception, or the rule? What are the facts? (Rationalizing tends to nibble away at the facts.) Beat this one by keeping a journal of what, and when, you eat. Then, evaluate for yourself whether the calorific goodies are an everyday habit, or just an occasional luxury. It’s a lot easier to act on the facts if you know what they are.

Food Rationalization #3: If you eat while standing up (preferably over the sink), it is considered a ‘snack,’ and therefore, light and healthy. This includes, of course, leftover fried chicken, ice-cold pizza, and pork pies. Can habit really influence the consequences of our eating? Of course not. Calories are calories, no matter where you’re sitting (or standing).

Food Rationalization #4: Fat and carbohydrates are ignored by the body if your feet are in contact with a boardwalk, there’s an ocean nearby, and you are more than 103.5 miles from home.

No, I’m not trying to discourage eating yummy boardwalk cuisine. But take a look around you. There are skinny or moderately trim people eating those same wonderful fries, corn dogs and funnel cakes. What’s their secret? Moderation. Don’t resent them. They offer hope that it’s possible to enjoy special treats AND stay healthy.

Food Rationalization #5: As long as there is a ‘tomorrow,’ it’s OK to stuff yourself today. Many diet and exercise plans have a clearly specified starting time: Tomorrow. The good thing about tomorrows is that there’s always one waiting in the wings. Ahhh, the taste of procrastination!

It’s all part of the human struggle. We want to enjoy the moment, and that’s the way it should be. But there has to be some ‘balance.’ Here’s my formula: Enjoy the moment only to the extent that it doesn’t ruin your future moments. Your body will tell you what to do. When you weigh more than you want to, you’re eating too much. It’s that simple. Eating less will result in lower weight. Yet, don’t give up entirely on the fun and enjoyment of the here-and-now. I like the saying: ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation.’

Food Rationalization #6: Last, and most certainly not least, is the medical angle. ‘It’s my metabolism! Blame it on my thyroid! It’s just baby fat! I have an overactive gland!’ When all else fails, and responsibility is just too hard to take, we can always shift the blame to the ailment du jour.

Many consider being overweight a disease. Given that obesity can lead to any number of maladies, I get the point. But there’s a big difference between the STATE of obesity and the ACT of overeating. Let’s face it: There are many automatic physiological processes within our bodies that we can’t control—but launching a midnight assault on an innocent ham isn’t one of them. Those who get this unpopular (yet ever-so-true) fact can gain control over their cravings and improve their health.

Of course, I am very much aware that shedding pounds and keeping them off can be difficult. And I would never belittle anybody’s efforts. But we do need to be wary of these little ‘tricks’ we play on ourselves in order to suspend reality. We can liberate ourselves from these food rationalizations by identifying and exposing them for what they are.