Health gurus may gasp in horror, but Alan Aragon, a southern California-based nutritionist who works with professional athletes, welcomes pretty much anything into his diet. “There are no foods I can think of that I would completely avoid,” he says. “I like to say, ‘avoid food avoidance.’ This helps reinforce the principle that everything — and I mean everything — is fine in moderation.”
French fries? Cheese curds? Taco Bell’s Dorito-shell tacos? It’s all acceptable. “Junk food can be eaten as often as you want — even daily — as long as it only comprises a minor proportion of your overall calories for the day. This allows people to not feel boxed into a diet that has no leeway for letting your hair down,” says Aragon. “I’ve always said that life is far too long to spend on a strict diet.”
Aragon cites studies looking at ‘orthorexia nervosa’ — an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food. ”It reminds me of the counterproductive dietary perfectionism I’ve seen among many athletes, trainers and coaches. One of the fundamental pitfalls of dichotomizing foods as good or bad, or clean or dirty, is that it can form a destructive relationship with food,” he says.
In a 1999 study, researchers found that flexible dieting was associated with less overeating, lower body weight and better psychological health. Extremely strict dieting was linked to the opposite. Aragon believes those who restrict themselves too much can end up overeating later. “Anyone who spends enough time among fitness buffs knows that these findings are not off the mark,” says Aragon.
Aragon is by no means encouraging junk food binges, but for him, everything in moderation is just fine.
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