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Does banning certain food help?

To give up or not give up, that is the question!

Posted on Thursday February 22, 2024

Does banning certain food help?

It’s a popular time of year for people to think about giving up a specific food or two for a short period. Common choices are foods that are high in fat and/or sugar but are limited in other nutrients, for example chocolate, crisps, cakes and sweets. We might consider giving up these foods to improve our health, to reset overeating throughout December or as a faith practice. Many people ban particular foods because they think it will help them to lose weight. However, if we're giving these foods up to lose weight, it can lead to a host of challenges, making this approach stressful, reinforcing the unhelpful dieting mentality.

According to Restraint Theory, if we try to ban ourselves from eating a particular food, we are very likely to want it more, then when we do end up eating it, we're are probably going to feel frustrated or critical of ourself. If we feel we’ve 'blown it’ we will either be even more rigid about what we allow ourself, or we end up eating more. Even if we do manage to avoid a particular food for a period of time, what happens when we are ‘allowed’ it again? Probably we'll eat more of it! This keeps the cycle of being ‘on' and then ‘off' a diet going, and it’s exhausting.

If you do choose to cut out a food:

  1. Try to be realistic about what is achievable.
  2. Consider the impact it will have on you. Will it risk you maintaining an unhappy relationship with certain food?
  3. What strategies can you use to manage your eating habits during and after you allow the food again?
  4. Eating a regular, planned meal pattern can help keep energy levels stable and avoid dips in blood sugar levels which can exacerbate cravings.
  5. Know what distractions you can use when cravings are likely to strike. Examples include phoning a friend, reading, doing a puzzle, going for a walk, having a shower, doing some art and craft or housework.

Instead of planning to cut food out, why not experiment with approaching your eating differently?

Research has found there are 2 powerful ways of interrupting our eating habits:

  • Urge surfing Urge surfing is a technique for managing cravings. Think of managing an urge to eat like you’re a surfer riding a wave; instead of giving in, you ride the urge out. You know the urge is there and and that it's likely to build in intensity until it reaches a peak (where it may feel like it’s never going away) but if you ride it long enough you’ll notice the intensity falls until eventually the urge fades.
  • Mindful eating Whenever you eat, try to pay close attention to your food, this can end up making the experience more enjoyable, rather than being on autopilot. Mindful eating is a powerful approach for maintaining control and helping us to feel more satisfied quicker, thereby needing to eat less.

What can I focus on instead of cutting certain food out?

Think about focusing on adding food with a higher nutritional value, one that provides a range of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, protein or fibre. Ideas include incorporating an extra fruit or vegetable a day or adding a small handful of plain nuts or seeds to your cereals or salads. If hydration is a challenge and you don’t always hit 2 litres (4 pints) of fluid a day, adding in an extra daily calorie free drink is another option.

If you would like any help with working on your eating habits, we can help. Our dietitians and psychologists can work with you to create an achievable plan to help to reach your goals

Let us know how we can support you

0117 235 5354

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