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How Many Donuts/Cookies/Burgers/Candies Can I Eat in a Day & Still Lose Weight? How Much Can I Eat?

Often, when people struggle with their eating habits, they want to eat less of a specific food that they perceive to be bad. These foods are often high calorie snack foods that are ultra-palatable. In wanting to stop eating this food, there is a fear that once it is forbidden, the eater will forever feel deprived.

donut with sprinkles

Then the thoughts go to the diet rules. Diet rules are perceived to be these ultimate tenets of righteous eating. Supposedly, if the dietitian says it is OK, then the eater can still feel OK about their eating habits. Because I am a dietitian, I often am asked questions like, "how many donuts can I eat in a day?" The expectation is that the answer that I give is somehow the conclusive answer of this elusive diet mystery.

If you are wondering exactly how many donuts you can have in a day and still be following you diet rules, unfortunately I don't have an answer for you. There are two reasons for this. One, there is no exact answer, and two, this question comes from a fallacy.

The diet fallacy is that if you just follow the rules, you will lose weight, stop gaining weight, or at least feel like you are eating "right." As long as you are strict enough with the rules, whatever those rules may be, you can feel good about yourself and your eating habits.

Here are my thoughts about how many donuts you can eat in a day. First, think about how you would like to be eating. Maybe you want to get through the evening without eating until you are overfull. Then think about what is getting in the way. Maybe it is eating compulsively in a way you feel like you can't stop. If this is the case, the problem is a mental health concern, not an inadequate rules concern. More rules will not fix the problem.

If I give you a number of donuts you can eat in a day, this won't stop your binge eating. All it will do is further the cycle of guilt, dieting, and bingeing when you do exceed the donut allowance.

My best advice is as follows. When you are having a moment where you feel like you are choosing to eat the donut (rather than compulsively eating the donut,) sit down and really enjoy that donut. As you are eating it, consider the aroma, the taste, and how the donut feels in your mouth. Slow down so you can really enjoy the donut for the sensual experience it is. Donuts are meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy it.

Remember that when you are eating the donut from eating compulsions rather than choosing to eat it, you won't be able to really tap into that enjoyment. This is because of the psychological underpinnings of a compulsion, not because you lack the self control. In short, it is basically impossible to enjoy a donut while eating compulsively, but at the same time, no one chooses to eat compulsively.

If you are struggling with feeling out of control around food, there is help. Reach out to a dietitian and a mental health provider who specializes in disordered eating. You don't have to spend the rest of your life suffering with that. Although there is no answer to how many donuts you can eat in a day, if you consider your underlying eating issues, you may be able to get more clarity on your eating habits.

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