A survival guide to the culture of overeating
Some foods are powerful. They cast a spell on the most well-meaning dieter and make logical people overeat until their sides hurt.
They occupy your thoughts to the point of obsession as you try to ignore a plate of cookies. And when all is said and done, they build up on your body in the most intrusive way due to dozens of unused calories.
Why does food hold such power? And above all, how to control your diet?
The end of overeating
Dr. David A. Kessle set out to answer these pressing questions in his instant bestseller, “The End of Overeating”.
Despite being a pediatrician, former FDA commissioner, and former dean of Yale and University of California San Francisco medical schools, Kessler struggles with his weight. Watching the current obesity epidemic, he knew he was not alone.
With the insight of some of the brightest minds in medicine and science, Kessler discovered the following three reasons why most of us are forced to overeat.
1. An irresistible combination reconnects your brain: Think about your favorite treat – it can most likely be broken down into the basic building blocks of sugar, fat, and salt. This combination is known as the “three cardinal points”, a combination that has been shown to literally alter the biological circuitry in your brain. Sugar, fat and salt give food a high hedonic value which gives you pleasure. This pleasure keeps you coming back to your favorite foods over and over again.
2. The food industry targets you: Everywhere you go you will see the smart work of the food industry, tempting you with very tasty creations. Food has become a science, and your taste preferences guide it. The food industry has only one goal: to get you hooked. By making foods high in sugar, fat and salt, they know you will come back time and time again.
3. Conditioned hyper-eating becomes a way of life: Humans are conditioned to seek more rewards. When readily available, hyper-appetizing foods become our reward, a hyper-eating pattern quickly emerges. Kessler describes the cycle:
“Foods high in sugar, fat and salt, and the signals that signal them, promote more of everything: more arousal… more food thoughts… more desire to pursue food… more approach behavior dopamine-boosted…… more consumption… more opioid-focused reward… more overeating to feel better… more delay in feeling full… more loss of control. .. more concern for food … more habit-oriented behavior. .. and finally, more and more weight gain. “
Break the cycle
The good news is, you don’t have to get trapped in a cycle of overeating. The following three tips will help you regain control.
1. Define your rules: To resist overeating in today’s tempting food environment, you must eat by a set of self-imposed rules. Pre-determined rules eliminate the need to make dietary decisions in vulnerable times.
Kessler thinks these rules should be “simple enough to fit into your busy life, but specific enough to take uncertainty out of the food equation.”
For suggestions on rules to adopt, let’s turn to another food authority, bestselling “In Defense of Food” author Michael Pollan:
• Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
• Pay more, eat less. Look for the quality of the food rather than the quantity.
• Eat meals. Cut out snacking, stick to structured meals.
• Do not buy your fuel in the same place as your car. Gas stations are great for refueling your car, but the food they sell is not suitable for fueling you.
• Try not to eat alone. Eating can become insane when you are alone, which leads to overeating.
• Eat slowly. Eat foods that have been prepared slowly, which means no fast food.
2. Make negative associations: When was the last time you peeled a lemon and ate it whole? Probably never. This is because your taste buds have a negative association with sour taste.
Our taste buds have traditionally been our guide to food selection, but that needs to change for you to successfully avoid overeating. Since the food industry deliberately makes foods to please your taste buds (not your waistline), what tastes good can no longer dictate what you eat.
It’s up to you to create negative associations with unhealthy foods, despite their pleasant taste. Here are some negatives to focus on:
• These extra calories will build up around your waist.
• Your health will suffer.
• You will become more disappointed with your appearance.
• You will feel lethargic.
3. Give Yourself a Real Reward: At the end of the day, we eat unhealthy food as a reward, even if it causes more harm than good. It’s time to treat yourself to a truly beneficial reward: exercise.
Exercise is a healthy reward that will not only release endorphins into your system, but also give you the benefit of weight loss and better health.
I truly believe that you can overcome your tendency to overeat by eating healthy and exercising regularly. Embark on a program that will truly change your life and stop this obesity epidemic one bite at a time.
Fred Sassani is the founder of Bodies By Design, a nationally certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist. For comments or questions, you can contact Fred at [email protected] or visit bbdforlife.com.