Stop Overeating with One Powerful Mind Trick

One simple mindset shift to dramatically reduce overeating.

Posted Dec 26, 2020

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How to Overcome Overeating with One Weird Trick
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If you've seen my previous posts on how to stop binge eating and overeating in three unusual steps, you know most overeating episodes are preceded by a type of rationalization that makes the indulgence "OK," even if we aren't aware of this justification at the time. Here I'd like to discuss a very specific type of justification I call plausible deniability. If you can learn to disempower this destructive thought virus, you can dramatically cut back on overeating, even during your most emotional times.

Plausible deniability is a term usually seen in the context of politicians looking for cover for some greedy action, but in modern times most people aren't aware that the food industry has trained us to rely on plausible deniability to justify indulging in their wares.

Consider, for example:

  • Potato chips made with avocado oil.    
  • Gluten-free pretzels.
  • Nacho cheese chips with only 150 calories per serving
  • No-sugar ketchup. 

On the surface these seem like great ideas, and in most cases they're probably better than the traditional versions of these treats. But dig a little deeper and you'll see the problem: 

  • Potato chips with avocado oil are still incredibly dense sources of calories with relatively little nutrition. Moreover, they're usually cooked in such a way as to create carcinogenic substances called acrylamides. When the consumer says "Oh, these are made with avocado oil, and avocados are good for me!" what they are really doing is embracing plausible deniability about the health consequences. In essence, the avocado oil gives them cover and they can now look the other way. 
  • Gluten-free pretzels are indeed less-bad for persons with gluten intolerance. But they're still loaded with salt.  
  • A serving of nacho cheese chips may indeed have only 150 calories, but look at the serving size (usually 10 to 12 chips) and ask yourself how likely it is you'll only eat one serving. Do you even know anyone who has only 10 to 12 chips once they start?
  • No-sugar ketchup may be better for people with sugar-metabolic problems like diabetes or insulin resistance, but it's almost always loaded with sodium, often more so than ketchup with sugar.

Before you think me a total party pooper, I am not arguing for everyone to give up these indulgences entirely. Instead, I'm suggesting that we purge plausible deniability from our minds.  Stop embracing the thoughts big food manufacturers want to put in your brain. 

Thinking something is healthy when, in fact, it's not, is a lot more dangerous than simply planning indulgences from time to time. When you embrace plausible deniability, you're more likely to binge without limits because you think what you're doing is actually good for you. But when you know the truth, you can say, "Look, I'm not kidding myself: This stuff is still pretty bad for me, but I'm choosing to trade a bit on my health for some short-term pleasure. It's a free country and I'm allowed to do so. I'll balance it out in some other way."

What to do? Make a list of a few treats you've been eating too much of. Then, carefully examine why you've been telling yourself it's "OK" to indulge at that level, and research the food more thoroughly to find out the whole truth: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Be relentless. Get a completely accurate picture. 

Also, sometimes plausible deniability isn't provided directly by industry, but from our tendency to prefer good news about our bad habits. For example, my blood pressure tends toward the low side. So, for the longest time, I indulged in high-salt treats without worrying hardly at all. Then I spoke with a doctor who explained to me excess sodium increases your risk of hyperbaric stroke independent of blood pressure. In other words, my low blood pressure was not protecting me from this risk while I cheerfully consumed tons of sodium. This doctor shattered my plausible deniability card, and shortly thereafter my salt habit.

Where are you allowing plausible deniability to contribute to your overeating? Food for thought, no?

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