Why You Eat Too Much...and What Can Help
Flogging yourself to diet won’t work.
Posted Apr 03, 2014
NOTE: This article was written in early April. Today (May 12) At the end of this article, I've written an update. Marty Nemko
I’m one of those people who eat too much. I’m hoping that writing this will help me as well as you.
1. Do you rationalize eating fattening things? For example, when I have spare time and I’m near a favorite restaurant, I rationalize, “Well, I have time to kill and I’m here, so why not take the opportunity to eat here?” Answer: Because I’ll get fatter than if I drive home and eat the healthy stuff.
Another rationalization: “Being moderately overweight won’t hurt me.” Perhaps you focus on that aberrant study that found that being modestly overweight won’t hurt you. Alas, many more studies make clear that even being moderately overweight increases your risk of those lovely diseases: heart attack, cancer, and diabetes. See, for example, THIS and THIS.
Or do you rationalize, “One cheat won’t hurt me?” It won’t, but almost no one with a weight problem cheats just occasionally. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be overweight. In fact, each time you cheat reduces the average time between cheats—you unconsciously figure, “I cheated and survived, so I can cheat again.”
Yet another rationalization: "I'm not really hungry now but I'll eat something now so that later I won't be ravenous" I know that they tell you to eat lots of small meals but I, at least, find that if I preemptively eat, I end up not eating less later, so the net result is: more calories consumed.
A final rationalization:" If I don't eat enough now, I'll be hungry soon." Ridiculous. Better a small meal. If I'm hungry sooner, I can eat something little then. And chances are I'll consume less total calories.
How you do rationalize overeating? Write it here: ___________________________
Might being aware of your rationalizations help you more than it’s helped me so far?
2. Do you forget to be “good?” Many people, including me, go into a meal with good intentions but when into it, forget and keep porking long after hunger has subsided.
Possible solution #1: Serve yourself the portion you think is right and put the rest away. If you’re in a restaurant, ask for a takeout container as soon as your entrée is served and put the extra in there before you start stuffing your face. I have never done either. Let’s see writing this makes me.
Possible solution #2: MyFitnessPal.com or LoseIt.com. You enter everything you eat and it calculates the calories consumed. You can also enter your weight lost (or gained),and share your progress with your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter connections. LoseIt.com also keeps track of your exercising. It’s hard for me to imagine entering everything but those sites claim they've helped many people lose weight. Then again, lots of sites make lots of claims. I've decided to enter my daily weight gain and loss as comments on this blog post. Perhaps my not wanting to be seen as a hypocrite, not practicing what I preach will motivate me to be good.
3. Do you get enough feedback?
I tried weighing myself every morning but when I was bad the previous day, I couldn't make myself get on the scale. But if you think a daily weigh-in might work for you, the aforementioned MyFitnessPal.com and LoseIt.com will chart your weight loss…and your weight gain—if you’re disciplined enough to record that.
We may need even shorter-term feedback. For example, remember that you get an attaboy/girl every time you feel hungry. It means your diet is working---you haven't eaten before you're hungry. Every time you put on your clothes, they'll fit a little more comfortably. Every time you walk by someone, if you're a little thinner, know that--unfortunate but true--many people will think more positively about you.
4. Do you eat so quickly that you’ve eaten too many calories by the time you feel full?
I have no idea how to solve this one. I can't seem to make myself use such techniques as putting your fork down between each bite and an electronic HapiFork that's suppposed to buzz and flash when you eat too fast. (Note: Half of Hapifork's reviewers on Amazon don''t recommend it.)
5. Do you treat food as a reward, even when you’re not hungry?
Possible solution #1: Keep a bag of baby carrots or other tolerable low-cal food within easy reach, for example, eye-level in your fridge.That sometimes works for me but, too often, I eat the carrots and then look for something good.
Possible solution #2: Keep a list of non-food rewards on your desk or on a Post-it hung at the base of your computer monitor. My list of non-calorific rewards: garden, play with the dog, take a walk, play on the Internet for a few minutes.
6. Do you suffer from the "finish your plate" syndrome? I will finish what's on my plate even when I'm quite full. That's not because my mother told me "People are starving in Africa." It's unconsciously because I think of finishing my plate as a task to be completed, and I don't like to keep tasks uncompleted. Also, I don't like to waste things. Both reasonings are stupid. For example, it's better that those extra 500 calories get saved for the next meal or even thrown out than to make myself fatter. But that irrational thinking is alive and well within me and perhaps you.
Possible solution: Perhaps you and I can quell that tendency by staying aware of it.
7. Do you keep dangerous foods at home? Cheese is my enemy. I rarely buy it because if I do, a half-pound will be gone in a day. I have absolutely no willpower. Cheese rules me.
I try to keep mainly low-calorie foods in my house--yes, that means fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
8. Are you aware of your danger times? For example, after you’ve had a glass of wine or a joint? Those lower your inhibitions. Is that one more reason you should reduce or stop using those substances?
9. Do you need others’ support?
Many people are helped by having someone to be accountable to. Can’t find a loving taskmaster? You might try www.weightlossbuddy.com You get paired with a fellow loser—you know what I mean.
Others find useful support in a structured program such as Overeaters Anonymous or Weight Watchers, with its added social pressure of live weekly weigh-ins.
10. Do you keep top-of-mind your key reason to lose weight? Looks, health, romance, whatever.
It's crazy--I’m terrified of dying yet I overeat. I’m an idiot.
Let's try this. As I mentioned above, I’m going to promise you that I’ll weigh myself tomorrow morning, note it in the comment section below and then keep reporting back to you. You feel free to do the same.
Update a month later: 5/12/14
I've lost only 2 pounds. A reader deemed my effort a failure yesterday, which, paradoxically is motivating me to try harder. It's scary to accept that I'll never lose the 20 pounds.
Also, I've learned that I must stop rationalizing that I'm not that overweight. I must remember that carrying around 20 extra pounds 24/7 is damn unhealthy, especially when you're getting older--I'll be 64 next month.
It may help to gamefy: To see how long I can go without eating and how few calories I can eat (both, of course, within healthy limits such as no eating for six hours and aiming for a total of 1,200 calories a day.
I just wrote these to try to help me lose weight. Some are redundant with the above. But might any help you?
Think about how unhealthy it is to carry 20 extra pounds, 24/7 for life?
Play a game: See if you can delay eating until you have actual hunger pangs.
When you need a break but aren't really hungry, take a walk or play with the dog.
When hungry, first think coffee or chewing gum?
Then try a bit of deferral: "I’ll eat in 10 min.” Maybe you'll get involved
When you eat: stay vigilant until you stop eating: Eat only good stuff and only until you're not hungry, NOT until you're full.
One other technique that's helping a BIT: I keep repeating to myself, "Start with veggies." If I eat veggies first, I get fuller with low-calorie food and so maybe I won't eat so many calories by the time my meal is over.
It's still a massive struggle. In the two months, I've now lost a total of only 3.8 pounds. I'm at 192.2. And truly, today seemed anomalously low. Tomorrow, I could be 193 or even 194 without having been bad.
I haven't lost any weight and I'm--pardon the pun--at a loss to explain why. It really speaks to the limitations of advice-giving.