One of the most common questions people ask when they’re trying to lose weight is, “How do I control my eating?” This blog post will give you the tools you need to make sure you’re eating the right things, on the right days, at the right times. We’ll talk about food groups, meal timing, and everything in between.
If you are a frequent eater and don’t want to give in to your food cravings, you would be interested in knowing that eating the right kind of foods can help control your appetite. While this may seem like common knowledge, it is amazing how many people still struggle with overeating.
Eating too much can be hard to control, but here are a few tips to help you learn how to eat less.. Read more about signs you’ve eaten too much and let us know what you think.
Forget about willpower: brain signals control what we eat, how we eat, and when we consume. Here’s how to regain control of your eating habits if you’re overeating.
Obesity rates have been increasing in the United States (and other developed countries) over the last 30 years. It’s also no secret that Americans eat more than they used to; since the early 1980s, they’ve increased their daily calorie intake by almost 425 calories.
For decades, government authorities, research scientists, and fitness experts blamed this on people’s failure to “push away from the table” on a lack of willpower. Gluten, according to diet book writers, TV physicians, and other nutrition gurus, is causing us to gain weight. Fats. Fructose. Or whatever the day’s enemy is.
But all of this waving of fingers never explains why.
Why do humans consume so much food?
And why is it so difficult to put a stop to it?
Our minds hold the key to the solution.
You eat according to what your brain instructs you to consume.
Have you ever opened a bag of chips with the intention of having a quick snack, only to find yourself staring at an empty bag a few minutes later?
It’s your mind’s fault.
Our logical, aware mind believes it is in command. “I eat whatever I want, whenever I want.” And I’ll quit when I’m ready.” But we don’t have nearly as much control as that. Physiological factors that we aren’t even aware of are at work behind our decision-making processes.
Deeper brain physiology, together with its co-pilots of hormones, fatty acids, amino acids, glucose, and body fat, controls what, when, and how much we eat. Most of the time, our conscious selves are simply along for the journey.
We’ll look at the following topics in this article:
- how much of our dietary choices are dictated by our brains;
- how these physiological factors may cause you to acquire weight; and
- what we can do to reclaim our power
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What makes us want to eat?
Simply stated, there are two reasons why we eat.
- We eat to obtain the energy our bodies need and to keep our biological systems regulated (aka homeostasis).
- We eat for pleasure (also known as hedonism) or to regulate our emotions.
The majority of meals involve a combination of homeostatic and hedonistic eating.
Ghrelin, often known as the “hunger hormone,” increases our appetite. It rises shortly before meals and then drops throughout and just thereafter.
Ghrelin, however, is not the sole element that influences hunger or the choice to eat. Ghrelin-deficient mice, for example, feed on a regular basis, much as ghrelin-positive mice.
Despite the fact that ingesting nutrients is as ancient as biology, we still don’t understand why and how people get hungry and decide to eat. Many variables influence hunger and eating, including:
- our genetic code
- cues from others
- an acquired habit
- factors in the environment
- the 24-hour clock
- hormones in our bodies
It’s complex, as you would expect. So yet, research has yet to discover “the key” behind hunger and eating. (Yet.)
Humans do, however, have a good understanding of why we quit eating.
What causes us to quit eating?
What makes us quit eating after we’ve started?
Satiation — the sensation of being full during a meal that leads you to stop eating — plays a role in this.
(The words satiation and satiety are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same.) Between meals, satiation is your sense of fullness; satiation is your perception of contentment, or decreased desire in eating.)
When we eat, two physiological processes work together to inform us when it’s time to lay down our fork and stop eating: stomach distension and hormone satiation.
Distension of the stomach
Your stomach can only contain approximately 50 mL when it’s empty. When you eat, your stomach may expand to accommodate 1000 mL (1 liter) or 4000 mL at its most extreme (4 liters or 1 gallon).
Gastric distension is a condition in which your stomach is intended to stretch and expand. Your stomach is also intended to communicate to your brain how much stretching is taking place.
The vagus nerve, which travels from your head to your belly, transmits this information to your brain when your stomach expands to accept the incoming food.
People who wish to reduce weight should eat more healthy, low-energy, high-fiber meals like vegetables, beans, and legumes, according to. Because they occupy more stomach space, they may make us feel full even when we’re consuming less calories.
Unfortunately, stomach distension is just part of the story.
Satiety due to hormones
Your GI tract and associated organs (such as the pancreas) alert various parts of your brain that food is coming in when you eat. Some of these impulses go up the vagus nerve, while others arrive in the brain through other pathways.
The following are some of the most significant hormones:
- When we consume fat and protein, the gut releases cholecystokinin (CCK), which signals the brain (through the vagus nerve) to cease eating.
- GLP-1 and amylin: According to recent study, GLP-1 is the most distinctive and essential satiation hormone. It seems to increase the synthesis and release of insulin (a strong satiation/satiety hormone) as well as delay the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine, among other processes. Amylin is also one of the few satiation/satiety hormones that has been proven to decrease food intake.
- Insulin is released when we consume carbohydrates and proteins. This signals to your brain that nutrients are being delivered and, ultimately, to quit eating.
Many of these hormonal signals linger in the body. They may also advise us to eat less at later meals.
(This is why you should consider your eating patterns and food selections over the course of a day, a few days, or even a week.) A high-protein breakfast, for example, may help you avoid overeating at supper.)
These physiological reactions (together with other hormones and signals) work together to make you feel full and let you know when it’s time to quit eating.
These, too, do not represent the whole picture.
Your brain also controls how much food you eat over time.
What counts most to your weight and general health is, of course, what you do regularly — that is, what and how much you consume on a daily basis.
Your body has a mechanism in place to keep track of your long-term energy and nutritional requirements. The leptin feedback loop is what it’s called.
Leptin is a hormone that fat tissue produces. Leptin informs the brain about how much energy we’ve recently eaten as well as how much energy we’ve saved (as fat). We have more leptin in our blood if we have greater body fat.
The brain controls choices regarding hunger, calorie intake, food absorption, and energy usage and storage depending on leptin levels. Then, in a loop, it regulates leptin synthesis, which may help us maintain a healthy energy (and weight) balance over time.
Energy reserves have an impact on blood levels of leptin and insulin in this feedback loop. These transmit signals to the brain, which affect energy expenditure, food intake, appetite, and nutritional absorption. These all join together to have an impact on energy storage.
We are more readily satiated during and between meals if stored energy (fat) and leptin stay constant throughout time. Smaller amounts are OK. Our metabolic rate also remains high.
When stored energy (fat) and leptin levels fall over time, the brain (specifically the hypothalamus, which connects the neurological and endocrine systems) receives a warning that we need to start avoiding hunger.
Lower leptin levels trigger a variety of anti-starvation responses in the brain:
- We start to feel hungry. Like I’m starving. You’re hungry as though you’re about to devour your own arm.
- We are less mobile. Our non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), or everyday movement such as fidgeting, standing up, and anything other than intentional exercise, decreases. The sofa gradually improves in appearance.
- As our skeletal muscles grow more effective, we burn less calories via activity.
As a result, if your stored energy (fat) and leptin levels rise over time, you’ll desire to consume less… right?
Yes. In certain ways, yes.
Unfortunately, you can’t rely on that reaction all of the time.
The amount of leptin that rises as you eat more differs from person to person. And the way your brain reacts to higher leptin levels differs from person to person.
People’s physiologies clearly differ greatly. When leptin levels rise, the brain reduces hunger while increasing NEAT production in certain individuals. In other cases, the reaction isn’t quite as strong.
That stated, most of the time, for the majority of people:
The leptin feedback loop regulates our energy expenditure and intake in a natural way… unless we mess with it.
Your brain may be influenced by the stuff you consume.
That well-balanced leptin loop will notify us when we’ve had enough, assuming we’ve been adequately fed. It makes us feel full and enables us to eat in a comfortable manner.
When we consume certain foods, though, that perfectly balanced cycle may be broken – and fast.
The brain’s “stop” signals may be overridden by a diet rich in hyperpalatable, hyper-rewarding, highly processed foods.
In layman’s terms, this refers to so-called “junk foods” that are sweet, salty, creamy, and/or crunchy (perhaps all at the same time) and full of chemical goodness that turns up our pleasure dials… However, they contain a little amount of real nutrients.
This diet interferes with leptin’s ability to regulate our energy balance. It may even inflame our brains and make us resistant to leptin.
As a result, we are less pleased. We’re hungry for more food. Moreover, our bodies struggle to maintain the weight we acquire.
More than simply flavor, palatability refers to our overall enjoyment of a meal. This encompasses flavor, fragrance, mouthfeel, texture, and the whole eating experience. The amount of food we consume during meals is heavily influenced by its palatability.
That seems self-evident: we consume more of the meals we like. Naturally, certain meals are more enjoyable to consume than others.
Some meals, on the other hand, aren’t simply edible; they’re downright delicious. They’re “too good,” as the saying goes. This category includes anything that you “simply can’t stop eating.”
Value of the reward
Some meals provide a “hit” or a reward in the form of a physiological impact in addition to palatability. We’ll go to great lengths to get meals with a high reward value – in fact, we may grow to enjoy them even if they don’t taste very delicious.
For example, few individuals enjoy black coffee or beer on their first taste. However, both coffee and beer include caffeine (yay!) and alcohol (double yay!). Caffeine and alcohol appeal to our minds.
As a result, we soon learn that coffee and beer are healthy for us and that we can enjoy (or at least tolerate) their flavor.
Over time, we find that we like them, and that we may even be unable to live without them. We’ll fight our way through a packed bar to have a drink, wait in an excessively long queue for our afternoon coffee, and pay expensive prices for very basic items.
Even when we’re full, we’ll make space for high-reward meals. This is why, after whining and complaining about how full you are at Thanksgiving, you magically find space for pie when it’s dessert time.
There’s no such thing as a cutoff switch when it comes to food and pleasure.
What happens when these two characteristics — hyperpalatable (tasty) and high reward (fun) — are combined?
This is a potentially hazardous combo.
We desire these meals, we like them, and we’ll go to great lengths to get them. When we do get them, we often do not stop consuming them.
These meals have a great mix of ingredients that keep us engaged and eating:
- energy density refers to the amount of calories packed into a compact space.
- fat content is high
- a lot of refined carbohydrates and/or sugar
- texture that is pleasant and distinct, such as creamy or crunchy
- Caffeine and alcohol are examples of drugs.
- to increase mouthfeel, add additional taste enhancers or additions
This uncommon combination of elements may be found in nature. It is, however, often present in highly processed meals such as cakes, cookies, pastries, pies, pizza, ice cream, and fried dishes.
It’s better if we have more of those components.
Make something salty, sweet, starchy, and fatty, then add additional tastes and aromas, attractive colors, and a pleasant mouthfeel for good measure, and you’ve got something that’s been scientifically designed to make us overeat.
These are things that we naturally like and seek for.
We’ve been prepared for it through evolution.
You’re not alone, evil, or strange if you like so-called “junk food” and can’t stop eating it.
Your brain is keeping you alive by performing its job.
Rich-fat foods, for example, are high in energy. If you’re a hunter-gatherer and nutrients are limited, this is good news. A sweet flavor may indicate that a dish is safe to consume. Bitter foods have the potential to be toxic.
Our forefathers, on the other hand, weren’t exactly calling in for delivery. Even for small rewards like a dinner of turtle and tubers, they had to break their butts with everyday effort such as tracking, collecting, and digging.
Of course, today’s high-fat meals aren’t nutrient-dense animal parts or blubber procured after a nine-hour shift; they’re Frappucinos and bacon double cheeseburgers purchased while driving.
The benefits of evolution are now working against us.
This is what your brain looks like after it’s been fed processed foods.
Processed foods are very appealing to our brains. Our bodies, on the other hand, do not.
The majority of these enticing and semi-addictive meals aren’t very healthy. They have more energy than we do, but less nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, vital fatty acids, and so on) and fiber than we do.
When we consume them, we don’t feel full or satisfied.
Our brain eventually forgets about its natural “stop” signals in order to receive more of that wonderful “hit” from food reward. Our hedonic pleasure system begins to bully our energy-balancing homeostatic system.
If we consume a lot of these foods on a regular basis, we may damage and inflame the regions of our brain that control our food intake and energy production over time. Now, not only is our homeostatic regulation being pushed about, but it’s also on fire.
We haven’t figured out why this occurs.
Too much energy from meals, particularly certain foods, seems to harm the neurons in our brain, particularly in the hypothalamus. Inflammatory cytokines are typically released when we are wounded (aka cell signals). Because the brain is a component of our body, this also occurs in the brain, resulting in hypothalamic inflammation.
There is also evidence that eating a lot of these high-energy meals affects the bacteria communities in our stomach. This has an impact on the gut-brain axis and promotes hypothalamus inflammation.
Leptin resistance develops as a result of hypothalamic inflammation.
Getting rid of the leptin feedback loop
Insulin resistance is a disorder in which people’s cells cease “hearing” insulin signals and lose their capacity to regulate blood sugar levels over time.
The similar thing may happen with leptin: even if you’re eating enough and have enough of energy stored in your body fat, your brain might start to ignore or “tune out” leptin.
The pancreas may simply pump out more insulin to keep blood sugar under control in insulin resistance (at least for a while). We need more body fat to produce more leptin since body fat is our primary leptin factory.
Isn’t it clear where this is going?
- Your brain believes you don’t have enough leptin when you’re leptin resistant.
- The leptin factory (i.e. body fat) must grow in size in order for the brain to generate more leptin.
- The first phase of Operation Add Adiposity has begun.
- You’re starving. Regular portion sizes are no longer satisfactory; it’s more difficult to feel satisfied, and you want to eat more.
- You gain weight. Your brain believes the mission has been completed.
In this disturbed situation, here’s how the leptin feedback loop looks right now:
Inflammation and neuron damage, which may be induced by consuming too much processed meals, can cause the leptin feedback look to be disturbed. Leptin resistance and increased body fat may result from this, in combination with other genetic and environmental variables.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that the inflammation and subsequent leptin resistance may even drive our bodies to defend their weight gain. (This seems to be due to the brain’s new normal being a greater amount of leptin and body fat.)
In this situation, our bodies battle more harder than usual to keep us from losing weight. (Scientists are still trying to figure out why and how our bodies accomplish this.)
Foods that are extremely delicious and gratifying are often the most easily accessible.
Food-crack deliciousness bombs (also known as manufactured deliciousness) are all over the place.
These are the top 6 calorie sources in the United States today:
- Desserts made with grains (cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, crisps, cobblers, and granola bars)
- Breads made with yeast
- Chicken and chicken-mixed meals (we’re not talking about chicken breasts here; imagine chicken fingers, nuggets, and alfredo)
- Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are all examples of carbonated beverages.
- Beverages containing alcohol
- Fast food currently accounts for 11% of the energy consumed by the typical American.
- Soft drinks are consumed 350 percent more today than they were 50 years ago.
- Soybean oil (often found in highly processed foods) accounts for 8% of all calories consumed in the United States.
Of all, all of this makes perfect sense.
You want people to consume your stuff if you’re a food business.
How do you go about doing that? Engineer the meal to be extra-satisfying and difficult to put down. People eat more, purchase more, and then lay awake at night thinking about how much an ice cream sundae with sprinkles would be perfect right now…
If you’re a good marketer, you may be able to come up with innovative ways for people to eat.
As in… at the movies. I’m driving. Before, during, and after school, there is “snack time.” I’m sitting in front of the television. During sporting activities. Workouts should be done before, during, and after. Late in the evening (which is usually where processed foods excel). And so on.
Where, when, how, and how much we eat are all influenced by social conventions and our surroundings.
It’s difficult to resist the need to eat, and it’s much harder to know when to stop eating, given that food and food signals are everywhere, all the time.
Change your diet, and your brain will change.
You have no influence over your genetic composition, dietary history, or physiological reaction. However, you have control over your actions.
Here are three straightforward (but not always simple) actions you may take to assist your natural appetite control system reactivate and perform better:
Step 1: Increase your intake of whole, unprocessed foods.
This includes things like:
- For your lean protein, choose lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and/or plant sources.
- Fruits and vegetables, preferably those that are colorful.
- Whole grains, starchy tubers (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, etc.), beans, and legumes are slow-digesting, high-fiber carbohydrates.
- For excellent fats, eat nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut, fatty fish, and seafood.
To learn more about what meals are best for you, check out our What Should I Eat? infographic.
Step 2: Take your time and eat slowly and thoughtfully.
Slowing down can assist your brain and gastrointestinal system synchronize their functions, regardless of what you consume. It will give you greater control over what you eat and how much you consume.
Furthermore, since the signals are being received correctly, you will frequently be satiated with less food.
Step 3: Consume less highly processed, highly appealing meals.
Step 3 may be challenging. We understand. After all, the whole point of this essay is to demonstrate how tempting certain meals may be.
Steps 1 and 2 will help Step 3 go more smoothly. If you eat more of the “good things” and keep track of what you’re eating, you’ll have less space (and desire) for the “bad stuff.”
If you follow these three steps regularly throughout time:
- You’ll probably find that you have less cravings for highly processed meals and that you feel better in control of your eating choices in general.
- As the leptin loop returns to normal (at least to some extent, bearing in mind that everyone’s body and circumstances is different), you’ll feel fuller for longer.
- It’s possible that you’ll lose weight.
- You’ll probably feel, move, and perform better as a result.
++ Eating is a complicated process.
A significant influence is played by physiology. However, psychology, relationships, and our broader society, including our culture, way of life, and individual knowledge and views about food and eating, all play a role.
This implies that physiology hasn’t “doomed” you. Other items may be used to assist your body in doing its function.
A meal of healthy foods, well prepared and seasoned, and shared with family or friends at the dinner table will be much more fulfilling than dining in your vehicle next to the drive-through window.
Because you aren’t carpet-bombing your taste receptors, you don’t have to live in a world of boring and dismal “health food.” Season the vegetables with a little butter and salt. Make them tasty – but not “too tasty” all of the time.
It will make your brain happy.
What to Do Next: Some Suggestions from the Experts
Here are some of our favorite methods for finding the perfect balance and making wise decisions.
1. Understand that your body is a complex system. Consider the long term.
What you do now has the potential to influence what occurs tomorrow. Breakfast has the power to alter your supper.
If you start a fad diet on Monday and limit food and minerals, your body may forcefully take back your energy by Friday.
2. Consume foods that are mainly whole and lightly processed.
Whole, less processed meals are neither too gratifying nor overly appealing. It’s more difficult to overeat them. They don’t induce leptin resistance or hypothalamic inflammation.
They are typically lower in calories and include a lot of beneficial things (vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, phytonutrients, disease-fighting compounds, and so on).
Here are some suggestions for creating a delectable dish.
Choose whole meals that you like and will consume on a regular basis.
3. Consume a sufficient amount of lean protein.
Protein is the king of satiety.
People who consume more lean protein eat less calories overall, according to studies and our clients. They are, nevertheless, more pleased. It’s as though they’re eating “too much” at times!
This usually translates to 6-8 palm-sized servings of protein each day for most guys.
For most women, it means eating 4-6 palm-sized servings of protein on a daily basis.
4. Consume a lot of veggies.
Vegetables, particularly colorful ones, are clearly beneficial to one’s health. They provide a lot of volume and nutrients for a little amount of calories. Many of them are also enjoyable to eat (think crunchy carrots, baby tomatoes, etc.).
This usually translates to 6-8 fist-sized servings of veggies each day for most guys. This usually translates to 4-6 fist-sized servings of veggies each day for most women.
5. Choose whole, minimally processed meals for high-quality carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Whole grains, beans and legumes, starchy tubers (such as potatoes and sweet potatoes), and fruit are all good sources of carbs. You’ll feel fuller for longer because to the mix of resistant starch, fiber, and water content.
When it comes to carbs, we suggest 6-8 cupped handfuls per day for most guys. We also suggest 4-6 cupped handfuls of carbs each day for most ladies.
High-quality oils and butters, nut butters, nuts/seeds, avocados, and even a little dark chocolate are all good sources of fat. Fat is the macronutrient that takes the longest to digest, particularly when it comes from sources that are low in energy and rich in fiber (e.g. nuts, seeds, avocados).
We suggest 6-8 thumb-sized servings of healthy fats per day for most guys. We suggest 4-6 thumb-sized servings of healthy fats each day for most women.
6. Think about how you eat.
Slow down your eating. Pay heed to your own satiety signals. Eat without looking at your phone, TV, or computer.
Smaller plates are used for eating. Make it harder to overeat or be enticed by highly-processed, highly-rewarding meals by creating a conducive atmosphere in your home and workplace.
Remember Berardi’s First Law: If a meal is in your home or possession, it will ultimately be eaten by you, someone you love, or someone you barely tolerate.
This also leads to Berardi’s First Law’s corollary: If you have a nutritious meal in your home or possession, you, someone you love, or someone you barely tolerate will eat it eventually.
7. Be adaptable.
Recognize that some of those highly gratifying meals are acceptable. Avoiding them completely or labeling them as “bad” or “poison” typically has the opposite effect: you feel like a failure, and you wind up overeating or bingeing on the “banned” foods.
Instead, select (or, to put it another way, decide) to treat yourself to some cookies, brownies, or ice cream every now and again. Slowly and thoughtfully eat them till you’re pleased. Take pleasure in them.
Then go back to your normal schedule as if nothing happened.
Keep in mind that how frequently you choose to indulge should be determined by your goals.
8. Be conscientious
Develop a sense of self-awareness about how you feel before, during, and after eating.
Do you eat when you’re really hungry, when the clock indicates it’s time to eat, or when you just “feel snacky”?
Do you ever leave a dinner feeling full, only to find yourself gazing into the fridge two hours later?
Where do you get the majority of your meals?
Consider maintaining a food diary for a few weeks, recording everything you eat and how you feel. You may also scribble down things like your thoughts and what else is going on in your life (e.g. stress at work).
Simply being more aware of your body’s signals — and how they connect to other variables — can help you better control your eating habits. Making choices that are more in accordance with your body’s real requirements is easier when you are aware.
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If you’re a coach or wish to be one…
It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.
Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.
If you find that you are overeating more than usual, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s estimated that about half of the American population over the age of 20 is affected, either by overeating alone or by binge-eating (bingeing is when a person eats an excessive amount of food in a short period of time.). Read more about what happens if you eat too much food in one sitting and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- effects of eating too much
- what happens if you eat too much food in one sitting
- how to stop eating so much and lose weight
- signs you’ve eaten too much
- eating too much