When it comes to getting in shape, more people have trouble reducing their food intake than they do with moving more, but why is this? For starters, it is a negative goal, you are trying to not do something (eating), rather than focusing on moving more. Many people work around this issue by focusing on hitting protein targets, eating lots of vegetables or controlling the hours they can eat.
Whichever way you approach things, you need to end up with a method that allows you to consume less energy than you need for a prolonged period of time. Most people struggle with this, but why? What is it that makes you want to eat so much? There are many factors that influence us to eat in the real world, these include;
Frequency Of Eating – As a society we eat more often than we ever have before. You may find yourself eating every two to three hours, you snack on the way home before dinner and often straight afterwards. It is not necessarily bad to eat often, but the more often you eat the easier it is to eat more food and consume more calories.
Food density – The modern day diet is characterised by very high calorie dense foods. This means you can eat what may appears like almost nothing e.g. a handful of nuts or a few biscuits, but it has the same calories as a small meal. The foods within are our diet are becoming more calorie dense with less emphasis on lower calorie dense foods such as vegetables. This makes it easy to eat more food.
Exercise compensation – A certain percentage of the population are known as exercise compensators. This means that if they burn 300 calories by doing exercise they have a natural tendency to eat more calories than they burnt afterwards, e.g. 400+. This could affect up to a third of people some studies suggest. This means that despite your best exercise efforts you are accidently increasing hunger at the same time. If this applies to you, you will get much better results on a walking programme focused on movement than formal exercise.
Hunger –The hungrier you are the more likely you are to eat more. As a society we have become very out of touch with natural hunger and fullness patterns. We fear the feeling of hunger these days and with food so readily available we grab something to snack on at the very first signs of feeling hungry. There are different causes of hunger and the body can be trained to be more or less hungry over time. I will write about the 6 types of hunger in a future email.
Habitual Behaviours –The vast majority of our eating happens with us on automatic without thinking or taking note of it. As it is so subtle it is often hard to change these eating habits. This includes food cues, taste and the influence of others.
Emotions / stress – The more stressed we are the more likely we are to eat too much food. Stress forces us into addictive type patterns and food is the easiest and most available vice. This makes eating less food very difficult to do.
What Does This Mean For You?
I would not judge yourself for how much food you consume. It is only food, you are naturally programmed to eat a lot and thus it is just something to manage. While there are other factors alongside the above ones it gives you an insight into some of your drivers to eat, just by using these traits you could easily reduce food intake.
If you were to eat slightly less often with lower calorie dense foods it would be a great start. If you examined your hunger and exercise relationship and matched your movement to it that would help. Likewise, any work on reconnecting to a more natural hunger – fullness pattern, or becoming conscious when eating would reduce food intake. Finally, many people find a huge improvement in their eating when they start using a method to counter stress.
It is good to understand the concept of eating less, but results come from how you actually get yourself to do this in the real world. Your actual behaviours come from the interplay between your habits, mental skills and mind set. A well designed plan will have you experimenting with all of the above contributing areas so you naturally and enjoyably are able to eat less for the long term. This will allow you to transform your body and sustain the results thereafter.
Photo – I am back off to Dubai next week, here is a photo from the last time I went and had some kebab pizza, that was definitely a meal of eating too much :). I have since learnt this is Erling Halland’s favourite meal (Premier league’s top goal scorer for non football fans).
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