So, we’re here. If you’re reading this piece for the first time, STOP! Go back to review the previous article to understand the scientific components that go into overeating. I would STRONGLY SUGGEST this. Everything I will discuss here is dealing with the mental intangibles required to overcome the leptin feedback loop (if you thought “what’s leptin” — aha! Like I said, look at the previous article to understand) and “hypothalamic inflammation”(got you again;)). This article will be discussing the mental components that go into overeating, and the strategies it takes to take control of your nutrition for good. As we now know, when the leptin feedback loop is inflamed, it leads to us consume hyper-palatable foods that are the most rewarding and that are readily available, damaging the hypothalamus, and sending our endocrine system into crisis.
To provide some context, fast food now makes up 11 percent of our average energy intake. As a reminder, the top 6 sources of junk calories in the US are:
- Desserts, cookies, pie, granola bars, bread
- Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks.
- Fried foods
With these foods, most are cooked in soybean oil that accounts for eight percent of all calories that Americans consume. In this article, I am using US statistics, since they are not yet tracked in Canada. But, for Canadians reading who may be wondering if what I’m writing doesn’t apply, rethink! It’s worth knowing is that in 2018, Canadian families spent more money eating in restaurants than ever before. The average home spent 30 percent of its food budget in food services. Since Canada is linked to the US economically, correspondingly it also has an effect on how we eat and drink. Free trade between these North American countries includes swapping diets as well. Many of our favorite restaurants are American owned. Even Tim Hortons’ was owned by the American chain Wendy’s for decades before being bought out by Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital in 2014. Engineering food, to be extra-rewarding and addictive is the food industry’s speciality — which makes sense. If you’re a business that makes food, you want repeat customers, and making a profit requires food to taste good — like really good. These companies are in competition with one another and are not interested in getting you to eat healthier, even though they’ll have fancy marketing campaigns disguised as such. Current regulations have recently eliminated the use of trans fats in fried foods, but it doesn’t mean that the food quality is better.
With respect to weight loss, while I believe it’s important to discuss factors that influence calories in vs. calories out, it’s even more important to understand who you are as a person, your triggers, and why you eat the way you do.
Psychological Makeup: CALL YOURSELF OUT. Is your will to win for sale?
Are you overweight or obese? Are you eating too much? You know who you are. Unsure, go to the doctor, get your thyroid, fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels checked. You can be obese without the symptoms listed above and still suffer from other non metabolic complications like arthritis and sleep apnea. Book an appointment with a trainer. Log your food. Learn to get real with yourself. Obesity is a tough disease to treat but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. It might need you to look in the mirror and call yourself out. Seriously, call yourself out. There’s nothing wrong with it. The mental intangibles required to lose weight are often the elephant in the room for sustainable weight loss. Following through on a long-term endeavor requires you trusting your instincts, and have your instincts trust you when it comes making the right decisions on a day-to-day basis. This concept of having your instincts trust you not only applies to a healthy lifestyle, but it’s relatable in your finances, faith, relationships, and family.
To do this, however, requires a below surface level discussion on what your triggers are, and mindset on what your perceived control is. If the mental discussion you have with yourself on your diet is consistently “I’m too stressed to focus on my diet,” or “I need to get back on track” or “I’m always busy at work, and I can’t be bothered with eating well” then, you have already lost the war before waging the first battle, and that battle is in your mind. Life doesn’t give you perfect circumstances to create changes, we often have to change when things are hectic and chaotic. Usually lifestyle change is messy. With my clientele, I’m often asking for them to change their body and minds while they’re dealing with stressful and high-pressure situations with work and family. However, there is an asterisk as I write this. Is this challenging and demanding? Yes. Impossible? Certainly not. So why are more individuals more overweight and obese than ever on record? Oftentimes, we fail at our goals because we live under an illusion that just because you’re working, we deserve to be exactly where we want to live in life. Ask yourself, what are you measuring your hard work up to in your diet? I’ll give you two examples.
Example 1: Individual A has a diet that consists of a salad and some fruit 1–2x a week consistently all year, while the rest of the diet is full of off-schedule, and nutrient poor foods like pizza, soda, cakes, pastries, fried foods, and alcohol. They exercise minimally if at all and eats whatever they want whenever they feel like it without any form of consistency attached to their dietary preferences.
Example 2: Individual B has a diet that consists of minimally processed foods, such as fresh lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, fruits & veggies. They also eat slow digesting starches such as whole grains, legumes, and potatoes year-round, but this individual will plan and choose when to have off-schedule meals like pizza and pastries and alcohol as a treat every now and again. They also exercise consistently 3–5x a week.
If you fall under Example 1, and you think you’re doing great but not losing weight, and you want to lose it, but aren’t putting in the work, then your will to win is for sale. The effort that you would put in, simply isn’t congruent to the goals you have for yourself in regard to your body composition. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s simply the reality. If you fall under Example 1 and are happy with your physique eating nutrient poor foods with an inactive lifestyle then by all mean’s rock on! If you’re not ready to change that’s okay, I’ll be the last person to tell you change if you’re not ready to change. Also, if this is you, don’t be upset if the expectations for where you think you ought to be in regard to your physique doesn’t match the reality your currently in. Your effort versus someone else’s in similar circumstances can be entirely different based on the amount of discipline and mental intangibles you have. Only you know how hard you’re actually working. This isn’t fantasy island.
It’s a terrible idea for your long-term health to keep your BMI and bodyfat percentage through the roof, and live a life that has you worried about high risk of an early death through continuous consumption of foods that are nutrient poor. If I’m your coach, and I’ll tell you flat out that you sold your will to win. Continuing this pattern of being unhealthy when you know, it’s not good for you only delays a process that you might never start, leading to a higher probability of failure, a lack of self-confidence, and lack of belief you can get to your goals, and again early death. If you’re wishing that there was a simple, easy, quick fix then I can tell you that there isn’t. Don’t take the easy route on your body and fitness!! Did you get comfortable in your job? Comfort through only accumulating wealth doesn’t always equate to a life of health. Did you get a title at work, and decide to stop working hard on your body, but also life? Are you simply lazy and don’t like to exercise? Can you tell yourself these truths about yourself with honesty and clarity? Does it sound like I’m calling you out? Better believe it. I can talk to you how I can, because I’ve been there, unmotivated, and out of shape. It’s not fun. It sucks. Again, I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear, I’m here to tell you what you need to hear. That’s what your family and friends, and I am here for.
If you notice that your meals on week-to-week basis are unhealthy and nutrient poor the likelihood that you’re eating more than what your body needs for energy is highly likely, YOU will continue to gain and not lose any fat. If this is you, you must avoid the approach to dieting that elicits the remorse and guilt trap when you eat poorly. Having “slip-up’s” with certain foods and adopting the all-or nothing mentality subsequently will lead to frequent stalls in your progress.
Separate, and on occasion these “not ideal” foods usually won’t be an impediment to your weight loss goals, and in fact allowing for those foods on occasion, will lead to better more sustainable progress for individuals that struggle with keeping a regimented diet. It doesn’t mean that you’re not accountable when consuming these “non ideal” foods, however. Nutrient poor foods must be PLANNED and integrated into your diet ON OCCASION while mostly consuming non processed, fresh foods CONSISTENTLY. Being accountable for everything you do if you have a little or a lot weight to lose is key. We all know that eating less than what you naturally burn is the pathway to weight loss but creating and maintaining the habits are hard to practice. Remember, it doesn’t happen overnight. You must be accountable for each part of the process. Each step is equally as important as the prior step, so I’ve ranked each step as #1.
- Audit your pantry and kitchen.
This process seems simple enough but again is in fact a lot harder to practice. Take stock of what is in your cupboards and kitchen. Usually we often go to the favorite foods in our pantry and kitchen when we’re in a rush and quickly need to eat something. IF you’re bringing junk into the house on a continuous basis, it will always be the first thing that you eat if there is a stressful situation that you have at home or at work. For those who think I’m blowing smoke when I make this statement, THINK AGAIN!There is research readily available online and in academia to quantify what I’m talking about. Remember the leptin feedback loop from the last article.
Our brains are hardwired to go to the quick and easy option when it’s most convenient. Long day at work, let’s grab the bag of chips in the cupboard or the cookies in the jar. How often have you thrown out vegetables and fruits that have gone bad due to not eating it in time, because you decided to eat out or grab food on the go instead of cooking it and packing it yourself? We never throw out the chips and cookies though, right? Do you do this on a consistent basis? It sucks for your wallet for starters, but you’re getting unhealthier in the process by making the wrong choices on what to eat. We often start out with the best intentions, but we tell ourselves that life gets in the way. If you have time to binge-watch NETFLIX, stream shows on CRAVE or Amazon Prime on the regular throughout the week, then you have time to prep your food or make a healthy snack. Don’t make excuses and shy away from accountability.
- Eat less processed foods. Make the steps to ensure that your diet is rich in whole, fresh foods.
Improve your protein intake. Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and/or plant sources like beans and legumes should be atop the list for lean protein sources.
Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, ideally colorful ones. Take into account planning and scheduling of meal prepping. They can be frozen if it’s easier to prepare for you. Colorful veggies and fruits contain phytonutrients. These are critical in helping to fight cancer, reduce Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, improve vision and improve immune system function.
Consume slow-absorbing, high-fiber starches such as whole grains, starchy tubers (e.g., potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, jicama etc.), beans and legumes on a consistent basis. Fiber helps you to fill fuller and is awesome for helping to keep your satiety levels in check while dieting.
Consume nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts, fatty fish and seafood on a regular basis.
- Eat slowly to Improve Your Digestive Health.
As stated in the last article, it takes 20 minutes for the gut-brain connection to take place so as to let you know your properly satiated when you ingest and digest your food. Fast eaters are overeaters. If you eat quickly, it’s easy and common to confuse and befuddle your stomach of what is going on through overeating. Oftentimes it can lead to stomach aches shortly after, and prolonged suffering through bouts of indigestion. You have to get to the point to where you can sense when you’ll be satisfied while consuming your food. This event takes mindfulness, patience and listening to your body’s cues. Focus on how you feel when you’re eating. What is your mindset and mood when you sit down to eat? Are you even sitting down when you eat? The quicker we eat the less stomach acid we produce, making it more difficult to break down food that is coming in. Eating quickly at times at a buffet may be okay once in a long while, and not have detrimental impacts on your long-term health, but if you’re eating like you’re competing at a hot-dog contest everyday does. Ask yourself with honesty and clarity why you’re doing it?
At the University of Rhode Island, a study was conducted on how eating speed affected the early stages of digestive processing by observing 60 young adults eat a meal. The results showed that:
o Slow eaters consumed 2 ounces of food per minute.
o Medium-speed, eaters consumed 2.5 ounces of food per minute.
o Fast eaters consumed 3.1 ounces per minute. The group also took larger bites and chewed less before swallowing.
o This means that not only are fast eaters chowing food down at a volume rate in given amount of time, it also means that this food isn’t as well-processed and absorbed in the gut. Think of the food you’re eating hitting your stomach as massive logs going on a fire instead of little kindling. We want to keep the fire lit, not put it out.
- Quit eating junk (hyperpalatable foods) on a consistent basis.
Following the three steps listed above is meant to help make re-regulating your leptin feedback loop easier. Doing a nutritional audit, consuming the right foods on a consistent basis, and eating slower is part of the process of getting your body back into a position where it can self-regulate your nutritional needs as required. It doesn’t mean that we’ll be perfect, but the initial effort must be present so as to create a permanent change. Eating healthy involves keeping the promises that you make to yourself to do it. If you can’t be accountable to yourself, then you will always be in the same position of trial and failure. So, when you are eating healthy acknowledge it. Tell yourself, you’re eating healthy, positive feedback stimulates more positive behaviors. Negative mindset creates negative behavior, be sure give yourself credit and stack the wins.
To summarize: If you’re overweight or obese:
- Call yourself out. Is your will to win for sale?
- Audit your pantry and kitchen.
- Make the steps to ensure that your diet is full of unprocessed, nutrient dense foods.
- Eat slowly to improve your digestive health. Focus on how you feel vs. trying to hardcore diet.
- Slow down the rate in which you consume hyperpalatable foods.
Andrews, Ryan. “All about Appetite Regulation, Part 1.” Precision Nutrition, 4 Sept. 2018, https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-appetite-1.
Banks, William A. “The Blood-Brain Barrier: Connecting the Gut and the Brain.” Regulatory Peptides, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 Aug. 2008, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2553040/.
Leung, Marlene. “A Closer Look at 3G Capital, the Firm behind the Tim Hortons Deal.” CTVNews, CTV News, 27 Aug. 2014, https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/a-closer-look-at-3g-capital-the-firm-behind-the-tim-hortons-deal-1.1978560.
Pierre, Brian St. “All about Slow Eating.” Precision Nutrition, 6 Feb. 2018, https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-slow-eating.
Spetter, Maartje S, et al. “The Sum of Its Parts — Effects of Gastric Distention, Nutrient Content and Sensory Stimulation on Brain Activation.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 10 Mar. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3948722/.