How To Stop Overeating

I was inspired to write this article after recently attending a talk at the Oxford Union delivered by a young, popular nutritionist called Ella Woodward. While she addressed several pressing and important themes related to nutritional biology, her answers at times fell short.  I was particularly unsatisfied by her response to the following question: ‘How do I stop eating so much?’  As she delivered her grandiose solution, (brimming with the surety of her brilliance and profundity) I was aghast to hear her declare ‘I have never experienced that problem.’  I am sure that she will be a great nutritionist, good for her.

Regardless, in the real world some people actually do face the issue of over-eating and not maintaining a proper and healthy nutritional balance.  In a response to Ms. Woodeward’s ‘genial’ answer, here is my proposal.

While the human body is very smart, it is not so always easy to interpret the messages it sends.  So why could your body demand more food while you already feel full? Here are a couple of possible scenarios.

‘Sharks never feel full’

Sharks never feel full as they are unable to determine whether they have eaten too much. Unlike our fellow marine mammal chums, the human gastrointestinal tract fortunately, signals to the brain when it received enough food. We have to thank leptin, a digestive hormone, for providing negative feedback and inhibiting hunger. The problem is it takes our digestive system about 20 minutes to communicate with brain to tell us to unbutton our belts. So what to do in the meantime? The answer is simple: do no rush your meal. To accomplish this, try chewing at least 20 times per bite. The digestion process starts in the mouth with a secretion of enzyme known as amylase, which is responsible for a breakdown of carbohydrates. In addition, properly chewed food makes the stomach’s task easier. Recent research by Karine Spiegel has demonstrated that sleep deprivation decreases leptin production by 18%. Now you have an official reason to sleep longer!

‘Hydrate before your meal’

Dehydration. An ugly little monster that rears its head when you have spent too much time in the sun at the beach.  However, you might be wondering, what does dehydration have anything to do with the amount of food you consume? Here is the catch. You might not have known that the body also absorbs water from the food you ingest. Consequently, when you are dehydrated, it takes more food to fulfill your body’s needs.  Fortunately, there is another simple answer. And no, I am not going to reprimand you by telling you that you need to drink more throughout the day (although you really should). All you need to do is to drink a glass of water fifteen minutes before the meal. It provides the sense of fullness faster, which allows for less consumption. Drinking while eating your meal is a big no-no.  This will simply slow down the digestion process. While the stomach processes food, its pH can be as low as one. By drinking during your meal, water, which has a pH of 7, neutralizes the reaction and prevents the stomach from working efficiently.

‘Hold the carbs please’

I personally never count the percentage of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in each meal. I do this because I know that nature has already counted for me. You might be surprised, but eating enough fruits and vegetables will make your meals balanced. This is due to the fact that plants contain high amounts of fiber, which helps let the body know when it is full. A modern human’s average meal consists mostly of carbohydrates that the body ‘reads’ as sugars. The meal’s lack of adequate proteins and fats requires your body to ‘ask’ for them.  We mistakenly interpret this message as indiscriminate hunger. Unfortunately, eating more does not ‘fix’ the problem. While there is no need follow the exact pattern, a complete meal should consist of 45 -65 % of proteins, 45-65% of carbs and only 20 -35% of fats. This balance will ensure a more efficient nutrient uptake and stimulate the production of intestinal hormones, such as cholecystokinin (CCK). In combination with leptin, CCK regulates satiety. If you are currently a heavy eater, it will take time for your stomach to shrink back to its normal size. In the meantime, plan to consume smaller, but more frequent meals. This pattern will provide enough energy and prevent excessive hunger. Be patient! Eventually consuming a balanced meal will prevent you from eating an unnecessary amount of food.

‘Essentially, the bugs inside you are important’

Meet the Big Bad Three: Yeast, Fungi and Bacteria. In Alanna Collen’s recent book, 10% Human, she revealed a groundbreaking truth that 90% percent of the human body is composed of bacteria. It does not come as surprise that bacteria are responsible for numerous health issues. Consumption of processed food and other non-living food allows bad bacteria to flourish in the intestines. Antibiotics contribute to this process as well, mostly by killing friendly bacteria.

Yeast and candida (a type of fungus) live on foods with high contents of sugar and starchy carbohydrates.  The latter two cause fermentation that then lowers acid-basis levels (pH), creating perfect conditions for yeast and fungi to grow. To survive they need a constant supply of the previously mentioned foods, which we ingest when we have a ‘craving’. 

Parasites love rotten food in the intestines and bacteria. The idea of having unwanted guests in your body may sound a bit scary, but do not panic because this condition is manageable. Stop feeding your unwanted neighbors. The best solution is to exclude artificial sweets, sodas, pastries and eat more vegetables. You may think I missed fruits. Unfortunately, fruit consumption should be minimized, as they contain high levels of naturally occurring sugars that cause fermentation. 

It is possible that a few, or even all, of the dietary aspects above covered are relevant and are certainly worthy of your attention. However, there are a lot more components that form healthy eating habits. If you adopt healthy and balanced nutritional habits and still experience food addiction, you might want to visit a qualified specialist. Dieticians are able to help you to build a personalized diet and manage your condition. In the end, our bodies are unique and have their own ’personal settings’.



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