June 14, 2019

Here are some crazy statistics about how much Americans eat: 

  • 70 percent of adults aged 20 and older are overweight or obese.[1]
  • The average American consumes 3,600 calories per day.[2] 

That means there’s a good chance that you fit into one of these groups. America has a weight problem. This is nothing new.

But if we all already know about the problem, why can’t we fix it?

The list of reasons is endless: cost, taste, marketing, discipline, availability, etc.

The Solution to Overeating

I want to talk through the most basic solution: eat less. Now, before you exit this window from mild to moderate annoyance at my seemingly cold and condescending suggestion (I’m a nice guy, I promise), let’s talk about why eating more makes a lot of sense psychologically and practically speaking.

Food is delicious. Duh. Like the MinusCal peanut butter bar, which is delicioso :)

And it just so happens that food that is worse for you (overall) is even more delicious! We don’t have a problem saying no to more spinach, usually, but I definitely have a problem saying no to more Blue Bell Ice Cream.

But why do we find food to be delicious, and especially the calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods?

Reason #1: Survival

The most obvious answer is that we need food to survive. Too much food won’t kill you that fast, but not enough food (try fasting for a few weeks) has some serious risks.[3] Not to mention how grumpy, tired, and generally useless we become when we go too long without food.

Reason #2: Calorie-Rich Food

With that in mind, our body loves getting the most calorie rich foods. Our body wants fuel and more calories equals more fuel, even if it’s not the best kind of fuel. So when you ask your stomach, “Would you like a cheeseburger or some roasted squash?” the answer is usually a resounding “CHEESEBURGER!”

Reason #3: How We Feel

Another more intuitive answer is the psychological connection between what we eat and how we feel. Have you ever been sort of sad before a hot, delicious meal only to feel like a totally new person after the fact?

Most of you probably have, and if you haven’t you may be in denial that you struggle with hanger-management (my wife for sure suffers from hanger). Our brain and our gut are more connected than most of us think.[4] 

This is a new field of study, and so far, many of the results have actually pointed to more balanced diets producing better moods. But nonetheless, we all tend to use food (for better or for worse) to affect our moods.

Artifacts of Our Past?

Some research suggests that our comfort foods are primarily artifacts of our pasts, such as ice cream that you used to go get with your mom or pizza you and your friends would get on movie night. I don’t buy this as much seeing as people’s fond memories vary drastically (and are often not fond memories at all) while people’’s comfort foods stay within very similar groups nutritional speaking (high salt, high sugar, high saturated fat).

I think a more likely answer if the connection between our stomachs and our taste buds. If it tastes good it provides a lot fuel, and if it provides a lot of fuel then it tastes good. I don’t have definitive research on this, but it seems like a fairly intuitive form of bodily communication.

The only problem is that most of us don’t need more fuel, we need less! I’ve only scratched the surface of why we eat the way we do, and I hope to touch more on this in later posts, but for now let’s talk about some practical solutions to eating less.

Take Smaller Portions

That might sound simple, but it requires quite an overhaul of many people’s habits and routines. A favorite study[5] of mine observed two groups of randomly selected adults eating ice cream to celebrate the success of a colleague.

They served themselves and were allowed to have as much ice cream as they wanted. The only difference was the size of the bowls and the ice cream scoops. The results?

When given a larger bowl, participants served themselves 31% more ice cream, and when given a larger serving spoon they served themselves 15% more ice cream. Even the nutrition experts in the pool behaved this way.

I think this has profound implications for people who are trying to lose weight (or gain it if you work in the opposite direction). If you’re at home, stand up and go into your kitchen and check how big your standard dinner plates are.

 If they are anything like mine, they can almost fit an entire rotisserie chicken on one plate....that’s huge! Look at your bowls and your cups and your spoons. We are simple people (not to mention lazy sometimes too), and chances are if you serve yourself a bowl of ice cream you’ll finish that bowl. It’s harder to stop than to start.

Reducing your portion sizes can work across the board. 

Do you drink coke on a regular basis? Buy smaller cans, or better yet (if you’re thrifty like me), buy the liter bottles and pour yourself servings in small cups. Are completely against giving up french fries? Get a small or a kid’s size instead of a medium. This can even apply to your morning bowl of Cheerios: get smaller bowls.

Sure, it may be asking a lot of you to go completely restock your dinnerware, but if weight is an issue for you, then I think it’s well worth it. The exponential effect of using smaller plates and cups and bowls and spoons (and maybe pots and pans?) will result in smaller meals throughout the day and less calories overall.

The best part? We’re not changing what you eat (just yet), just how much you eat.

My next suggestion for eating less is definitely a more radical trend, but I’ll save it for my next post. Stay tuned and reach out with comments or questions.

In the meantime, make sure to grab our peanut butter bars to help lose even more weight with a smaller plate.

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