Calorie-counters and portion-control-freaks make up about 5% of the population, according to most studies. That leaves the rest of us alone with only our minds to help us figure out just how much we eat each day. After all, we're smart people. We've been well-educated on portions, grams, calories, healthy choices, etc. And, certainly, we know when to stop eating. Besides, if all else fails, our brain will tell us we are full. Of all the illusions in the world, this one may be the greatest of all.
Names, price, expectations, size, good-faith, emotion, accessibility and even exercise all contribute greatly to binges and over-eating. Counting calories is not for everyone. Nor is the ability to portion out your meals every day. For the vast majority of us, it takes more than just "watching" what we eat. We'll need to be savvy enough to fool our brains as well.
The external influences that factor into our daily eating habits are far too many to cover in this simple blog. Some work by creating a halo of protection with marketing techniques and naming conventions. For instance, Subway is marketed as a healthy place to eat and they have a spokesperson who personally lost a lot of weight eating there. However, by pricing “value meals” that include chips, breads and a sugary drink, there is little health value involved, but we still perceive it as being “better” for us.
By marketing things as “low-fat” we naturally assume it is better for us. The ugly truth is that most of these products are higher in carbs to preserve their taste. IMHO, it would be better to have a little fat from a natural source (eggs, avocados, etc) rather than a lot of sugar. Products are blatantly marketed with “Omega-3” and “Fiber” so we perceive them as “good for us”. They are allowed to do this even if the product contains only a trace of their claim. A good rule of thumb: If it wasn’t healthy without it, it’s not healthy with it.
Portion size is also an illusion which you can identify. Try using a smaller plate for your meals. Smaller bowls for your cereal. Your brain will help you rationalize it as a lot of food. Sure, most of us think that we know when we are full, but do we, really? Studies have used refillable bowls which were hidden to the test subjects. Those eating from the refillable soup bowl ate 73% more than those who had the regular bowls. This shows that our brain relies on external cues just as much, if not more, than internal ones. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach has some truth to it.
We all know exercise is good for us for many reason. We also all rationalize that since we worked out today, we can have that birthday cake in the kitchen. We also rationalize the emotion of the moment. If today was a really hard day, well, then, go ahead and get the fries with that.
Some of this can be counteracted by using smaller plates/bowls, putting healthy food at the front of the fridge or on a table where it is more convenient, eat what you know is healthy, not what they claim is healthy and, by all means, exercise.
Why is it so hard to stay in shape? Why is it so hard to stay on a diet program? Why is it so hard to find time for the gym? We outsmart ourselves most of the time and when we are not doing that, our subconscious does it for us.