If you’ve ever been munching a bag of chips along with your favorite television show, and then suddenly realized that there were no more chips, and now you don’t feel so great, know that you’re not alone.
We’ve ALL done it.
Many of us blame ourselves for doing it.
What you don’t realize is that food manufacturers have designed everything from the packaging, to the marketing to how the food tastes and breaks down in our body so that we will eat more.
And with that knowledge, there are things that you can do to limit it & eventually stop all together.
Have you ever had the experience where you intended to eat one cookie, or maybe just one Cheeto or a couple, and then five handfuls later? You’re like, what just happened?
Today, we are talking about why it’s so easy to overeat junk food. And then, what we can do to get around it. Stay tuned.
You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes.
You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.
I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster, change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.
Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.
Welcome. Let’s get started.
Hey everyone, welcome to the done with dieting podcast. Now, before I get started in today’s episode about why we overeat junk food. What I wanted to start off first with is talking about how the doors to the Feel Good Sisterhood are currently open. We already have an amazing group of folks who are enrolled, and the doors will only remain open, if you’re listening to this in real time until the end of the week until July 29th.
Now, if you’re listening to this after July 29th, then you can get on the wait list for the program. And I will be opening it again soon. But until then, just let you know that we are currently accepting applications for the Feel Good Sisterhood. It is my six-month group coaching program where you will learn how to do things like not to overeat junk food.
This episode is perfect if you’re interested in learning how not to do that. So, hurry over to elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching, and just check out the details. It’s just a ton of really great information where you will learn the habits that will help you to feel better. And it’s not even just about weight loss, it’s about feeling better, making better choices for your food, learning how to eat for your body.
And then, also how to reduce cravings so that overeating junk food doesn’t become a problem for you. And also, how to get into an exercise routine, how to get into a solid sleep routine. And then, all of the other mindset stuff that we need along the way.
Like, how to pivot when all of the food that you’re expecting to be at a party isn’t there. And maybe there’s just pizza or your family, all of a sudden decides, hey, we want to go for ice cream. And you eat it, and then you have that inner critic that pops up. How to get rid of that inner critic?
So, all of those things that are not food and exercise and sleep management related. But that do help you to become more adherent to yourself and create a sense of self-trust, self-accountability and you will never need to go on another diet ever again. And you will never need to purchase another exercise routine or anything like that.
You will figure it out what is best for you and your body, and then be able to adjust as your body adjusts. It’s just an amazing program. And again, the doors are open right now. We start on August 1st and then go until sometime in January. Go check that out.
Again, it’s elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching. And I would be happy to answer any questions that you have. If you have any of those, you can reach out to me and my team.
So, what we’re talking about today is why it’s so easy to overeat junk food. And right now, we are in the middle of summer. And where I live, it’s always summer. And what that means to me is I find it very funny because I don’t really eat a lot of junk food. I’ve conditioned my pallet away from it.
But there’s one thing that I really, really love. And that is Cheetos, especially when it’s like a beach day or we’re out on the boat. And I don’t know if there’s some nostalgia there that being out on a lake, and it screams Cheetos for some reason.
And so, I love eating Cheetos and I think to myself, oh, I’m just going to have a few. And then, I find that a few turns into a few more and so on and so forth. And yeah, I just get a little bit out of control. I know that this happens, it can easily happen to anyone.
What I want to talk about today is first of all, why it happens and then second of all, what are some of the things that we can do in order to get out of that habit or make better choices?
First, I think it’s really important to notice the marketing that we have around junk foods. When you think about how food manufacturers market their foods to us. They market them to us in bright colors and there are celebrities endorsing them and cartoon characters and everyone is having fun.
And I think that that’s one of the things that is really compelling, especially when I talk to my clients, and they want to have fun. And they think about fun foods. And when we think about fun foods, we do not think about salad. We do not think about chicken breasts. We do not think about broccoli. We think about Cheetos. We think about Oreos, and chocolate chip cookies, and cupcakes, and all sorts of fun things.
But that’s just because we have this association that when I eat that food, I’m automatically going to have fun as well.
The marketing around these junk foods, these highly processed foods, and it’s very intentional, right? That the food manufacturers want us to associate having fun with their foods so that we buy more of them.
Another thing of how they market our foods is they market foods towards us that we quote unquote deserve it, that this is a break that we’re having from a stressful day. So, like those Snickers commercials or any Godiva commercials or anything like that where you deserve to have this.
And it gets into the primitive part of our brain that yes, the food that we’re going to eat is going to make us feel better. Like we’re going to reward ourselves with this type of food. And so, it’s really interesting to start to observe again our thinking and our associations around hyper palatable foods or junk foods and what we think about them.
And then finally, another way that foods are marketed towards us is they have this health halo around them. And what I mean by that is when they say that foods are for example, gluten free, right? That it doesn’t have any flour in it.
And I’ve talked about this a little bit before on another podcast that some of the marketing terms and how foods are packaged will definitely make them seem more appealing by making them organic or by packaging them in like natural type packaging so that it looks like it’s better for us.
And when we think foods are better for us, what happens is we will often overeat those foods because we’re like, well, it’s good for me. I should eat more. But just because something isn’t as bad, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good, right? That just because something is less unhealthy or has more nutritious value doesn’t mean that it is as nutritious as something else.
Now, again, I want to preface this by saying all foods fit into a balanced diet and junk foods aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I admitted that I eat Cheetos. However, be aware that it doesn’t take up a lot of my diet and I’m very intentional when I do eat Cheetos. And I have some strategies around how to become more intentional when we’re eating junk foods.
Now, a couple other things that food manufacturers do is they generally create larger packages of foods. And when we buy larger packages of foods, like thinking about going to Costco, or like the family size bag at the grocery store of chips, or whether it’s cookies, or whatever. When we buy a larger quantity of food because it’s cheaper per unit.
Then, what happens is we will often eat more of that thing. When there’s a larger container, we will generally eat more. And then, the other thing food manufacturers know is that we like variety. And when our pallete gets variety, like for example, a variety bag of little candy bars or a variety pack of chips or whatever, that variety, our palette really likes having something different. And so, if we eat the same thing, our palette will get bored with it.
But when we have variety, we often will continue eating because it’s something new and exciting. And then, the last thing that food manufacturers do is they know that the ultimate bite contains sugar, salt, and fat. Paydays are just so delicious, right?
And McDonald’s French fries, they put just a little bit of sugar in the salt so that you get that sweetness, and you get that saltiness, and then you also get the flavor from the fat. And all of those three things together just create the perfect environment for your mouth.
And so, when we have all three of those things, foods become highly desirable. So, all of this to say that when we think about overeating foods, we feel like it’s our fault. But the truth of the matter is that these foods are actually designed to be overeaten. It’s not your fault. You are just falling prey for the most part to the marketing and the tactics of the food manufacturers.
Because food manufacturers want to sell you food. They want to sell you as much food as possible. They’re not interested in your health, unfortunately. Only from the standpoint that they want you to stay around long enough to buy more food. Right? I mean, it’s kind of a dark way to look at it, but it’s actually true that food manufacturers are not concerned about the health aspect of their foods. They just want you to keep buying.
So, what can you do about it? First of all, I really need to talk a little bit about satisfaction when it comes to satisfaction in our foods. And one of the techniques that I teach with my clients, as well as the Feel Good Sisterhood is the idea that foods will generally tell us how much we should be eating of that food, right?
So, what I mean by that is that there are three things that play into satisfaction. First of all, when we are chewing, the chewing process tells our brain that we are actually eating. And so, for many of my clients, I will shy them away from drinking their calories. Because when we’re drinking our calories, even though we can feel full from like a smoothie, we may not feel as full as if we had eaten.
So, a really good example of that is if you take an orange and you eat the orange, you are going to feel more satiated than if you take the orange and you squeeze it and you drink the juice. Same amount of calories, same amount of fiber, and nutrients and everything. However, the chewing of the orange is actually going to make you feel more satiated than just drinking the juice. That’s the first piece.
However, also, in addition to that, when we’re talking about our stomach, there are three things that tell our stomach that we’ve had enough food. One is the stretching of the stomach lining. What happens is when the stomach lining is stretched a little bit, what we notice is that we feel more full.
And so, what we generally want to do is we want to eat foods that are larger in bulk. And when we think about junk foods, they really are not very bulky, right? They’re very compact. They’re also very dry. And why that’s important is because the second thing of how our brain knows that we’ve had enough is the weight of the food in the stomach. So, because those foods are very dry, we want to drink something along with it. And that will create the weight in our stomachs.
And then, the third piece to that is that we need a little bit of fat. And so, if you’ve ever had a beautiful salad that had a squirt of lemon on it, and it was very refreshing and maybe a little bit of shrimp on it. You probably thought, oh, this is a lovely salad. Now, what’s next? Because it didn’t have any fat in it. And so, we need fat in order to feel satiated.
So, those three things together are really what make us feel full. And also, the other thing to consider is that it does take about 20 minutes for the receptors from our stomach to get up to our brain that tell us that, hey, we’ve had enough. All right. Now, we need to pay attention to those.
The first thing that we can do when we are eating these hyper palatable foods is first of all, notice you’re chewing. Like really pay attention to the chewing process. So, most processed foods, we don’t really chew a lot because they break down in our mouth very quickly. They are designed to break down in our mouth very quickly.
So, when you think about for example, eating a hot dog or a taco versus eating a large salad, you’re going to be spending more time eating the salad because there’s a lot more to chew there. Whereas like a taco, you could eat that in three minutes and move on. But the salad it’s going to take you a while.
So of course, what we want to do is we want to chew more. What you can do is you can actually do that intentionally. You can actually think about chewing your foods a little bit more.
Now, along that same advice, one of the things that we can really do to stop overeating is we can slow ourselves down. So, one of the techniques that I use with my clients is noticing how long it takes us to eat a meal. And what I suggest is that we time ourselves first and notice how long it takes us to eat a meal.
And then, for the subsequent meals, try to add just a minute to that time. What we want to do is we really want to stretch those mealtimes out to about 20 minutes, so that your brain then has time to catch up with your stomach.
And when you start to notice your hunger levels, as well as when you start to stretch out those mealtimes, you will start to feel fuller on less food.
Now, let’s talk about your environment for a little bit. And one of the things that we can do in order to stop overeating a little bit is make sure that you’re in a right environment when you are eating. So many of us eat on the couch, or we’ll eat standing up, or in front of the refrigerator.
And what I want to suggest is that if you actually take your food and bring it to a table and eat it there, then what will happen is it’ll allow you to focus more on the actual food instead of distracting yourself. Because that’s what happens a lot, right? We will distract ourselves with TV, or the internet, or something like that. And we will then, just mindlessly eat.
And so, the more present we can be with our food, the more enjoyment that’s going to take. Because how many of us have gotten to the bottom of a bag where we’ve been completely checked out and we realize, oh, wait a minute. I didn’t even taste that food. And then, when we feel like, oh, I haven’t tasted that food, we want more because we still want the pleasure that the food brings.
And so, the more we can actually pay attention while we are eating the food that we are eating, the more we can actually create enjoyment around that. It’s one of the things that happens with many of my clients. My clients are like, I love eating delicious food. Okay, that’s fantastic. The more present we can be in eating our food, the more we’ll be able to honor that food in the same process.
Another aspect of thinking about environment is looking at your pantry. Look at the foods that you currently have that are pre-packaged, that are processed. And start to notice like, how are these foods marketed to you? Start to notice, are there any health food claims for example, or any self-care promises, right?
Just start to notice the number of treat foods that you have in your kitchen and are they visible? Because the more visibility you have around them, so for example, putting cereal boxes out on the counter versus behind a pantry or a door, the more you can see those things, the more you’re going to want to eat them.
And so, what we want to do is we actually want to see healthier foods like bananas, and oranges, and a fruit bowl for example. Because when we see them, then we’re going to be more likely to eat the healthier foods as opposed to the junk foods.
So, we’ve talked a little bit about environment. We’ve talked a little bit about what happens inside of your body. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the mindset that we have behind overeating foods in general. And so, I think that it’s important to first look at the habit loop. I’ve talked about the habit loop before.
And so, the habit loop is that we start to notice that when one thing happens, when we have a triggering event, that then we do some sort of behavior. And the behavior is generally overeating or eating these junk foods. And then, what happens is we get a reward from it.
And sometimes that reward is just that it’s tasty food that it sends off the dopamine signals in our brain. Or sometimes it could mean that I just have a little bit more energy or a little bit more pep, especially, after we’ve had maybe a night of poor sleeping.
And so, what we want to do is we really want to start to observe, what are our habit loops? And I think what happens is far too often when we eat junk foods or when we go to the treats and we we’re not supposed to quote unquote, what happens is we judge ourselves for it. And when we judge ourselves for doing something, whether it’s eating one cookie or eating a whole bag of cookies, it doesn’t really matter what that inner critic is there in the back of our heads.
Whenever we judge ourselves, what happens is that stops any curiosity. That stops any learning from that behavior. And what we really want to do is we want to start to evaluate, why did I do that? And really start to notice what some of the patterns are that we have.
Now, sometimes the patterns are actually going to be pretty clear. Like for example, at three o’clock every day, I get a craving for chocolate. Then, we know. Okay, every single day I’m going to get a craving for chocolate. And then, we can do something about it. We can expect it. And when we can expect it, we can pivot, we can do something different.
However, sometimes it’s an environment, a social setting. As I mentioned earlier, whenever I’m out on a boat, I really want Cheetos. Cheetos are just amazing. And so, making that association between where I am and what I want to eat.
The holidays are another example of that. So, when it’s cold out, I generally want heavier meals. I want red wine. I want a Fire. I want steak or I want Christmas cookies. And to be warm, and snugly, and apple pie, and all of those things that we have at Thanksgiving.
And so, we can know that there are seasonal triggers that go along with our cravings. And we can also know that we have environmental things that will trigger our overeating.
So, for example, if you’re always in the break room and there’s lots of junk food in your break room, then being aware that, oh, I’ve already established this habit of eating a couple of jellybeans whenever I go talk to my coworkers, or whenever I go into the break room, I eat this thing.
And when we create that habit, it’s easy to continue with it. So, start to notice what some of your triggers are that cause you to eat this way. And then, the other thing that we want to start noticing are thought patterns and I’ve talked about this before.
So, starting to be aware of the thoughts that your lower brain offers you in terms of why you want to overeat? A few months ago, I was in the process of trying to stop eating chocolate after dinner. And I had this thought pop up that was, “oh my goodness! If you can’t eat chocolate after dinner, when are you going to be able to eat it?
It was a very compelling thought. And if I haven’t had been able to catch that, I would have completely dove into the chocolate, and then felt like really frustrated and confused with myself as to why I did that when I was trying to stop.
And so, just start to notice some of the thoughts that your lower brain is offering you. And if you don’t know how to do that, again, something that I teach in the Feel Good Sisterhood, as well as with my one-on-one clients.
And then, the last piece to that is also emotions can trigger wanting to eat. So, when we’re bored or when we’re sad or when we’re anxious or any emotion. If we always make the connection between feeling a certain emotion, it could be love or joy or anything like that.
Whenever we make a connection between a certain emotion and an action, the brain will automatically do it. It doesn’t have to be just eating, it could be anything.
And so, one of the things that we can do is we can change that reaction. Instead of when I feel anxious, I eat. I can start to create the habit loop of when I feel anxious, I go for a walk. Because that creates endorphins, and it makes me feel good for a completely different reason.
And so, you can start to create different habit loops. It’s very possible. What we can’t do is say, okay, when I feel anxious, I’m just not going to do that anymore. But we can do something different. The process of retraining your brain to do something different is actually going to be helpful and successful.
Now, the last piece to this is really rejecting the idea that quantity trumps quality. And what I mean by that is it’s very compelling to look at two products and maybe they’re the same price. And that I can get more for the same amount of money. But we really have to train our brain away from that type of thinking and think more about quality of food over quantity of food.
This is something that I used to really struggle with when I would go out to dinner, I would always want to order all of the food because I would want to have lots of different flavors. And then, once I got everything, I would want to eat it all because it was there, and I had paid for it. And so, I felt like I needed to eat it. So, really teasing apart, the relationship that we have between food and money.
And so, today I will definitely order what I want, but what will happen is I’ll eat only what I want to eat. And I really try to stay away from overeating just because it’s there. When we’re talking about overeating junk foods, one of the things that I work with my clients on is creating what’s called a food protocol.
In the food protocol, what we do first is we start by creating buckets of food. Not literal buckets of food, but virtual or ideas of buckets of food. So, foods that we eat all the time, foods that are treat foods, and then foods that we rarely or never eat. And you get to decide what those foods are. What food’s go into each bucket.
And what’s really interesting is that when we start out in this process, there are foods that we want to include in our diet. So, maybe you’re someone who likes to drink diet soda. You can totally keep that in your everyday foods. But eventually, you may decide that you’re going to move that into your treat bucket.
And then, eventually as you progress down the path, you may decide, you know what? I don’t really need to be drinking diet soda anymore. And so, at that point, then you can move it over into the rarely or never eat foods. All of these foods, again, fit into a healthy diet and we just get to decide how much of each one we want to include.
And when we can approach eating these foods from a very conscious and deliberate state, there’s room for it in our diet, they aren’t bad, and we can eat them and still enjoy them. But really enjoy them instead of checking out while we’re eating them.
Now, again, if this is something that you really struggle with, I’m going to invite you to work with me either as a one-on-one coach or working with me in a small group setting, through the Feel Good Sisterhood. Again, doors to the Feel Good Sisterhood close on Friday, July 29th, the program starts on August 1st. I would love to have you join us.
So, if that’s something that you’re interested in, go to elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching, you can get all of the information on the program and how it will support you to never have to go on a diet ever again, how you can still drink wine, and eat hyper palatable foods, just like Cheetos or pizza. Still in your diet throughout the entire time that we’re in the program, and still achieve your goals.
So, if this is something that’s interesting you, I’m going to encourage you to go over there right now and sign up. Again, elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching.
And that’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week, everyone. And I will talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
Hey, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out the Feel Good Sisterhood. It’s my small group coaching program where we take all this material, and we apply it. We figure out what works for us, and we don’t ever look at another diet ever again.
Join me over at elizabethsherman.com/groupcoaching. I’d love to have you join me in the Feel Good Sisterhood. See you there.