We all have pet peeves, and one of mine is when people call certain foods “sinful.” “That éclair is sinful.” “This chocolate mousse is positively sinful!”
What? Sorry, but food does not have the capacity to sin.
If you've been calling food sinful, it is time to stop blaming the food. The food is doing nothing except being food. It is not asking you to eat it and doesn't care whether you do.
The problem is not the food. It is overeating. We live in a culture of overeating. That explains why around two-thirds of Americans are overweight with about half of them being obese. They are at risk of various obesity-related illnesses and premature death because they are eating considerably more food than their bodies need.
Why are so many people overeating?
Much of the food industry is dedicated to enticing us to overeat to increase their profits. Popular chain restaurants serve huge portions. On television, advertisers encourage us to eat their unhealthy products.
How many food advertisements associate eating with hunger? I can’t think of a single one.
Research confirms that children exposed to food advertising ate 45% more than those who did not watch the food ads. Forty-five percent! Adults consumed more snacks following exposure to snack food advertising. All of this contributes to our obesity epidemic. So if you watch television, try muting the ads and don’t watch them!
Then there are the fats, sugars and salt added to food to make inexpensive, low-quality ingredients taste better. Unhealthy ingredients are put into processed foods to make them taste better and looks more attractive. The unwary shopper's health suffers so corporations can make more money.
Speaking of unwary buyers, my mother-in-law proclaimed that Subway sandwiches were healthy because you could get them on 9-grain bread. Being skeptical and a questioner, I did some research and discovered that Subway's 9-grain rolls contained a miniscule 2% whole grain and the rest was refined white flour! Another great example of misleading advertising by a huge restaurant chain to increase sales by tricking people into believing their product was healthy.
And. of course, there is the multi-billion dollar diet industry, much of which continues to make huge profits by selling products promising a quick fix for our weight problem. But diets don't work. There is no quick fix.
The simple truth is that the reason so many people are overweight is because they eat more food than their bodies need. They overeat because they do not associate eating with being hungry. They are victims of food marketing, convenience foods and our culture of overeating.
Another simple truth is that the only way to lose weight and keep it off without diets and deprivation is to stop overeating. Period.
Stopping overeating doesn't mean you can’t eat éclairs or chocolate mousse anymore. It means that you have to learn how to make decisions about when to eat and what to eat by listening to your body instead of advertising.
It means listening for that feeling of hunger that your body uses to tell you, “I need some fuel. Please feed me.”
Not overeating means eating without multi-tasking so that when you’re eating, you can hear your body say, “I'm good! Stop eating now.” Then, despite the fact that half a plateful of fettuccine Alfredo is sitting in front of you, you stop eating. You can put it in the fridge and have delicious leftovers later.
Most people don't even think about stopping before their plate is clean. Many people in my generation were raised to be members of the Clean Plate Club and told that it was wrong to waste food when children in China or Appalachia or Africa were starving.
In other words, we were taught to overeat from an early age, and to what end? Those poor hungry children around the world did not benefit from us eating that food. Nor did we. We just learned how to ignore our body’s signals, and that gave rise to several generations of overeaters and an increase in obesity.
If you are overweight, try this experiment: Forget about habitual eating or the many reasons you may choose to eat when you aren't hungry. Don’t look at the clock to tell you it is time for lunch. For just one day, trust your body. Listen for its signals. Eat only when your body is hungry, meaning you have hunger pangs or other physical signals of hunger. Those are very different from your brain telling you it wants food because there is a Dominos ad on TV. Then stop eating when your stomach feels lightly full. Savor every bite of food. Really experience the flavors. Don't eat in front of the TV, while reading, checking your smartphone or driving the car.
And if you really want that brownie, remember that it is innocent of any sin. If you’re hungry, go ahead and enjoy every delicious mouthful, but pay attention to when your body (not your brain or mouth) has had enough. If there’s still some brownie left, stop eating and save it for tomorrow.
See how it feels to eat in tune with your body’s needs. It might feel very foreign to you.
This is not easy for most people to do because so many of us are in the habit of eating for reasons other than hunger. But anyone can become reacquainted with their body’s hunger and fullness signals, and learn to stop overeating. I did it, and I’ve taught many others to do the same.
And you know what happens when you do that?
You lose weight! Without dieting or giving up that chocolate mousse.
If you are ready to relearn how to eat in tune with your body's signals, get started with my free 8 Secrets for Permanent Weight Loss. You'll learn lots of great tools for losing weight and keeping it off. Sign up below.
Fascinating statistics. I know I’ve been guilty of suddenly being hungry after seeing something on TV. I will be paying attention now!
Thanks for this important information. I have been focusing on mindful eating of late. Taking a minute to enjoy the look and smell of the food before I start; thinking with gratitude about all those that contributed to getting the food to me; then eating slowly and savoring the flavor; and finally stopping as soon as I am satisfied. I haven’t been 100-percent successful, but am making progress. When I catch myself eating any other way, I stop and try again. I enjoy the food more and eat less.
I really believe mindful eating is the only sustainable way to eat what you enjoy without gaining weight, but it definitely takes practice. It isn’t a straight path. Just keep getting back on track when you stray. It sounds like you’re doing great. Keep up the good work.