The Problem with "Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you're full."
Well hey there! It's been a few, hasn't it? My dietetic internship has taken hold of my life completely (in the best way possible!) but I wanted to pop back in to discuss one of my least favorite phrases:
This phrase is often said in an exasperated tone by well-meaning people who do not understand why others cannot lose weight. Although full of good intentions, the phrase also drastically over-simplifies and misses the bigger picture.
If we could all just do that - depend on our feeling of fullness to tell us when to stop eating - the obesity problem would not exist. And over-simplifying in this way ends up making others feel like the burden is entirely on them, which leads to a cycle of declining self-worth and lack of self-compassion.
Our hunger and satiety ("fullness") cues are affected by more than just our bodies.
Look around you. Chances are you can spot an advertisement for food (or a food product itself) from where you are sitting. Advertisements surround us with constant temptation. When we see ads, our brains begin to wonder what that burger tastes like, or how the melted cheese feels in our mouth, or the smell of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie...
Our environment is constructed to make us want MORE. And our bodies don't know any better. We evolved to eat whatever we could, whenever we could because food was scarce. Now, food is everywhere and we have to fight our impulses and instincts to resist near constant temptation.
Additionally, in times of emotional distress, we have conditioned ourselves to comfort with food. Physiologically, eating is a pleasurable experience - it activates the pleasure-centers in the brain. And now that food is plentiful and is apart of nearly every social experience, how can we blame our brains for wanting more of that good feeling?
To live healthfully, we all must fight against a current that fights us every second of every day.
My point is this: we need to stop blaming people for their weight gain. Willpower alone does not stand a chance against the enormity of environmental influence. Instead of blaming the individual, we need to shift our focus to changing our environments and supporting each other's efforts to do so.
Here, I will continue to share tips and tricks about restructuring our food environment. It's time we all fight this fight together rather that separately.