The End of Overeating: Part II

By Martin Brown

Last week in the first part of this two-part story, we focused on the pathways our brain creates in identifying distress relief and how that can serve as a key trigger to overeating. If you have not already done so, please read Part I so that you will have a complete understanding of how this association between emotional need and overeating is established.

This week, we’re going to discuss the essential actions that only you can take to break the link between emotional need and overeating.

The very first step is to become aware of the foods that you are most susceptible to in triggering your overeating. In Part I, I gave the example of cookies as a comfort food. But with each individual, that can vary. For one person it can be doughnuts, for another pizza, chips, or ice cream. Almost always it is foods that contain high amounts of fat, sugar, or both. In other words, the foods that are most likely to trigger a comfort reaction but sadly, also cause us to gain the most weight.

Without awareness of your eating habits, you’ll never successfully move on to the second step of creating new behaviors. Most often what we eat is a matter of habit. This is why I always emphasize the term that you need to think in terms of “diets, not detours.”

Most people go on a diet as a plan to hold onto their favorite foods, just making sure to eat less of them. This is like putting a lid down on a boiling pot. When the steam pressure builds, you hold the lid down more forcefully. This is a losing plan because at some point, as we all know, the lid blows off.

And this is why more than 95% of  all diets fail because people take detours around their usual diets rather than taking the bolder, and far more successful step, of creating new diet behaviors.

When you’re aware, for example, that you have always loved to snack, you can start creating competing behaviors that allow you to snack healthfully. Do you like the crunch of potato chips? Instead, buy hard 100% whole grain pretzels. They have plenty of crunch with fewer calories, and much higher levels of dietary fiber.

Can’t do without that sour cream dip? Try a plant based dip, like hummus, that now comes in 20 different flavors. Got to have some chocolate for dessert? Get rid of those cookies and premium ice creams and start trying alternatives like soy chocolate ice cream. Hooked on sugar? Think of added sugars like you would nicotine. Start weaning yourself off of it first using artificial sweeteners, and then replace those drinks with natural orange juice, or apple juice, without added sugars or artificial sweeteners.

Next, start watering down those juices so the higher amounts of natural fructose they contain will be diluted. What you’re doing is withdrawing from a sugar addiction and as you take in less processed cane, beet and fruit sugars the more sensitive you will be to the sweet treats of nature such as sugar snap peas, carrots, and so much more. It’s hard for your palette to enjoy the taste of nature’s naturally sweet foods when its been overwhelmed with everything from sweet ice tea to jellybeans.

Your third step in defeating overeating is to reach out for understanding and support. Everywhere you look in society today there is a friend or family member who has fought their own battle with overeating. Sharing experiences and joining in a shared struggle is often the best support of all. Remember that you are beating a food industry that has made huge profits in making sure that you overeat. Having friends who say, “you look just fine the way you are,” when you know you don’t, are not doing you a favor. Maintaining a healthy body weight is good for your state of mind and state of well being, and people who don’t know and appreciate that truth really can’t support you in your plan to eat well.

Finally let me share a basic truth about all diets: eating mostly plant-based foods will bring you to your natural weight.

When you take animal based foods, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, and make them 10% of your diet, and make plant based foods 90% of your diet; then cut out added sugars; and eat little or no processed foods, such as breads, cookies, crackers, rice, pasta, cereals, and eat only natural whole grain foods, you’re all but assured of living your life at a normal body weight.

You can do this! When you unlearn bad dietary habits, and learn to adopt good dietary habits, your weight worries will be a thing of the past.



Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.

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