Are You Being Tricked Into Overeating?

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

June 04, 2014

  • How your food choices are being manipulated
  • Here’s what’s sabotaging your healthy eating
  • Your license to fight back

A lot of my patients are genuine nutrition experts. They can recite the protein, fat, sugar and calorie content of certain foods they eat regularly. Most of them know how to combine their foods for the best health consequences.

Even though they’re eating healthy, some of them are still having problems losing weight. And they haven’t experienced the renewed health and energy they were looking for.

How can this be? We all know that a healthy diet can cure our weight-loss and health woes. So, how can you eat foods that are good for you, exercise regularly and still not achieve the goals you were counting on?

Well, I’m here to tell you, it might not be your fault. In many cases it could be those sneaky food manufacturers lulling you into a false sense of security.

You see, your subconscious plays a big role in what you choose to eat and how much of it you consume in a single sitting. If you’re tricked into thinking a food is healthy, you’re more likely to forget to read the whole label. You’re also likely to eat a lot more of it than you should.

Food companies know this. They also know how to manipulate your subconscious to make you buy and eat more of their products.

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It’s sly and underhanded. But it’s effective. Here’s what they do…

Advertisers and food manufacturers are very skilled when it comes to getting around your efforts to eat healthy.

They’ve learned to disguise junk food as a healthy choice. It’s the wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. On their labels they use words like “organic,” “sugar-free” and “low-fat.”

They want you to think their food is more wholesome and healthy than anything else on the grocer’s shelf!

Some of those claims may be true. Others might not. In either case, claims like these can encourage you to subconsciously choose a specific food – then eat larger quantities than you would if you thought it was unhealthy. That’s because you’ve gotten the message that it’s “good” for you.

It’s called the “health halo effect.” It means when a food has one good quality, we subconsciously think everything about it is good. It’s like being handed a license to overeat.

I see this happen quite often. Organic foods are a perfect example.

Many of my patients try to eat the most natural foods available. I applaud them for that. But it’s easy to feel safer than you should when you see a product with a big label claiming it’s organic or natural.

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First of all, these foods sound healthy and nutritious. Second, most people tend to believe foods have a lower calorie and fat content. So, you relax your guard. You stop looking at the calorie count or the portion size. You don’t notice it’s high in sugar and carbohydrates.

In the end, you wind up munching on these foods to your heart’s content, without ever thinking you might be eating more calories than you should.

Sugar-free is another labeling claim that bothers me. If a product is sugar-free, it usually means it contains artificial sweeteners. But, if you don’t read the ingredient list, you won’t know that. Your brain says “Hey! No sugar. That’s healthy!” This makes it easy to go overboard on them.

The problem is these artificial sweeteners trick your body into believing you’ve just eaten something sugary. Every time you eat or drink something that contains artificial sweeteners, your body is forced to release insulin. Too much insulin revs up your appetite, makes you feel hungrier and causes your body to store fat.

And, speaking of fat…

Foods labeled as low in fat might be the most dangerous of all. I believe the “low-fat” label might even be fueling the obesity epidemic. Why is it so horrible?

Nothing says a food that’s low in fat has to also be low in calories. But, for some reason, most people equate low-fat with low-calorie. This makes it easy to overestimate the appropriate portion size.

Worse, low-fat foods are often laden with sugar and artificial flavors to make them taste better and improve texture. In the end it’s easy to overeat these foods while getting a lot more sugar and carbohydrates than you realize.

You see the problem, right? When we think a food is healthy, we subconsciously feel we can load up on it without any consequences. This could be sabotaging both your health and your weight.

Instead of handing you a license to overeat, I’m handing you a license to fight back. Don’t put up with these manipulations. Here are some ways you can regain control over what you’re eating:

Get smart about labels. Don’t believe any product claim until you’ve examined the nutrition panel and ingredient list. In addition to serving size, make sure to read the servings per container information to understand how many servings a food package contains.

Single out trigger foods. Buy healthy snack foods in single-serving sizes or divvy up full size packages into smaller, individual bags. It may be difficult to stop eating, oh, say, a tub of hummus or a jar of cashews. But choosing a small container or resealable snack bag will give you a tangible limit.

Use smaller plates. The truth is we eat most of what is on our plate no matter what size it is. Take control of your portion sizes by downsizing your plate size. Does this simple trick really work? Absolutely! People feel more satisfied with less food when they’re served on 8-inch salad plates in place of 12-inch dinner plates.

Load up on protein. Protein isn’t just good for you. It also makes you feel full. But remember, there’s more to the protein category than red meat and poultry. Try slipping some plain Greek yogurt, nuts, beans, organic avocado, pasture-raised eggs or wild-caught fish into every meal.

I have one more tip that might come as a surprise. The halo effect also applies to dining out. If you think you’re eating a healthy dinner at a restaurant, you’re more likely to eat the entire meal. And we both know restaurants are notorious for providing huge plate sizes.

An easy way to avoid this problem is to ask your waiter to pack up half of your meal… before you even start to eat!

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “Health halo effect: Don’t judge a food by its organic label.” ScienceDaily. Apr 2011.

“New research warns consumers to consider portion sizes of ‘healthier’ foods.” News Release. University of Ulster. May 2013

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