I'm sorry to bring this up the week of Thanksgiving, but I think it's an important thing to consider. Americans, as a whole, are eating way too much. Thanksgiving is a holiday where we joke about being so full, we need to unbutton our pants or show up to the dinner table with stretchy pants just to feel comfortable. But this is the case with most meals on most days. People are overeating, and it's ruining our health.
Overeating leads to obesity. The average American knows this, since nearly 70% of the American population is considered overweight or obese. But why are we overeating? Perception and portion sizes are two key reasons why Americans are overeating. Portion sizes have grown substantially. People are also mindlessly snacking more between meals, meaning that they snack just for the sake of snacking. Often times, they're not even hungry.
Our brains are wired to eat. Our ancestors didn't have abundant access to food year-round. They ate when they could and they fasted when they didn't have available sources of food. We always have available sources of food. Okay, to be fair, I wouldn't technically consider a lot of the stuff on supermarket shelves food. I like that Jimmy Moore refers to them as "food-like disease agents", because that's exactly what they are. Sure, they're edible. But should we be eating these packaged, middle-aisle "foods"? No! However, they're so easily accessible and affordable, we eat them anyway. Studies show that when we have access to affordable and easily obtained snack foods, we are 46% more likely to consume them. Even if we're not hungry.
One thing that's abundant in our culture is that we're taught to consume, consume, consume at such an early age. Baby is crying? He must be hungry. Shove a nipple in his mouth to stop the crying. Toddler hasn't eaten since breakfast and it's already mid-morning? She must need a snack! Give her a granola bar to prevent her from feeling hungry later. Have her mindlessly eat it while watching cartoons. Don't get me started on snack breaks at school. I've been in classrooms as an educator since 2008 and I've witnessed the horrors of snack time. Can we all just agree that flaming hot Cheetos are not a wise snack choice for children? Neither is about 95% of the stuff I've seen kids eat. Most of these kids would be fine not eating a snack between breakfast and lunch. But because they are given a snack, they eat it anyway. And thus, snacking habits are formed. These habits will continue into adulthood. That's why nearly 7 out of 10 Americans are overweight or obese.
So what can we do to eat less? For starters, we can be more mindful when purchasing food at the grocery store. Shop the perimeter and only buy nourishing foods. Hint: flaming hot Cheetos are not a nourishing food! Shrink your portion sizes. We're conditioned to think that more is better. This is not always true when it comes to the food on your plate. I want you to think about that as you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner. Stop mindlessly eating. Mindless eating has become so common. This refers to focusing on something else instead of what you're consuming. People are eating on the go, eating while watching TV, or eating while checking their social media channels. Stop it! Cook at home more. We're more likely to consider portion sizes in our own homes as opposed to when we go out to eat. One meal at Cheesecake Factory is enough to feed you for three dinners. Try intermittent fasting. Yes, you can do this! It's uncomfortable for some people at first. But skipping meals every now and then is not the end of the world. Our ancestors used to do this all the time. And if it had failed them, we wouldn't be here. Only eat when you're hungry. Often times our brains tell us we're hungry when we're actually thirsty. So hydrate with some plain water instead.
What other solutions can you think of to get us to stop eating so much?