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Why do so many of us overeat? Is it because we don't have nutritious foods to choose from? Take a stroll through any supermarket, and that seems highly unlikely. Do we overeat because of our genetics? Maybe so, but that doesn't explain why our grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, who would have had the same genes, were likely to have been lean?
Or is because of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, food additives, food processing methods, or genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our food?
Maybe all of these factors make a difference in overeating, but I believe there is one simple reason people eat too much food: Because it's there. Take away the food, and you stop the overeating. Here are 10 simple ways to cut down on your propensity to overeat without dieting. After all, the best diet is one you forget that you are on.
1. Don't plan for deprivation in your daily diet.
In October of 2005 News of the Weird reported that an internationally renowned expert on eating disorders was arrested in a West Hartford, Connecticut convenience store after, according to the police report, inhaling three cans of whipped cream. Even the most knowledgeable among us eventually fall victim to our impulses if we constantly deny ourselves food. Don't focus on what you don't eat. Focus on what you will eat and how.
2. Eat a greater number of small servings rather than a smaller number of large servings.
People tend to be very good at estimating small sizes. We usually do a pretty good job of estimating 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes or 1 ounce of M & Ms. We aren't as good at estimating the number of calories in a whole pizza or whether we ate half or two-thirds of a roast chicken we pick up at the market.
It is only natural to underestimate how you eat, but if you are underestimating the size of a smaller serving, you will overeat less than if you underestimate the size or a larger serving. Eating smaller servings also gives your brain time to respond to signals from your digestive tract that you are getting full.
3. Make the mindless margin work for you.
Adding just 100 calories a day to your diet causes you to gain 10 pounds in a year. The difference between a "tall" and a "grande" of sweetened coffee at Starbucks every morning might be more than enough for you to put on 10 pounds in a year. Drinking a can of sugar-sweetened Coca Cola every day might be enough to put on 12 pounds in a year. Dipping into the candy bowl at work sometimes puts on 20 pounds a year or more. Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, calls these extra calories the "mindless margin."
But the mindless margin can also work in reverse. Suppose you switch from a coffee drink every morning to unsweetened herbal tea. You might find that you lose 12 pounds in a year without even trying. Or suppose you move the candy dish at work so you have to get up to eat a piece from it. You might lose 20 pounds in a year without even trying. Sometimes giving up caffeine has the unexpected side effect of weight loss as people also give up cream and sugar.