6 Ways Eating More Can Help You Lose Weight

Jul 30, 2019

You know that a calorie deficit is key to losing fat. So, we want to avoid excess calories where we can to make that happen, right? Yes. Mostly.

I’m a great example of someone whose default is to try and buy the least expensive item, whether that means saving 10 cents on a can of tomatoes or buying the lower calorie salad dressing when I can’t decide on a flavor. Where possible, why not save a little?

However, always trying for a minimal calorie intake can backfire, much like buying the cheapest car or blender can leave you spending more money in the long run. I’ve seen a few clients get derailed by this sort of thinking in recent weeks, so I’d like to prevent it from happening to you. Real skill in eating for lifelong leanness is knowing when to eat a little more, choose the higher calorie thing, or choose to eat instead of passing on food.

We have to make dozens, or even hundreds, of food related decisions each day. An effort to reduce calories here can lead to eating more there. Or if I phrase it in a time sense, a choice based on saving calories now can bite you in the butt by sending extra food into your belly later.

Here are a few examples: 

  • Putting yourself on a low calorie diet, which causes you to wake up at night to eat a bunch of food at 1 am. 
  • Choosing to use a sandwich thin instead of two pieces of toast with your breakfast, but then you begin raiding the breakroom snacks mid morning, which was never a problem before.
  • Not eating at healthy dinner at home because you weren’t hungry yet, then eating a greasy fast food dinner an hour later because it was all that was available on the highway.
  • Buying a pint of “candy bar” Halo Top ice cream because it’s only 80 calories a serving, and you’d feel too guilty if you bought an actual Snickers bar (but you eat the whole pint, which is actually 140 calories more than the candy bar). 
  • Drinking water only during long training runs or workouts because you want to maximize the calorie deficit you create marathon training. Except after those 18 mile runs you can’t get satisfied and graze the rest of the day. 

The pattern to these examples is that choosing lower calorie options has potential to backfire if it:

  1. Leaves you too hungry before your next meal, which will cause you to snack. (When it comes to human vs hunger, I bet on hunger.)

  2. Reduces your ability to get a good night’s sleep (even if you don’t end up eating during the night, your appetite will be cranked up higher in the following days, and see note on human vs hunger above).

  3. Causes you to get hungry at a time when the food options are lower quality and high calorie. (i.e. during travel, a Superbowl party, while at a theme park, or working midnight shift at a hospital) 

  4. Leaves you feeling like you can’t get by without substantial desserts or “finishers” after every meal. (While your main meal is carefully calorie controlled) 

  5. Leads to eating a low calorie or light alternative food, but in large amounts. 

  6. Causes bearlike post-workout appetite. 

Luckily, figuring out if you are being tripped up in this way is pretty straightforward! Ask yourself if your weight loss progress is being hampered by these signs and symptoms:

Are you snacking because you are feeling hungry more than an hour before your next meal?

Has your sleep quality or quantity decreased since you started your latest diet strategy?

Do you end up eating fast food or high calorie meals on a regular basis because “that’s all there is”?

Do you feel like after your meal or at the end of the day you need several hundred calories of chocolate, dessert or something similar?

Do you eat a large amount of light or low calorie foods because you feel like it would be more fattening to eat the “real thing”? 

Do you feel ravenously hungry after your workouts, and up eating back as many or more extra calories as your exercise session?

If you see yourself in any of these examples, there’s nothing wrong with you, first of all. This is proof that the well-designed “don’t starve to death” circuitry in your brain is functional. How awesome is your body at getting enough fuel into it!

Second, you don’t have to change. Especially if you are a competitive athlete interested in maximizing performance and avoiding relative energy deficiency, replacing your energy after a training session is important, even if you have to eat all day to do it!

I’d just like to remind you that there are alternatives, so if your main goal is weight loss, and these signs and symptoms are preventing it from happening, you might unlock more weight loss success by being a little more generous with your intake. You might be able to skip the unplanned eating by giving yourself more of the planned, healthy food at meals. You might be able to keep you total intake lower if you eat the “real dessert”. Maybe you need a ½ cup instead of a ⅓ cup of oatmeal with breakfast to kick the snack habit. Maybe you should eat some carbohydrates on the long hike so you don’t eat an entire pizza after. Maybe a few bites extra of salmon and green beans at dinner would give you better sleep and prevent the 2 am peanut butter sandwiches.

Let me know if any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, and if you’re going to try out a bit MORE food somewhere to help!

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