Eating too much - Overeating

Overeating – How to Stop Yourself From Eating Too Much?

Looking at our portions

Overeating simply means eating more energy (calories) than we use. In nutritional science we describe this as positive energy balance, or ‘energy in is greater than energy out’.

Regardless of where the calories come from, protein, fat or carbohydrates, if we eat more calories than we burn, we will store the excess energy as fat in our bodies.

Key takeaway: protein contains as many calories as carbs, and eating too much protein can make you put on weight!

Eating too much calories - Doesn't matter if protein, carbs or fat


What happens when we eat excess calories?

Throughout human evolution food supply has frequently been uncertain. As a result we have evolved very efficient storage mechanisms (fat tissue) to hold on to any extra food energy (calories) that come our way. This is known as the ‘thrifty gene theory’. While this was useful when food is scarce, in today’s world of easy access to food it can cause problems of excess body fat (obesity) in large numbers of people.

When calorie intake exceeds expenditure the body packs those calories into fat molecules which it stores in specialized cells called adipocytes (fat cells). Each adipocyte can swell (hypertrophy). When all the adipocytes are at their maximum size, the body starts to make new adipocytes to keep on storing the extra energy (hyperplasia). This process can go on very efficiently for a long time, meaning we can grow bigger and bigger with fat tissue in our body.

Keeping a healthy weight is ensuring that we simply consume no more calories than we use up. When we wish to lose weight we simply need to consume less calories than we use. To this end old fashion portion sizes are one of the most effective ways to keep a balance.

What’s the bid deal with overeating?

Most people would prefer not to be overweight (BMI above 25) or obese (BMI above 30). This is usually because they don’t like the appearance of overweight. This hasn’t always been so. In previous centuries the ‘fuller form’ was highly desirable.

The real concern nutritionally is that overweight = unhealthy. Many diseases are more likely in the overweight and risk continues to rise the more overweight an individual becomes.

These include what are known as the non-communicable diseases — heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, fatty liver, gallstones and osteoarthritis. In fact, the main causes of death and disability in developed countries are on this list and so, being overweight is an indirect contributor to poor health.

What’s the solution? – Smaller portions…

The only way to lose weight is to eat less calories than are used. Put scientifically — to go into negative energy balance. This can be achieved by simply eating less, by being more active or a combination of both of these things. We cannot change the type of calories we eat and lose weight. For example, switching 5,000kcals of fat (c. 555g of fat) to 5,000kcals of protein (1250g of protein) is still 5,000kcals! The only way to lose weight is to reduce ‘calories in’ to be less than ‘calories out’. So quantity is clearly the key issue here. We eat food in ‘portions’ and it is now thought that increasing portion sizes over the past few decades may be in part be responsible for fueling the current obesity epidemic.

Portion control

The simplest way lose weight is to reduce the portion sizes in your diet!

Serve in what’s usually determined starter plates — using smaller plates will make them appear more full which means you will naturally serve smaller portions

Do not fill your plate

Get smaller cups for the home and buy smaller portions when out

Portion Control - Plate Size - Portion size

Simple tips on keeping yourself from eating too much, overeating

A great general rule for stopping yourself from overeating and lasting weight loss is to do so gradually and on a varied diet of foods, which are sustainable for your circumstances. So focus on things you would enjoy eating, vary by 20 % and ensure that these are healthy and in smaller portions.


The new (ab)normal

“Portion sizes have been growing. So have we. The average restaurant meal today is more than four times larger than in the 1950s. And adults are, on average, 26 pounds heavier. If we want to eat healthy, there are things we can do for ourselves and our community. Order the smaller meals on the menu, split a meal with a friend, or, eat half and take the rest home. We can also ask the managers at our favorite restaurants to offer smaller meals.”

— Based on an infographic by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Portion sizes have skyrocketed since the 1950s leading to increased risk of obesity

Adam graduated from Queen Mary College London with a first class degree in physiology. Having completed an MSc in Nutrition at King’s College London he went on to research towards his PhD at the Royal London Hospital. He then established a career as a researcher and educator, teaching at major London Universities.
With expertise in anti-ageing, weight loss, clinical nutrition, sports nutrition and management of stress and fatigue, Adam has been featured on CNN, BBC TV & Radio and in UK national and local press.
Adam has published his research findings on multiple aspects of diet and health including diabetes, obesity, fatigue states, human performance and nutrition for healthy ageing.