A couple of weeks back I wrote about all of the factors that affect your metabolism. This was in respect to the Energy Balance Equation, which is the primary determining factor in losing weight. Today we look into the factors that affect how much food you eat. This is the other side to the energy equation. 

There are many factors that influence us to eat in the real world day to day, these include:

Frequency Of EatingAs a society we eat more often than we ever have before. You may find yourself eating every two to three hours, you snack on the way home before dinner and often straight afterwards. It is not necessarily bad to eat often, but the more often you eat the easier it is to eat more food and consume more calories.

Food density The modern day diet is characterised by very high calorie dense foods. This means you can eat what may appears like almost nothing e.g. a handful of nuts or a few biscuits, but it has the same calories as a small meal. The foods within are our diet are becoming more calorie dense with less emphasis on lower calorie dense foods such as vegetables. This makes it easy to eat more food.

Exercise compensation A certain percentage of the population are known as exercise compensators. This means that if they burn 300 calories by doing exercise they have a natural tendency to eat more calories than they burnt afterwards, e.g. 400+. This could affect up to a third of people some studies suggest.  This means that despite your best exercise efforts you are accidently increasing hunger at the same time. If this applies to you, you will get much better results on a walking programme focused on movement than formal exercise.

HungerThe hungrier you are the more likely you are to eat more. As a society we have become very out of touch with natural hunger and fullness patterns. We fear the feeling of hunger these days and with food so readily available we grab something to snack on at the very first signs of feeling hungry. There are different causes of hunger and the body can be trained to be more or less hungry over time. I will write about the 6 types of hunger in a future email.. 

Habitual BehavioursThe vast majority of our eating happens with us on automatic without thinking or taking note of it. As it is so subtle it is often hard to change these eating habits. This includes food cues, taste and the influence of others.

Emotions / stress The more stressed we are the more likely we are to eat too much food. Stress forces us into addictive type patterns and food is the easiest and most available vice. This makes eating less food very difficult to do.


There are other factors alongside the above ones but this gives you an insight into some of your drivers to eat. Just using these traits you could easily educe food intake.

If you were to eat slightly less often with lower calorie dense foods it would be a great start. If you examined your hunger and exercise relationship and matched your movement to fit that would help as well. Likewise, any work on reconnecting to a more natural hunger – fullness pattern, or becoming conscious when eating would reduce overall food intake.

While it is good to understand the concept of eating less, results come from how you actually get yourself to do this in the real world which comes back to your overall mind set. A well designed plan will have you experimenting with all of the above contributing areas. This means you can experience ways to manage them and thus adopt this as part of your behavioural mix. This is the only way to really transform how much you are eating long term.  

Photo – The energy balance equation and calorie thresholds as discussed previously.

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