The Chocolate Diet
Recently, one of my clients described a friend they have who seemingly maintains a healthy weight eating chocolate every day and NO exercise. Clearly, my client who was looking to lose weight was feeling a little exasperated by this, but there’s a few things to consider here:
- What this person does for a job – a caring role, on feet all day and virtually no sitting required – one of which I’ve seen reported steps of between 15,000-21,000 daily from clients in similar roles.
- Their available time to eat – very limited during the work day.
- Their lifestyle – single and living alone, I suspect the motivation to prepare meals and self care may be low, and so they apparently choose to eat chocolate for dinner most days! (not recommending this for obvious reasons…..)
And – they may just be a person who naturally responds to the satiety signals in their body, either genetically, or habitually after a relatively small amount of chocolate compared to others. Let’s be clear this doesn’t necessarily make them “healthy”.
In short, some people just have natural and habit-based mechanisms to regulate their appetite and food intake, which in most cases they are completely ignorant to!
This is not the first time (or last) I will have this conversation with a client.
Another expressed frustration that her husband HAS to have a daily slice of mudcake…. I’m aware that the above factors definitely apply in relation to incidental movement at work and available time to eat – but sadly, most men also have a slightly higher basal metabolic rate than the average woman, AND more mass which gives them a higher total daily energy expenditure, and therefore daily caloric intake.
But all is not lost for us who love to eat! Even if you’re genetically and habitually predisposed to over-eating, and struggle to lose weight, you can influence the following factors:
- Your total daily energy expenditure – but I’d prefer you to look at your incidental movement, or NEAT, before you go overdoing the exercise and probably just increasing your appetite. However, there’s research coming out that active people who regularly exercise have better appetite regulation than obese/overweight and inactive people. As with most things in life, a moderate amount of exercise should be an effective dose if you consider your nutrition and NEAT alongside it. Read: don’t sit down for long periods where possible. “But my job requires me to!” It’s all good, get some more activity in on your days off, and adjust food intake to match lower, and higher activity days. This has been a really effective strategy for some of my clients.
- Food selection – choose mostly unprocessed whole foods, lean sources of protein and large amounts of low calorie plant foods to fill your stomach and signal the fullness hormones sooner than a quick mars bar scoffed down and leaving you looking for more.
- Food environment – if there’s certain things you just can’t stop eating, don’t have them nearby when you’re trying to lose weight. Don’t buy them, you don’t need them.
I once had a relative tell me I was “chubbier” than my cousin because she had better self control than me ( I was about 9), what I now know about that scenario was the economic situation my cousin was in, was probably not as good as my family’s at the time. Again – food access, not necessarily the “choices” or “self control” of a 9yo.
It’s important to understand these mechanisms, given that we live in a world that is marketing lots of calorie dense, highly processed food to us, which is engineered to have us wanting more. You can buck the trend.
Some other factors that come into play are taking note of “physiological hunger” and “hedonic hunger”. We’re human, we don’t just eat because we need to. We are influenced by our desire for pleasure, our habits, our emotions and our social life to name a few. Lack of sleep and shiftwork are really common factors that will influence food choices that I see too.
If you’re unsure on where to start, I recommend keeping a daily food log for a few days, take notice of your stress, sleep and activity levels and how you are feeling when you notice yourself wanting to make choices that don’t align with your personal goals. As I always say to my clients, self awareness is the first step to change, and you’re an individual! This is not an exhaustive list of what may influence your appetite and food choices, if you’d like to learn more, get in touch.