Is your diet making you fat? No doubt you’ve asked yourself this questions many times over, especially after you’ve weighed yourself for the third week in a row and the number hasn’t stopped climbing despite your drastic diet. Well, did you know that “healthy eating” can actually backfire and cause you to gain weight?
According to a study out of the University of Texas at Austin, labeling a food as “healthy” may actually cause you to eat more of it than you would an “unhealthy” food!
In the study, participants were divided into two groups. Each group was given the same snack: popcorn. The only difference was what the participants were told. One group was told that the snack was “unhealthy”, while the other was told it was “healthy”. The results were startling: the group that thought they were eating “diet popcorn” ended up eating 233% more popcorn than the group that ate the “unhealthy” popcorn.
Why is this? Simple: it’s your brain’s fault. When you believe that a food is healthy, you’re less likely to be moderate in your intake. After all, more of a good thing is good for you, right?
Want further proof that your brain is screwy? In another study, scientists gave two groups exactly the same cookies, but they told one group the cookie was “healthy” and the other group that the cookie was “unhealthy”. Both groups ate the cookie, but the group that thought it was healthy reported feeling hungrier after eating it.
See, their brains tricked them into thinking that they were eating something nutritious, which, in our minds, usually equates to “light” or low-calorie foods. This means that eating “healthy” will most likely make you hungry, even if your stomach is full. It’s all a trick in your mind!
What’s the secret to counteracting this problem?
Watch what you eat
It doesn’t matter if the food is labeled “diet”, “all-natural”, or “healthy”, you need to watch what you eat! Counting calories may be a headache, but it’s the best way to avoid overeating. Read the nutrition information on every product label before you eat, and make sure to limit the amount of food you eat throughout the day.
Limit “healthy” foods
Yes, there are foods that are healthier than others! A veggie-only salad, for example, is much healthier than a cream-based soup. However, if you douse the salad in creamy Ranch dressing, you just made it a high-calorie food that is no healthier for you than the creamy soup. A food can go from healthy to unhealthy a lot more easily than you think. Deep fried zucchini is made from one of the healthiest veggies around, yet thanks to its high fat content, it’s a terribly unhealthy food. Keep that in mind as you “eat healthy”.
Even if you’re eating foods that appear to be healthy, it’s vital that you control your portion size. Weight loss and management comes down to eating less, even of the foods that you think are good for you. You can keep your macronutrients balanced (protein, fiber, carbs, and fats), but just eat LESS of everything.
Want to avoid overeating? Measure what you eat, and ONLY eat what you serve. You can cook as much food as you want, but only serve yourself a single portion. Once you have finished that portion, you’re done! Do not allow yourself to go back for seconds, or to “cheat” by eating a little more. Drink more water or green tea if you aren’t quite full, but stick with healthy portion sizes.