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Okay, so let’s get this straight. Salads aren’t “bad”, or “good”. They’re not always the best or “healthiest” option. Nor are you likely to be full after eating a bowl of leaves. So it might blow your mind to hear this, but the binge that often follows the military precision with which you doled out the exact weight of green foliage this afternoon to meet your calorie intake was actually to be expected. The fitness industry and biased celebrity coverage in the media have us thinking that we should be happy with celery sticks and hummus as a treat and not talk about hunger pangs, for fear of being seen as greedy, fat, or not serious about the “diet”.


The reality is that the makeup of everyone’s metabolism is different therefore our calorie intake should be too. The first thing you’ll probably hear when you go sign up at one of those awful over-marketed diet clubs (mentioning no names) is that every one of you has to eat x amount of calories every day. This is usually recommended to be 1200 calories for a woman, and 1500 calories for a man, yet you’re left gasping for a sniff of a cheeseburger or steak after tediously counting those calories on your counter app.


A fellow fitness expert, Emma Storey Gordon summarised just that a couple of weeks ago and I felt an obligation to say it again here:


“You’re not meant to be full after half a salad. That’s why you are still hungry. One of the main reasons people overeat is because they undereat. It seems so obvious and that’s because it is. Over-restriction will lead to overindulgence. It’s a normal response. The way to avoid overindulgence is to stop over-restricting.”


But isn’t it so true? Don’t the wheels always fall off when we decide to have that “little treat” after being so “good” (starved) for weeks? And that treat seems to metamorph into something completely wild and unmanageable and before we know it we’ve taken three steps back?


So what’s the science behind why we overeat? Pretty simple really, registered dietician Fran Sutherlin says “Restricting foods leaves you feeling deprived, which can cause an overwhelming, undeniable urge to eat.” The ways to curb that are innumerous, but some recommended ways are:


Eat every 3-4 hours: Not a banquet, but a sensible portion of various textures,  in your diet – for example, broccoli with some lightly toasted almonds and a quinoa burger at lunch, porridge with chia seeds and berries at breakfast – anything to add a rainbow spectrum of variety.


Beware of your triggers: Both foods and emotions. If you know a stressful or confrontational talk with a manager is likely to have you reaching for comfort, identify and plan your exit strategy to keep yourself from slipping. If you can’t open the family-size bar of chocolate without actually sharing it, don’t even bother to buy it.


Find coping strategies that provide comfort, not a temporary crutch: By adapting the way you choose to thrive out of a challenging or stressful situation, you can keep hold of the reins and still feel as though you’re in the driving seat without overeating to regain control. Keep a list of non-food-related ideas that elevate your mood and keep it as a tool to help you regain control at that moment.


Counting calories can be painstaking and impractical, but with these handy tips, you should actually be able to find a rhythm you and your body appreciate.

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