Far be it for us to bestow guilt for any overindulgence during the holiday season. It’s not like we haven’t done the same thing. We’re expected to overdo it a tad, right?
Nowadays, the holidays seem to have expanded to include everything from Halloween to the Super Bowl. But with New Year’s Day in the rear-view mirror, many folks are endeavoring to do better in 2019 in terms of nutrition, already-failed resolutions notwithstanding.
And those holidays were full of food. Fact is, we can believe we ate the whole thing. And it was good.
Everybody knows we shouldn’t indulge too much in calorie-laden holiday delicacies that instantly inflate the waistline.
But we do it anyway. That chocolate-coated, peppermint-sprinkled graham cookie is simply irresistible. Our body tells us so.
And then there are the leftovers. Those myriad ways to use turkey and ham and other holiday staples until they’re all gone.
The result of that eating: A nation of dieters, desperate to lose the last 10 pounds or the first 50, seeks fresh ways to cheat the unforgiving math of calories when the calendar flips and the work and school routines return.
Enter “intuitive eating.” The theory here is that your body knows what it is doing when it urges you to indulge. Instead of dieting, just heed the body’s signals, such as feelings of hunger and, of course, fullness. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Simple.
Researchers tested that theory in a study that pitted calorie-counters against intuitive eaters. The results were, well, intuitive. Those who counted calories lost more weight than those who listened to their bodies. Almost all, however, eventually gained most of the weight back and some of the intuitive eaters ended the six-week study weighing more than when they started, Judith Anglin, associate professor of nutrition at Texas Southern University, tells us.
In another study, scientists tested a variation on the theme: Instead of monitoring calories, just limit your bites.
Brigham Young University health sciences associate professor Josh West recruited 61 overweight or obese men to test the bite theory. Not surprisingly, 16 dropped out in the first week. Who wants to keep a running tally of every bite? Or be tempted to wolf down a burger in three bites just to keep the daily tally low? What a perfect way to ruin a meal.
Researchers have tried for years to unravel the intricate biology of obesity. What we know is that the communication between stomach and brain is complex, filled with hormones such as leptin and ghrelin that regulate hunger and satiety, that control cravings and contribute mightily to weight gain or loss.
Scientists have discovered that fat itself sends out chemical messages to the brain, stomach and other tissues. They’ve tried to feather out the exact roles of all these chemicals crisscrossing brain and body in hopes of short-circuiting the ones that lead people to overeat into obesity.
Still, what we know about dieting is what we knew: Calories matter. What you eat matters. How much you exercise matters.
Listening to your body is fine, as long as you really listen. There’s no antidote to eating when you’re full — come on, admit it, we all do — or gorging for entertainment. Or as a form of therapy.
Fewer bites? Sure. But that won’t help if every one of them is chocolate cheesecake.