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3 Tactics to Prevent Overeating

What's the best way to keep from binging?

3 Tactics to Prevent Overeating

So what do the experts say? As I see it, most subscribe to one of three camps:

  • The "out of sight -- out of mind" group.
  • The "absence makes the heart grow fonder" believers.
  • Those who fall somewhere in the middle.

Here are comments from some of those who believe in the "out of sight, out of mind: philosophy:

  • "One of the most powerful factors that determine the amount you eat is how much food is placed in front of you," David Levitsky, PhD, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell, tells WebMD. He points to published data that showed that if you eat while blindfolded, you consume significantly less than when you can see your food.
  • Kelly Brownell, PhD, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, says that most programs – including Yale's -- recommend that people limit exposure to favorite foods as much as possible to minimize temptation.
  • Susan Roberts, PhD, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University says studies at Tufts suggest that "out of sight" is helpful for some people. "Having things around you just keeps temptations more firmly in your mind," she tells WebMD.
  • While "out of sight, out of mind" is the best policy, there's a difference between keeping a food out of the house and making it forbidden, notes Marlene Schwartz, PhD, research director for the Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. "The key is that you aren’t saying that ice cream is evil, but rather that it is best enjoyed under certain circumstances, and those circumstances make it easy to control portion sizes and frequency," she tells WebMD. In other words, it's OK to go to that ice cream shop every week or so.

Here's what some of the "absence makes the heart grow fonder" believers had to say: 

  • Her experiences during 13 years of working with severely overweight people have convinced her that forbidding favorite foods increases cravings for them, says Chantal Gariepy, RD, CDE, a dietitian and diabetes educator with the Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif. Avoiding favorite foods as opposed to simply tasty or pleasurable foods – is in a way, avoiding responsibility. "It is a juvenile (vs. mature) approach to eating." She says the mature approach to eating requires developing food skills such as mindful eating, hunger and fullness recognition, portion size evaluation, and the ability to calm yourself.
  • The Center for Mindful Eating (TCME) acknowledges that favorite foods can be the most challenging foods to eat mindfully because these foods "call" to us whether they're in front of us or not. According to TCME, learning to eat mindfully, to fully savor each bite without eating past a comfortable level of fullness, provides a deeper sense of control. "A mindful eater would also be aware, in a neutral way, of the frequency and craving for a 'favorite' food, as well as reflect on the health consequences of that particular food, and in doing so, would balance their choice of these foods with their nutritional needs," TCME says in a statement. The center does affirm, however, that the chronic availability of high-calorie foods has contributed to weight gain -- and says that's something we need to take into consideration as well.
  • Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, LCSW, says that the answer to how to approach favorite foods is more complicated in adults because we carry within us both the "child" who wants to eat them and the restrictive "parent." "To allow the two to come together, we have to give ourselves permission to have regular access to foods we enjoy and to eat as much as we want," explains Satter, a national lecturer and author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family.  But in order to get enough of those favorite foods without feeling out of control and ashamed of ourselves, we also have to have discipline, adds Satter: "We need to incorporate those foods in regular, structured meals and snacks and we have to pay attention when we eat them."

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