The EAT Better Strategy:
Your body's ability to maintain weight over extended periods is truly a feat of nature.
At a high level, maintaining weight over the long run, energy expended must equal energy consumed.
For example, if you maintain your current body weight within two pounds, your body has matched your energy intake to your output with less than 1 % deviation.
This feat is achieved through a symphony of signals between your brain and gut, carefully balancing hunger and satiation, adjusting your resting metabolic rate up or down like a thermostat to maintain such a fine balance.
In your brain, the hypothalamus is the control centre for hunger and satiation, receiving nervous and hormonal signals to increase appetite or stop feeding.
This signal to stop eating is vital to prevent overeating.
When we eat, nutrients in the food stimulate the release of multiple hormones, cholecystokinin, PYY, GLP-1, GIP, PP, from the cells lining our intestines. As the meal progresses, the circulating hormone levels increase until a "satiation threshold" is reached at the hypothalamus. Paired with this is direct information from the nerves in our distended stomachs and indirect signalling metabolites from bacteria in our gut - all these messages telling us we are full!
Our challenge is not that it is hard for us to know whether we have eaten enough; it just takes time. On average, it takes 20 minutes for these signals to cross the satiation threshold.
If we eat too fast, it is easy to overeat as we realize we are full, really full, too late.
The best strategy is what the Okinawans call "Hara Hachi Bu" - stop eating when you are 80% full.
More often than not, you will feel fully satiated as a few more minutes go by, and your satiation hormones have had their time to work.
A closely related strategy is simply slowing down and taking your time with your meal, breaking it into several small courses over 30 to 40 minutes like the French.
Either way, you will find it easier to prevent overeating and help your body perform the wonder of energy balance.
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Dr. Brendan Byrne