In the May 2011 issue of Nutrition Action the cover story was titled "Under the Influence - how external cues make us overeat".
I found this article very interesting, specifically as it pertains to athletes. I find that athletes tend to "excuse" unhealthy eating after hard or intense workouts. While an athlete has every right to consume a different quantity of food than his/her sedentary counterpart, I believe that we should all choose similar food choices, but in different portions.
For example, when it comes to Karel and myself (say, over this past week) we ate almost every dinner together. Whereas Karel would have two portions of pasta and several slices of bread, I would help myself to more salad and tofu but still enjoy a Marni-size portion of pasta. I don't believe in "off limit" food when it comes to couples (or families) eating together. By focusing on your daily lifestyle and activity routine you should find yourself feeling in control of your food choices. By planning ahead and thinking of your individual needs, you should find yourself planning your meals and snacks to support your energy needs and not fearing food which is used for fuel. Also, by planning ahead you should also find yourself controlling your food intake so that you don't go into meals starving (which is often the cause of overeating and "excusing" foods which may limit performance). Ultimately, when an athlete plans ahead and focuses on his/her individual dietary needs on a daily basis, a healthy relationship with food is formed and an occasional treat or indulgence does not sacrifice weight or performance goals. For when an athlete eats for fuel, performance gains are most noticeable as well as an improvement in health and immune system functioning.
Pg 3 of the article:
Q. Why do people overeat?
A. we should be pretty well calibrated to know how much to eat to fill us up. We eat three times a day every day of our lives. Yet when we asked people, "when was the last time you ate to the point of regretting it?" almost everyone could think of a time. Then we asked, "why did you eat so much?"
What we found is that roughly 12 percent said, "I overeat because of something emotional," or "I had a terrible day," or "I was feeling down," or "I was bored." About 51% said they overate because they were really hungry, and 37 percent said they overate because the food was spectacular.
So we asked ourselves what happens if the person is not hungry and the food is terrible. That led to our stale popcorn study.
We gave people popcorn that was either fresh or five days old. The stale popcorn had been kept in a humidity-controlled entomology lab. On a scale of 1-10, people rated the taste a 3. It tasted like Styrofoam.
Q. And you gave moviegoers either medium or large bags?
A. Yes. And we gave them to people who had eaten dinner within 20 minutes of arriving at the theater. So we gave them bad food when they weren't hungry, and people ate 34% more from the bigger bucket. If the popcorn was fresh, they ate 45% more from the larger bags. When people left, we said, "Gee, you ate 34% more. Do you think the size of the bucket had anything to do with it?" And to a person they said, "No, how could it?"
What is extremely amazing about this study is that it is easy to eat for no reason or to feel no control when eating. I find that many athletes are hungry, often bypass the feeling of hunger in order to encourage weight loss and forgo necessary snacks which will help maintain blood sugar levels and boost metabolism and tissue rejuvination. This situation often leads athletes to be underfueled prior to workouts even though there may be adequate muscle glycogen, low blood sugar levels often lead to a feeling of fatigue and extreme hunger during workouts which ultimately sabotage the workout. Thus, this leads to an athlete "trying to get through" a workout, feeling extremely hungry after the workout and then giving the "ok" to eat a lot of whatever they are craving...thus missing a vital opportunity to refuel.
Starting tomorrow, try planning out your day by focusing on your workouts. Plan pre, post and possibly during training fuels (if more than an hour, I recommend training with a maltodextrin sport drink, at least 100 calories) first. Then workout around the workouts so that you plan your three meals during the day. Then, fill in snacks. To make sure you aren't missing vital nutrients, use snacks as an opportunity to add in fruits and veggies which may be hard to consume at meals.