The Culprit Behind Overeating

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Americans have always battled with their weight, with 2/3 of the country now weighing in at weights that are overweight or obese. Stanley Schachter developed the internal-external theory that proposes that heavier people are more likely to be encouraged to eat by external cues rather than internal cues. This means that overweight or obese individuals are likely to eat more and more often based on the time of day, the appearance of food, and social circumstances instead of a growling stomach or feeling full.

Have you ever thought you were full, but then saw a huge juicy burger or your favorite ice cream, and all of the sudden you feel ravenous? I know there are plenty of times when I have felt hungry just because something smelled or looked good or just because my friends were eating. Even boredom can initiate hunger. Maybe the internal-external theory applies to more people than just obese individuals. Perhaps it's how often these external cues stimulate a person to eat. Maybe it's the ratio of hunger driven by internal cues to hunger driven by external cues that a person experiences on a day-to-day basis.

External cues are only a part of the factors that cause people to overeat. Since Americans are always interested in breaking the cycle of overeating and losing weight, the question is, what can be done to prevent these external cues from causing people to think they are hungry? After all, eating right and exercising can only help you so much when all of your friends are eating greasy pizza right in front of you.


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I think this is a very important topic and one that I can relate to. After coming to college, I feel like I have been overeating a lot more than I did at home. External cues make a huge difference for me. At home I never had food in my room, because it was kept in the kitchen. Here, though, I live in a dorm and so my room is the kitchen and hence my food is easily accessible for me. Another factor is friends, as you mentioned, when I'm invited to go eat at this place or get coffee, it's hard to say no. I don't want to be antisocial, so I go with and even if I wasn't planning on buying anything, once at the restaurant or Starbucks, its even more difficult to say no.
It would be hard for society to control these external cues as a whole and so I think its more of a personal ordeal: Remove the food from your room, do other activities with your friends, etc.

I think that eating is a a combination of choice and need. Humans need food to survive so we eat for that factor, but otherwise humans eat for social reasons or pleasure. The choice of eating involves the types of calories we are taking in. One way humans can keep our appetite at homeostasis is to drink more water throughout the day and stay hydrated. Most of the time when we are hungry it is because we are thirsty. Drinking more fluids throughout the day will decrease the portions of food we eat.

I believe over eating has alot to do with convenience. If a person has three huge bags of chips sitting right next to them in their dorm room even if they are not hungry they will eventually fll victim to the chips and devour an entire bag. Now if the closest food was in the dining hall this person would be less likely to get up and go eat. I think the best way to avoid over eating is to make it less convenient to get food. If you do have food in your room make it healthy and small portions.

You describe such an important aspect of controlling eating Kaitlin! We live in a world that is so full of external food cues it is ridiculous! Most of human history was spent trying to prevent starvation by hunting and gathering food. This required much time and effort. To survive we had to listen to our internal cues of hunger and that motivated us to work hard to prepare the meals necessary to satisfy hunger.

Now we live in a world where food is plentiful, cheap and very tasty but often very fattening! The advertising and marketing that goes into trying to get us to buy these products is non stop and it is often hard to ignore. Restaurants capitalize on the fact that people have less time to think about and prepare meals and will pay to be served something hot and fast.

Also we like eating out because we enjoy the social nature of eating with others. But studies have shown that we typically eat more when we are with others than when we are alone.

So with food plentiful and hard work less common, most of us lead sedentary lives sitting in front of computers, TVs, behind the wheel of a car, this makes for a very dangerous combination. Now, like you say, a majority of the population is overweight, it seems normal to be fat!

Well we created all of this, the fast food restaurants and easy lifestyle. We can choose to carry on this way and end up like blobs on scooters like in Wall-E or we can decide to change the culture to bring back daily exercise and easier access to higher quality foods. There may not be much we can do to change our nature in the sense that we will want to eat when we see or smell something delicious. Nevertheless, people can learn how to practice healthy restraint by ignoring external foods cues and listening to their own bodies more.

It may be something we need to teach children at a very early age

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This page contains a single entry by bemb0016 published on April 1, 2012 7:01 PM.

Fat or Fit. Its Your Choice...Or Is It? was the previous entry in this blog.

Liar, Liar... Why Aren't your Pants on Fire? is the next entry in this blog.

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