The statistics are staggering:  nearly three-quarters of American adults are overweight.  The number of overweight children is also growing at an alarming rate. These trends have serious health consequences including increasing the risk of chronic disease, and shortening healthspan and lifespan.

Prediabetes and diabetes are other lifestyle-related diseases impacting our population – and you don’t need to be overweight to be affected. More than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes. More than one out of three American adults have prediabetes and 90% don’t know they have it.

Chronic disease in general is on the rise.  Six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease; four in ten have two or more!

What are the factors underlying America’s health problems?  While we’re more sedentary nowadays, sleeping less, and totally stressed-out, I would argue our modern food supply deserves the majority of the blame. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is designed to stimulate the reward centers in the brain, causing us to crave more hyperpalatable foods and overeat nutrient-poor, high sugar, high fat, and super-salty foods.

In The end of overeating: taking control of the insatiable American appetite, David A. Kessler calls out sugar, fat, and salt as the major culprits responsible for our insatiable appetites. The food industry has developed hyperstimulating foods and packaged them in such a way as to make it easier to eat more faster.  Think of how easy it is to eat a bag of potato chips versus a plate of plain baked potatoes. (Think about the artificial ingredients in most potato chips versus the vitamins and minerals in real potatoes.)

So how can you change your food environment to regulate your appetite and regain your health? Here are three tips to get you started:

  1. Keep food in your home that takes a little effort to eat.  Examples include shelled nuts, popcorn kernels, and ingredients to make cookies (versus store-bought packaged cookies).  If it takes a bit of work to eat something, you’re less likely to indulge if you’re not truly hungry.
  2. Set up effort barriers to eating extremely tempting foods (there’s  research suggesting it makes a huge difference in consumption).  If you love ice cream and it’s not in your fridge it’s highly unlikely that you’ll drive to the store to buy some.  It actually makes you want it less if it’s less accessible.
  3. Focus on food quality.  Eat food that is as unrefined as possible. Simple foods such as fruits, veggies, potatoes, eggs, fish, meat, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds can really satisfy your appetite.  Fill up on fiber and protein because these foods help you to feel full longer.

Try these tips and let me know how it goes!