Why You Overeat

There's a scientific reason you can't eat just one potato chip. Find out which fatty foods suppress your 'full' feeling.

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It’s happened to all of us: You promise yourself that eating just one small serving of fatty food will be enough to satisfy your cravings, whether it’s potato chips, ice cream or a second helping of cake. But new research from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, suggests that fatty foods send messages to your brain to keep eating – so beware.

One of the fats studied was palmitic acid, found in foods high in saturated fats such as butter, cheese, milk and beef. When palmitic acid makes its way to your brain, it alters the way in which your brain signals that you’re full – instead your body ignores the signals that suppress your appetite and you overeat. Moreover, the effects of one night of splurging on food can last up to three days, meaning your efforts at weight management may be derailed for up to 72 hours – during which time you’re likely to eat more than usual. But before you add this information to your worry bowl, researchers suggest that there are ways you can get around palmitic acid’s negative messaging.

What you can do:

  1. When you snack, stick to clean snacks such as a handful of nuts or fresh fruit with a dollop of natural peanut butter.
  2. Reduce your intake of saturated fats. Opt for low-fat dairy products and lean cuts of beef. The less palmitic acid you consume, the less chance it has of preventing fat-fighting hormones from doing their job.
  3. When a recipe calls for any oil or fat, opt for extra virgin olive oil, which contains oleic acid, one of the other fats studied by researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center. Oleic acid allows your brain to signal you to stop eating.
  4. Keep track. Logging what you eat is a useful step when leading a healthy clean-eating lifestyle. You could be ingesting more palmitic acid than you realize. Knowing what you’re eating will keep you mindful and allow you to make better choices down the line.