Is it possible to overeat healthy foods?

by Brooke on July 17, 2012

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The answer is YES.  Our weight fluctuates based on a basic concept – energy in vs. energy out.   If you burn more energy than you are eating…you will lose weight.  If you consume more energy than you burn…you will gain weight.   If you consume the same amount of energy you burn…your weight will stay in equilibrium.

Too much food is too much even if it is “healthy.”  I talk a lot about what makes a healthy, balanced meal with my clients.  I have had numerous clients in the past few months tell me that they don’t know why they are not losing weight.  Then, they tell me that they eat fruit all day long.  They are most always shocked when I tell them that they have to watch their portions of fruit.  Yes, even fruit!  Fruit is a “healthy” food, but too much of even a healthy food can lead to weight gain if your total energy (caloric) intake was higher than what you burned off that day.

This concept is made complicated by three main issues:

1)  Every one’s definition of healthy may be different.  The dictionary states that healthy means:

  • Conducive to good health; healthful. (Question to ask yourself – Is this food beneficial for my body?)
  • Indicative of sound, rational thinking or frame of mind.  (Question to ask yourself – Am I eating this because I am hungry?)
  • Sizable; considerable. (Question to ask yourself – Am I watching my portion size?) 

2)  People tend to give themselves the freedom to overeat the healthy things. Many of my clients are shocked when I tell them that they have to watch portion sizes of whole grains, lean protein, fruits, etc. One small bowl (8 oz.) of Steel Cut Oatmeal for breakfast is a healthy choice, but two bowls is overeating. Clients are often confused about this point when boosting that they only eat low-fat/fat-free chips, ice cream, candy, etc. Even though, the label states that the food or beverage is low-fat or fat free that doesn’t grant permission to eat an excessive quantity. In cases where this may seem confusing, revisit what the word “healthy” means!

3) I believe there is one exception to this rule…non-starchy VEGETABLES. You could probably knock yourself out eating non-starchy vegetables as long as they are not covered with unnecessary calories like sauces, cheeses, butter, etc. Due to the high water and fiber content of vegetables coupled with the stretching capacity of the stomach, non-starchy vegetables  are very difficult to over consume. I don’t know anyone who has ever overdosed on non-starchy vegetables. The only three vegetables that I would not include as part of this exception would be the starchy vegetables: peas, corn and potatoes.

Overeating is easy to do, so just remember to watch the portion sizes of all the foods you consume!


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