Why do I eat SO much?

by Brad Pilon

Why do I eat so much?

It’s a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves at one point or another.

After all, eating too much is what is keeping most of us from having the bodies we want.

Sure there are a lot of different answers, ones that make it sound like it’s not our fault (hormones like ghrelin and adiponectin), some that make it sound like its ALL our fault (complete lack of will power), and a bunch that are somewhere in between.

So here’s a list of 5 little known reasons why you may be eating more than you want to…some are blunt, but it may help if we finally open up and consider these as possibilities.

1 . You are thirsty – Lots of us mistake thirst for hunger.

  • Quick fix – Drink some water first…can’t hurt.

2. You are covering for something – OK…honesty time…most of us eat because we need the stimulation. Think of it this way – If a person is skydiving for the VERY FIRST time, and finally makes the decision to step out of the plane the thing going through their head is not “Gee, I could really go for a muffin right now”. If you find you are constantly eating, it may be time to look at your life? Are you bored at work? In your relationship? with your friends? More stimulation may mean less food.

  • Quick fix – When eating at work ask yourself “am I hungry, or bored?”, if bored is the consistent answer, instead of eating, pass the time by fixing your resume and looking for a new job.

3. You are trying too hard to be healthy – Let’s face it, if we ate ALL the foods that we’re supposed, we’d be overeating. Take your standard low calorie diet, but then add in some almond butter, some goji juice, coconut oil, maybe a organic-fair trade-wheat grass shake, and you can see how the numbers start to sneak back up on you.

  • Quick fix – Ignore any lists of ‘super foods’. If you do want to try a new food, replace an old one, don’t just add it in..

4. You are being mindless – Ever sit down in front of the TV with a plate full of food, then reach for the food only to find you plate empty? It might be tempting to blame the cat, but chances are you ate the food and didn’t even realize it.

  • Quick fix – Don’t eat in front of the TV or Computer.

5. Your paying too much attention to your pre, -during, -and post workout nutrition – Look, I know the theories and ‘science’ behind the magic that eating during your workout, our before your workout or right after your workout can cause, but if your goal is weight loss…these meals could be keeping your from reaching your goal.

  • Quick fix – cut back on your ‘around workout’ meals and see what happens.



    Eric December 24, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Just wanted to comment on #5, because a lot of my mid-level dieting buddies argue with me on this all the time. We agree on water intake and stimulation (though unfortunately some of them are overtraining as their stimulation…) and we’ve all agreed to disagree on quality of food.

    And for perhaps obvious reasons it never even comes up that we are mindless when we eat.

    But if I told them to stop it with the pre-and-post workout shakes? Oh no. Open the floodgates. “But I’m mixing it with water!” doesn’t stray from the fact that they’re still drinking 150kcal or more, for no real reason. I admit that this may contribute a slim amount of the purported benefits… in the very lean. But none of us are anywhere close to that lean.

    It’s as if training to them is some kind of anti-calorie magic ritual.

    The more overweight someone is the further the basic concepts will get them. Any intense effort cannot be held up for long, and it seems the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” analogy is true: many people add unnecessary complexity too soon and in too great amounts… that they have to take a “break” from dieting, seemingly thirty seconds later.

    Thanks for the article Brad.

    Andrew December 24, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Great post. Absolutely spot on with the ‘trying to hard to be healthy part’, case in point. I had a client a while back who (before I began working with her mind you!) told me she was going to start to eat breakfast to ‘speed up her metabolism’ and increase her weight loss, I remember looking at her dumbfounded and saying ‘You’re going to eat MORE… To increase your weight-loss? Good luck with that…’ The old adage ‘a little bit of knowledge…’ comes to mind.

    Josh December 24, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Great list.

    I’m just wondering, I think some people believe it is be a better idea to cut back on normal meals, and keep workout nutrition the same

    Rob Difilipo December 24, 2009 at 6:24 am


    Two questions…..

    1) Regarding point number one about thirst (and I am asking this because you tend to be as informed as they come on all things nutrition), I have read two polar opposites on the issue of drinking before/during a meal- one side says that you should limit fluid intake as much as possible to avoid impairing digestion, while the other side the notion of diluting stomach acid and causing any issue is bunk. So this question isn’t about the wisdom of drinking to see if it helps curb some perceived hunger, but mostly because I was curious about the fluid intake and eating and you seemed like the best person to ask.

    My gut (no pun intended) tells me the truth is somewhere in between, e.g. reasonable fluid intake would not impact digestion much if at all, while a large volume of fluid intake may have some moderate impact, but I could be way off base here.

    2) As far as the issue of hormones impacting weight loss, would it be correct to say that your current physiological state will influence the degree to which things like diet and exercise will work, but only in a very small and isolated percentage of folks would it be extreme enough to truly put a half on progress in this area? Clearly less-than-optimal metabolic function wouldn’t allow for optimal progress, but it seems like it would take some very extreme circumstances for it to put what amounts to t total lockdown on fat loss.

    Thank you for all of the great content in 2009, a very merry Christmas to you and your family, and I hope that 2010 is your best and most fulfilling year yet!

    Rohit December 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I generally find it better to have a big post-workout (which coincides with breakfast for me ; consume around 700-1000 cals) meal and then reduce the intake, as day goes by . ( Daily intake generally around 1500-1800 cals)

    My RMR is around 1900-1950 cals, so is the relatively big meal post work-out OK?

    Brad Pilon December 24, 2009 at 9:19 pm


    No meal is better than the other, the post was addressing people who are having a hard time losing weight..sometimes the post workout meal is the culprit.

    Rohit December 24, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Point noted. Thanks for clearing that up.

    hawaiigrrl December 25, 2009 at 6:31 am

    hey brad i would like your thought on eating paleo or primal..if i pratice eat stop eat can i still lose weight if i still eat carbs like rice and pasta?

    Ty December 25, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Good post, I have a trigger when I watch DVD’s…. I just gotta have corn chips. There are times we eat purely because of psychological triggers and it’s scary how many times they occur. I agree with the work one. I used to work in a callcentre and it’s horrific the amount of crap they shovel down their throats there.

    We had an ongoing joke about “callcentre arse”. But it was true, you could see the transformation of so many women from when they start to 1 or 2 years later. After a year of morning teas and crap sitting on their desks they just go pear shaped and then even further. Even I battled with eating there because of the boredom of the job, glad I changed….

    But I still gotta have corn chips when I watch a movie 🙂

    Brad Pilon December 26, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Hi Hawaigrrl,

    Primal or Paleo is more of a lifestyle then a diet, so I have no problems with it at all.

    You can still lose weight while eating carbs like rice, pasta and white bread when following Eat Stop Eat. You can also lost weight while eating primal or paleo and following Eat Stop Eat.

    There is no wrong diet, only incorrect explanations of how diets work and their benefits / risks.


    Brad Pilon December 26, 2009 at 4:05 am

    Totally with you on the call center example.

    There is nothing worse than a job that makes you captive…you aren’t busy, but aren’t allowed to leave.

    Jen December 27, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Hi Brad,

    Loving having my eyes opened by Eat Stop Eat! My question is, you mention eating responsibly, eating “lean and green”, but also how you don’t do low carb/high protein and adore chocolate milk (yum).
    I am… confused. I’m really into your whole idea of not being obsessive about eating anymore. But how do you eat pasta and not think about how an insulin spike is screwing everything up (if not in weight, than in ones health)?
    I wonder what a typical day of eating might look like for you and also whether you choose your portions before hand or try to simply stop eating when full.

    Very excited to learn more, thanks so much!


    Brad Pilon December 27, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Hi Jen,

    It’s simple – insulin is in your body for a reason, it had a job to do. No hormone is bad or evil, I know we love to personify the chemicals in our body, but really, they all serve a purpose.

    We are amazingly adaptable creatures, and balance is the key to health. When you think of it this way, it is very easy not to stress.

    With regards to portions, I do ‘choose’ them before hand. It’s an eyeball method, as I’ve learned what proper portions of my favorite foods are…there is no way I could simply stop eating when full…too difficult.

    To be responsible I’ll choose the small bag of M&M’s over the big bag, because either way, I know I’m finishing them 😉


    Brad Pilon December 28, 2009 at 2:43 am


    1) I think both theories are silly.

    2 Yes that is correct. Disease states including gross overweightness does change the way we respond to things, blunted GH increased Insulin etc. So ‘extreme circumstances’ would be a diagnosed medical condition.

    Thanks for the well wishes and right back at you!


    Jen December 28, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Got it! Thanks again for responding…

    Tim December 28, 2009 at 9:51 am

    You’re so right on with these points. I often think I’m hungry and it will have only been an hour or less since I last ate. Instead of reaching for food, I’ll chug some water and the hungry feeling passes. I also like what you said about adding extras to a low calorie diet. I like to eat a tablespoon of peanut butter once or twice in the day to increase my calorie count without having to add in extra junk or supplements.

    Seth December 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

    At the time when my fasting is over is when I have the tendency to overeat. My brain just wont stop it freaks out and wants everything all at once. I try to talk myself off the ledge and I can, sometimes, and other times I eat a good 1000 cals at a sitting or more. I try to keep it at 500 to 800 cal for the dinner tho. Its really not that I’m hungry either, I usually am not at all, and even during the fast I dont even have hunger pains anymore. I was thinking that maybe I have a pre-meal in a container that I know that is only 500-800 calories and try to just eat that. any suggestions?

    Josh December 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I had been moderately successful with ESE without lowering my nonfasting daily calorie intake (at least not losing muscle). However, after I began to lower my cals to 1500 on nonfasting days I’ve lost about 18lbs. However, there is obvious muscle loss as well (bf% hasnt lowered enough to account for weight loss, and strength has plummeted). How do you explain this? Could this be from losing weight to quickly?Not high enough protein? Subclinically high cortisol (which I have)? I do lift weights regularly and heavy.

    James December 30, 2009 at 10:24 am


    This is off topic but did you ever get that 225 pound press?

    Brad Pilon December 30, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Hey James,

    Nope, got to 205, then felt a pretty nasty pinch in my lower neck.

    Still the goal, just now the goal of 2010…

    Joshua December 31, 2009 at 5:23 am

    I’m very disappointed with this site. This is the second time my question/comment has been deleted. It was a serious question of which I eagerly expected a serious answer. I have paid for your overpriced book ESE as well has the overpriced Adonis Index program (actually I only got part of it, and nobody got back to me about reimbursing me). The LEAST you can do is get back to me like the honorable, “no BS” man you espouse to be on this site. I realize this wont get posted because it’s bad PR. But do the right thing, man. Repost my question and then answer it, so I and others with the same concerns can at least get your opinion–with a hopefully good rationale to it. I’m not trying to be a hater, just seeking help/truth.

    Andrew December 31, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Hey Brad, I’m a big lover of Eat Stop Eat, and a massive proponent of many of your thoughts and theories, so don’t take any of this as confrontational or second guessing in nature, I just wondered which variables you would manipulate in order to gain LBM most effectively whilst following the ESE lifestyle? Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m sure I’ve seen you comment that you don’t believe eating much above your BMR is necessary, neither is excessive protein intake or mega dosing your peri-workout nutrition. So I guess my real question is, if you HAD TO gain say 5-10lbs of skeletal muscle as quickly as possible, naturally, and assuming you’re already training using a program with built in progressive overload, which nutritional variables would you tweak? Would love to know exactly how you would go about it. Thanks for reading, and have a great New Year!

    Brad Pilon January 4, 2010 at 8:29 am


    If I had to gain 5-10 pounds of Skeletal muscle as quickly as possible, I’d be screwed. I’m 32 and have been training for over 15 years. Without drugs, I’m not putting on another ten pounds of skeletal muscle. Another ten pounds would put me well above the normal range for my height. Now, I can put on 10 pounds of lean mass…I could do that in an hour or two…add ten pounds to my bench/squat/deadlift/clean…I could do that too, but ten pounds of actual muscle, not happening.


    Brad Pilon January 4, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I’m not sure why you would continue to lower your calories. Last time we talked you were 7% body fat at 170 pounds and very strong so losing another 18 pounds doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, especially if your bf% hasn’t changed.

    The reasons behind your change would be very difficult to pinpoint… your subclinical high cortisol, adrenal fatigue, and orthostatic hypotension would make you an outlier in any clinical trial, making it extremely difficult for me generalize research to your specific case.

    If I had to guess, I’d wonder if lowering your training volume and frequency, even a week off might help.


    Brad Pilon January 4, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Hi Josh, please see my response to your previous comment.


    Brad Pilon January 4, 2010 at 8:37 am


    I would try changing your fasting times.


    Josh January 5, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I might have been at 7% at some point in the past. This is not the case now, which is the reason I’ve been visiting this site; I’m more like 11-12% at this point but with a lower body weight. I went down (recently) from 182 to 164 but only went down about 1percent in body fat. I think I will try lowering my volume for a while as you’ve recommended. Already took a week off.

    I’ve talked to Brad personally, but I also wanted to publicly apologize to Brad
    for my last comment, as it was written in error and in bad taste. I respect Brad’s work and expertise very much.

    Shaun January 5, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Hi Brad,

    Just wanted to say a quick thanks. From Sept to Dec I lost about 35lbs using Eat Stop Eat and a very simple workout plan. Even though there were times over the holidays where I definitely “ate SO much”, sticking with ESE meant I didn’t gain any of it back! In the New Year I hope to lose another 30-40lbs (down to ~200-210).
    Thanks again for all you do.

    Andrew January 5, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    OK, apologies. Allow me to rephrase the question if you will. What if you were 21, 180lbs@5’9” and had all the time in the world to eat, sleep and train? How would you then optimally add actual muscle, whilst adhering (possibly the wrong word, I don’t even see ESE as something you need to adhere to, it’s so easy!) to Eat Stop Eat?


    Brad Pilon January 6, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Ah…Ok that’s way more fun.

    I’d do stuff you can do for high volume, that is taxing on the big muscles and that doesn’t break you down. I would workout in the gym 2-3 times a week working the muscles but not blowing myself apart. But that wouldn’t be the big stuff, the big stuff would be 2 times a week outside with a couple of buddies doing a combination of sled dragging and farmers walks. Each session would be two to three hours long. The goal wouldn’t be to burn out, or to be a sweaty mess, but just to do lots of work.

    At 21 I wouldn’t rule out ‘eating big’ since their is probably still some juvenile muscle growth going on…but I would still ‘temper’ it with Eat Stop Eat.

    I’m still not convinced that a 5’9″ frame can add 10 more pounds of straight muscle, but based on my experience this would be how I’d try to get there.

    Andrew January 6, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Thanks for the response. Great advice, much appreciated!


    Carlotta January 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    I am an owner of your ESE book. I came across what was written in this other Web site about Ghrelin and insulin and the feelings of hunger. IT seems to contradict what you have implied about insulin. I am one of those who are famished after a fast. So any clarification would be appreciated. Here is the link as this box wouldn’t let me post a the relevant portion of the article.



    Brad Pilon January 19, 2010 at 2:35 am

    I don’t really see anything wrong with that article. He is merely speculating one the possible meanings of some animal research.

    Look for words like “might” “seems” “possibly” this points to the fact that what you are reading is someone opining or speculating on the possible relevance of a study.

    There is nothing wrong with doing this, but realizing that this is what you are reading helps keep things in context.


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