Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Improve Diet Success: Remove The Roadblocks

Too many people in this culture have good diet intentions with bad results. From cleanses to no carbs, from eating vegetables to eating by blood type, the diet options abound, as do the roadblocks to success.

Changing how and what we eat is not easy—but it is possible. One step that may set the stage for success is recognizing and removing the roadblocks that sabotage the efforts to eat less or to eat in a healthy way.

 The Roadblocks:


  • While the causes for overeating or eating problems are complex and personal, research finds that one factor that bears on most people’s eating is convenience.
  • Be it at home, at work, on a plane or at a wedding, if it is convenient– we are more likely to eat it.
  • In A Pew Research telephone survey most people reported convenience as their reason for eating junk food.
  • Food researcher, Brian Wansink author of Mindless Eating Why We Eat More Than We Think found that the farther away a candy dish was from the secretaries’ desks, the less they ate– a difference reflected in 225 extra calories a day. In the debriefing, the secretaries revealed that the longer the distance, the more time to talk themselves out of eating another piece!

 A little inconvenience can reduce a lot of eating.


  • You have probably heard comedians say they are on the “See Food” diet–eating everything they see.
  • In reality, they are correct. Research reveals that visible foods trigger eating in a way that is difficult to resist.
  • Neurochemically, seeing food invites the anticipation of food and trips secretions that add to our craving and our overeating.
  • The bombardment of food and drink commercials on TV sports is intended to make you order the pizza and reach for the beer.

 If the first thing you see on the kitchen counter when you are starving in the morning or exhausted at night is high in carbs or sugar—that’s the first thing you are likely to eat.

 Multi-Tasking Equals Multi-Eating

  • In our continued attempt to multi-task, we pay a price-especially when it comes to eating.
  • Because we eat in front of TV’s, computers, while texting, working at our desks and talking on the phone, we eat without focus.

 One woman who frequently spoke on the phone while grabbing something to eat, reported that the trail of wrappers, crumbs and containers were often the only indication of her eating. She hardly remembered eating, much less feeling satisfied.

  • Anything that takes our focus off the food makes us more likely to overeat or eat poorly because we are eating in a mindless way.

The value of those advocating Mindful Eating, is an invitation to take the time for focus on food. Be it the shake you are having for breakfast or the twenty-minute lunch you purposely take away from technology, a routine to actually experience eating will be more filling and fueling.

 Sleep Matters

 The next time I am staring into the refrigerator at midnight, I need one of the milk cartons to say –”You don’t need to eat–You need to sleep.”

  • A frequently overlooked obstacle to healthy eating is lack of sleep.
  • A study measuring the brain activity of healthy, normal weight adults aged 22-26 found that a lack of sleep causes brain signaling to significantly increase in areas associated with food acquisition.
  • We need food to survive. When we are tired, our cells think we need more energy, which triggers a powerful subconscious urge to eat.
  • When we don’t sleep enough, cravings related to addiction and reward come in to play.
  • Even in children, lack of sleep is associated with weight gain.

 Are you famished or fatigued?

  • Be mindful of your body states by deciding if you are really hungry or really tired.
  • Managing you sleep by aiming at 7-8 hours of sleep time will help regulate eating.
  • If you know you have had too little sleep or your sleep will be disrupted, be prepared to eat protein and high-energy foods to stave off your need to eat for energy instead of catching up on sleep as soon as you can.

 The Influence of Others

  • There is hardly a culture or a person that does not seek and savor the opportunity to share food with others. For most, it is central to their family and social connections. As such, it is understandable that both friends and family have an influence on our consumption norms and expectations.

 It is not easy to forget the “ clean plate rule” or replace the family ritual of ice cream as a stress reducer.

  • Researchers found that having a friend who is gaining weight makes you 57% more likely to do so yourself. Professors Fowler and Christakis reporting on social contagion suggest that consciously or unconsciously, people use what others are eating as a gage for themselves-be it the oversized fries or the chocolate dessert.

 The occasional evening of food and fun may be well worth having. Being swept into mindless overeating and overdrinking on a regular basis is physically and emotionally costly.

 Recognizing and removing the roadblocks to dieting may activate your motivation, improve your weight- loss success and foster your overall sense of mastery.

Listen in to Dr. Maidenberg discuss Can a Parent Help Their Child or Teen With Overeating?” on Psych Up Live