Operation Transformation: Learn not to overeat

As Operation Transformation continues, this week Dr Eddie Murphy explores the psychology behind overeating and advises on how to battle Ireland’s obesity epidemic.

As Operation Transformation continues, this week Dr Eddie Murphy explores the psychology behind overeating and advises on how to battle Ireland’s obesity epidemic.

It’s week two of Operation Transformation the work really starts new for the Leaders and for us the ‘Experts’. Viewers often think the show is pre-recorded. In fact what is filmed this week goes out in the week, its pretty much live. I am looking forward to the Operation Transformation Walk in Laois and Offaly. I would like to join you but I am do not have the powers of Padre Pio and be in several places simultaneously!! Our TV duties are to be with one of the leaders and support them on this life changing journey.

The Psychology Of Food

Are we being fooled or are we fooling ourselves?

Millions of euros are spent to entice us to overeat. In our society people overeat not because of hunger but because of hidden but powerful influences. Your job is to figure out what influences you to overeat.

Most people think they are too clever to be fooled by packaging, portion sizes, family & friends, mood lighting, smells, names and numbers. Yet time and time again psychological research shows that we are so easily fooled. Yes food companies invest fortunes to fool us.

Clean Your Plate

I bet you have ate the last bit of dried out fruitcake, or the Chinese or pizza from the night before. Sometimes we learn to overeat with the “Clean Your Plate” message we received as children. This powerful message is unhelpful, it may reduce food waste but potentially could lay down the seeds for future obesity issues. It is more important to provide children with moderate portions and smaller bowls. If your child is facing potential obesity issues, the “clean your plate” reminder at dinner may lead to unwanted consequences. Encourage your children to eat a variety of food offered at the table.

Portion Size

Over the past 20-30 years portion sizes have grown incredible from sandwiches to crisps. To accompany this the Irish waistband has expanded to the point 70% of men (44% are overweight and 26% are obese) and 52% of women (31% are overweight and 21% are obese) are carrying excess weight.

Portion size alone does not on its own cause the obesity epidemic that Ireland is experiencing. Large quantities of cheap food have distorted our perceptions of what a typical meal is supposed to look like.

Two Slices of Pizza twenty years ago was 500 calories. Today it is 850 calories.

Those extra 350 calories, if eaten two times a month, would put on two extra pounds a year, or forty pounds in the next two decades.

Cutting back on sugar, fat, and calories can be as simple as watching your portion sizes, especially of foods high in fat and sugar. Eating smaller portions of food is one of the easiest ways to cut back on calories. Huge portions, all-you-can-eat-buffets, and extra-large “single servings” of chips, candy chocolate, and other snack foods can all contribute to overeating.

How do you know a reasonable portion of food when you see it? Visualize the objects mentioned below when eating out, planning a meal, or grabbing a snack. For example, the amount of meat recommended as part of a healthful meal is 3-4 ounces – and it will look to be the same size as a deck of cards.

To eat smaller portions try the following ideas:

• Eat from a smaller plate or bowl.

• Don’t “eat from the bag.” When snacking, place a few chips, crackers or cookies in a bowl to help prevent overeating.

• Buy single portions of snack foods so you’re not tempted by the whole bag or box.

• Like butter and sour cream on your baked potato? Mayonnaise and cheese on your sandwich? Cream cheese on your bagel? Use half the amount you usually do – and save even more calories by using lower-fat varieties or substitute with healthier salad option.

• Increase your servings of fruit & vegetables.

The challenge for us is to change our surroundings to work with our healthier futures instead of working against our healthier futures. We need to reduce and remove the influences that cause us to overeat.

Learning from others

In America scientists have studied a particular group called the ‘National Weight Control Registry NWCR’. Looking at this group of 700 people there were significant achievements namely;

• They lost almost 5 stone in weight and kept it off for more than 5 years.

• They reported more positive moods, self-confidence, mobility and energy.

These significant results were far better than the achievements of those in the best weight-loss programs. The NWCR group acknowledged that they needed to change for health or emotional reasons. Now what insights to successful weight-loss did the NWCR group provide for us:

• There was a change in both eating and exercise habits

• Regular Eating – On average 5 times a day

• Had Breakfast

• Changed certain types or classes of food

• Changed portion sizes

• Focused on reducing fat

• Increased levels of exercise


As well as his counselling practice, Dr Eddie does talks, training and workshops for school, community, voluntary, sporting and work groups. Call 087 1302899 or visit www.dreddiemurphy.ie


Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychology and counselling practice in Portarlington, helping with panic attacks, anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD, etc for children, adults and families. Call 087 1302899 or visit www.dreddiemurphy.ie