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Weight gain advice from PN Coaching clients
The hows, whats and whys behind over-eating


Last week, I brought you some advice from guys enrolled in the Scrawny to Brawny coaching program advice from “naturally” lean people that can actually help heavier people lose fat.

This week, it’s the PN Coaching clients‘ chance to return the favor.

But this week, we’re going to be a little more tongue in cheek — I daresay a little sillier.

The challenge of change

You see, the Scrawny to Brawny guys are ninjas at one particular skill: knowing when they’re full. Unlike the rest of us, they’re pretty good at knowing when to quit eating. They’re tuned in to their fullness and satiety cues.

For most folks, knowing when to quit eating is a pretty good thing. But for S2B guys, it’s not. They need to learn to eat more than they’re used to in order to gain mass. And most skinny guys don’t like being too full.

Skinny guys need to learn to change their habits, and change their ideas of portion sizes and appropriate food choices, just like anyone trying to change their body. And in the early stages, it’s hard for skinny guys to choke down all those calories.

Over in Opposite World at the PN Coaching program, most PN Coaching clients are pretty good at over-eating. (Heck, as someone who once out-consumed a team of male MMA fighters at an all-you-can-eat sushi dinner, I could teach those S2B dudes a thing or two.)

But getting lean means learning to eat less. To get lean, we first have to learn what makes us over-eat in the first place.

  • Why do we over-eat?
  • How do we over-eat?
  • What do we over-eat?
  • What situations, foods, and habits make us more likely to over-eat?

In order to change any behavior (and thus, to change your body), you have to do three things:

  1. Become aware of what you’re doing.
  2. Understand how your daily-life habits support that behavior.
  3. Change those daily-life habits.

It’s why we use the habit-based coaching model. PN Coaching clients — and anyone else trying to lose fat — need to understand their own over-eating behavior, and how it occurs in their daily lives, in order to change it.

So the question is:

What things encourage us to over-eat?

If the goal for skinny guys is to eat more, what tips could PN Coaching clients offer? And in offering those tips, what might PN Coaching clients (and anyone else struggling with fat loss) learn about their own habits?

This topic got lots of laughs. I could almost hear the PN Coaching clients chuckling ruefully as they recalled their own behavior. Again, most of these suggestions are tongue-in-cheek (although there are some nuggets of wisdom there too). We’ll give you some serious tips for both getting lean and gaining mass at the end.

[For a quick summary of this advice, click here.  Or read on for more…]

Yet these recommendation give us insight too — on what environmental, social, and food cues cause us to eat more. There are many reasons why we over-eat. Pointing them out helps us understand how our eating behavior is closely linked to our mindset, habits, and surroundings.

Thus, we all learn, no matter what our goals.

Why do we over-eat?

Emotional eating

One of the key points that S2Bs made is that they don’t have an emotional connection to food. For them, food is just food. The PN Coaching clients advise them to change that. If you want to over-eat, they say, start making food your security blanket.

“Just go get your heart broken. Suffer some serious life traumas and the weight will come on like stank on s#$t.””Imagine that eating could solve all of your problems, all of your life stresses. Roll up everything that’s bothering you up into a little ball. When you eat, you push this ball away. The more you eat and the longer you stretch out the experience, the longer you can chase your troubles away. This one always works for me!””Remember, food is not just fuel. You can fill all sorts of emotional voids with food — just fix your attitude. Feeling insecure and unwilling to take responsibility? Try mashed potatoes and meatballs (don’t forget the butter). Workmate got promotion instead of you? Time to say hi to Ben & Jerry. No sex in ages? Who needs it, peanut M&Ms wire the same circuits in your brain anyway!””Chocolate and pasta with a rich cream sauce will kill any emotion that you may want to avoid. Oh, and don’t forget to fill up your desk drawers with lots of cookies, crackers and chocolate covered almonds! They are chocolate covered – and healthy!”

And don’t restrict your eating to home. You’re at work eight hours a day — that’s prime eating time! Not only are many workplaces hotbeds of food availability, they’re stressful.

“Get a job that totally sucks your will to live and just eat away the stress and frustration. You won’t even notice the amount of calories that you have eaten by the time you have left the office.””Wander around your workplace looking for leftovers from meetings, or groups that have brought in birthday cake or other sweet treats. Become friends with the coworker with the candy bowl.””Work really hard all day – like harder than everyone in the world. Then – after work – eat all of your favorite things to reward yourself for being so righteous and having such a holy work ethic. It helps if you use your planning of this epic eating as your means to unwind from your workday.”

If you’re not lucky enough to be depressed, another option is to use food to make yourself even happier.

“Discover food. Like really discover it. Eat stuff that makes your mouth sing. Look to food for all things good in life. Turn eating into a game — like a video game — you get points for different colored foods, different cultural recipes, different meats etc. And then you add up your points and your mom will buy you an Iphone once you get the highest score.”

Use food as a reward. Or as a consolation. Or a distraction. It’s all good.

How do we over-eat?

Eat with distractions

It’s easy to over-eat when you aren’t focused on what you’re doing — when you can just make the act of eating repetitive and ongoing.

Become a master of distraction! Never, ever pay attention to the act of eating.

“Make sure you eat while doing something else. The more distracting the other activity the better. Playing a video game? Great, eat a huge bag of chips. Watching a game? Great, eat (and drink) every time someone scores or strikes out or gets sacked or there is a commercial… or there isn’t a commercial.””Distract yourself while eating. Television is excellent for this and eventually you will have a conditioned response that TV = eating.””Just grab the amount you’re supposed to eat, set it beside you in pre-cut chunks (or in the cup, if it’s a shake), and don’t look at it again. Just chew and sip, sip and chew, and enjoy not thinking at all about paying attention to fullness cues, because the distraction in front of you is way more captivating.””Put the bowl on the side and finish the multitasking only when you can see the bottom.””Put on a season of your favorite TV show or dust off War and Peace for real marathon sessions. I guarantee, you’ll have no idea where all the food went and why your pants don’t fit.”


Eating in the car is a popular favorite that combines the stress of commuting, the immobility of being trapped in a seated position, the convenience of fast foods, and the distraction of driving.

“Multi-task yet again by whipping through the drive-through on your way to your sedentary (but oh so responsible) office job! Just grab a quick donut and a ‘double-double’ (that’s a coffee with double sugar, double cream) and you are good to go!”

Combine meals

Don’t think of meals as a single event. Rather, combine the lead-up and afterparty into a long-lasting eating episode. This includes snacking while prepping dinner, appetizers, first and second courses, desserts, and cleaning up people’s plates as you tidy up the kitchen.

Eat frequently

“Every opportunity you find to eat, DO IT. There is only so much good food around and if you don’t eat at every opportunity you may miss out on something great. Friends going for ice cream? Go for it! Who knows when you are going to have the opportunity again? Going to a movie? Make sure to get the big bag of popcorn (with free refills) and get extra butter and salty toppings because it has been ages since you have been at a movie and you deserve it.””Meal times. What meal times? Just munch mindlessly all the time. You don’t even need to eat a lot — just eat all the time!””Never, EVER miss a feeding opportunity! Graze, if possible.”

Or don’t eat frequently

You can also take advantage of your appetite rebound by depriving yourself first, then using it as an excuse to go nuts.

“Wait between meals a long time then GO TO TOWN! and have a huge meal.””Decide that you will never, ever eat your favorite foods ever again. Depriving yourself of the things you love sets you up to binge on them.”

Eat fast

Our satiety mechanisms take a little while to kick in; on average it takes us about 20 min to realize we’re full. And if you’re too slow, you might miss something. So git-r-done quick.

“Eat fast. I grew up with a military dad and I was in the military too. Ever seen Major Payne eat??? That’s barely exaggerated. Don’t give your body time to say it’s full.””Think: It’ll never taste this good again. It’ll never be this fresh, this crisp, this delicious.”

Eat in restaurants

At restaurants, portion sizes are typically larger (especially in the United States), and the dishes are prepared with more fat. For example, one study found that while 76% of chefs thought that they served “regular” portions, the actual portions of steak and pasta they reported serving were 2 to 4 times larger than serving sizes recommended by the USDA.

Order an appetizer, entree, and dessert.

Eat out of the box or bag

Don’t bother with a plate or bowl! That just gives you cues about proper portion sizing! Either upsize to a platter (as many restaurants have done) or eat it straight out of the box or bag (you are eating processed foods, right?)! Jars (e.g. of nut butter) are good too; just grab the ol’ spoon and get to work.

Then you can just nosh continually and you don’t have any information about how much you’ve consumed.

Eat from a bigger trough

Have you graduated from a single bag or box of food? No problem. Let’s crank up the source quantity even further: the all-you-can-eat buffet.

“Don’t pre-portion your food; you’ll eat more from a bigger amount. The buffet is your friend.””Come to the South: the home of all-you-can-eat buffets and festivals. I swear there is a different food festival every weekend. This weekend it’s the seafood festival: Any kind of seafood, boiled, broiled, grilled, fried, stuffed, fried, raw, fried… did I mention they like fried food here?”


What do we over-eat?

Eat calorie-dense foods

Eat the most calorie dense foods you can find.

“Pasta is amazing stuff – in addition to the heaps of carbs you can get from one load, think it as a vessel to sneak in some serious amounts of fat.””I know a girl that couldn’t figure out why she was gaining so much weight… turned out she started adding an entire avocado to her breakfast shake each morning. It’s a vegetable and full of healthy fats! If a little = good, then a lot = better, right?”

Eat big portions

Don’t worry about measuring properly. Just load ‘er up.

“I believe that I have a form of visual impairment that makes 2 tbsp of peanut butter look like 1 tbsp. I should have that looked into… Especially when you eat it directly from the jar — definitely make sure a tablespoon is really heaping, at least two inches tall. It’s still a tablespoon, right?”

Eat stuff on top of other stuff — mix it up!

Humans are attuned to food variety, and we like combinations of textures and tastes. The more stuff is going on in a dish, the more we like it… and the more we’ll eat. So get creative with toppings and sauces.

“Shaved Parmesean cheese serves as a very tasty and caloric ‘garnish’ on every vegetable I’ve ever tried it on. (Actually, I called it a ‘blizzard’ as a child, if that gives you any indication of the quantity consumed). Re-apply once the top layer is eaten and green again showing.”

Make that glycemic index work FOR you!

Appetizers were invented for a reason. Find a few simple carbs and use them as your warm-up.

“Eat a teaser meal of sugary carbs about 15-30 minutes before your main meal to whet your appetite. I actually use this trick with my 2 year old when he’s too busy playing to eat a proper meal… I serve him some fruit first and maybe a little apple juice and then follow up with some scrambled eggs, chicken or a peanut butter sandwich and he wolfs it down.””Ever notice that dipping into the bread basket before a meal makes you eat more of your entree? Scrawny guys listen up! That bread basket is your friend… now will you keep it down at your end of the table from now on?””At restaurants, if I was full before my plate was empty, I would purposefully eat something high in sugar/starch (like fries or dessert) so that I would be hungry again sooner and be able to eat more of my dinner.”

What situations, foods, and habits make us more likely to over-eat?

Cave to social pressure

Make sure to have someone else fill your plate to overflowing, then make sure to clean your plate. Even if you are stuffed, it would be an insult or a waste of food if you didn’t eat it all.

Remember, other people are watching and judging you harshly for not eating enough.

“Clean your plate or mommy won’t like you anymore. Your mother slaved all day on that goulash! You will eat every bite or you hate your mommy! This will echo in your head for decades.””At social occasions, take your cues from other people instead of from your own body. If other people are scarfing nachos, go ahead, even if you don’t really like nachos. Ditto for any other greasy snack that might be going around. Even if you just ate… go ahead! Eat some more.”

The see food diet

Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t forget about that food — keep it with you always.

“Always keep food in your field of vision. Food that isn’t seen can’t be eaten or impact whether you want food or not. Most people will forget about food if it’s not around.””Find a trigger food and keep it visible, like on the kitchen counter. Every time you walk by, take a little taste. You’ll be eating everything in sight before you know it.”

When you do eat, use your imagination.

“Visualisation! ‘That food on my plate is a muscle fuel. Need to feed the furnace, stoke the fire.'”

Give yourself a challenge

The more you make, order, or purchase, the more you’re obligated to eat, right? So push the boundaries and think of food like a mountain that you should climb just because it’s there.

Drink your calories

Our satiety mechanisms are weaker for liquid than solid calories. We don’t get as full from liquids, and it’s easy to concentrate a lot of calories into a small volume with the right food choices.

“Maybe take in a coffee-based foo-foo drink using a sporty carbohydrate (waxy maize latte with sweetened rice milk, anyone?) and a scoop of protein powder in it at least once a day, if not twice… Those Rubbermaid “chuggables” work really well for a protein beverage on-the-go.””Milkshakes, those fancy Frappucino thingies from coffee shops, juices, beer, white Russians… you can do it! On the other hand, don’t fill your stomach with calorie-poor liquids (like water, duh!) when it is time for serious eating.”

Find sedentary hobbies, and eat while you do them

Bonus if you can get additional food cues while you do these things. For instance, a study from Yale found that food advertising on television increases automatic snacking.

And avoid too much activity.

“Live in your head a lot. I was the kid who could never get up the damned rope. I know there were physical activities I enjoyed, but as I got older I somehow lost my memory of them. I ended up working with computers and not placing any importance on physical activity at all.I get it now but there was really no balance in my earlier life. I never really had that awesome feeling of having worked really hard but feeling really great (I have in the past few years, rarely), and I had no guidance growing up showing me that being physical was a good thing. It’s still a struggle to remember that moving feels good and is good for me.”

Get support from family and friends

When making any change, remember that those around you can support you. Food can be something that you share!

“Get yourself a set of 2 year old twins and spend a day with them. Nothing will get you binging on sinful carbs and chocolate quite like trying to end the biting, hitting, screaming, and the endless tantrums. Or wait until they are sick and want nothing else but to sit on the couch with mom (or dad) and watch movies. Then spend the time mindlessly munching on candy and chips while watching Shrek for the 45th time.””Eat regularly with somebody who is much bigger than you. Make sure your portions equal or exceed his at every meal.”

Suck it up, soldier

Ignore your body cues. Ignore social niceties and interaction. You’re a food warrior and you’ve got a battle to fight.

“When all else fails play… I mean eat… through the pain.””Avoid conversation. You’re not finished until the plate is clean. It is best to finish your meal before you feel too full so you can have a second serving. If tortilla chips or bread sticks are still on the table, they must be eaten.”

Summary and recommendations

OK, allow me to get un-silly now. What can we take home from this?

Remember that we started with a few key questions.

  • Why do we over-eat?
  • How do we over-eat?
  • What do we over-eat?
  • What situations, foods, and habits make us more likely to over-eat?

And recall that in order to change any behavior, you have to do three things:

  1. Become aware of what you’re doing.
  2. Understand how your daily-life habits support that behavior.
  3. Change those daily-life habits.

So now, let’s look at what that means for each group.

Eating to get lean

  • Notice the reasons that you might over-eat, especially your emotional connection to food.
  • Notice the habits and routines that you have around food, such as:
    • eating with distractions
    • eating too quickly
    • eating irregularly
    • eating on-the-go with poor food choices
  • Notice how you respond to social cues and food situations. You don’t have to eat just because food is there, or because someone suggests it.
  • Plan meals and food choices, and establish proper portion sizes in advance. Don’t rely on “eyeballing” things or trying to eat right with no prep.
  • Don’t overly restrict or focus on depriving yourself. You’re more likely to eventually over-eat to compensate.
  • Choose foods that are less calorie-dense (i.e. lower in calories but higher in volume), such as vegetables. And unless it’s a pre-planned, appropriately sized Super Shake, don’t drink your calories.
  • Don’t kid yourself about what’s “healthy”. And realize that you can still over-eat “healthy” foods.
  • Be mindful and aware throughout eating.

Eating to gain mass

  • Look for calorie-dense foods like fattier cuts of meat (ideally grass-fed/pastured so it’s got a good fatty acid profile), fatty fish, coconut, avocado, cheese, nuts, etc. Any combo of protein and fat is a good bet.
  • Add good fats to everything:
    • put avocado and olive oil on salads
    • use nut butter and coconut milk in Super Shakes
    • put grass-fed butter on veggies
    • use grass-fed cream (or coconut milk) in your coffee
    • get the salmon skin sushi
  • It’s easier to drink calories than to eat them. Super Shakes are a very forgiving food format.
  • In order to consume more, you’ll sometimes have to disobey your physical hunger and fullness cues. If you are focusing too much on being full, distraction might help.
  • Snack. A few handfuls of nuts or a few chunks of coconut go down pretty easily with a little protein.
  • Use the power of social support. Many folks will eat more socially than they will eat alone.
  • Make it taste good. It doesn’t have to be a sugar bomb, but you don’t have to suffer through a plain chicken breast and steamed veggies all the time. Look for flavorful cuts of meat (such as pork belly or chicken thighs), high-quality artisan cheeses, cold-pressed oils, fresh seasonal ingredients, etc.
  • Sauce it up. Whether that’s a bit of shredded cheese on veggies, peanut sauce on your satay, or a really good olive oil… add some mojo to your meals.
  • Add variety. Boredom kills appetite. There’s a world of exciting cuisine out there just waiting for you.
  • Savor and enjoy your meals. If you don’t appreciate good food or gourmet cooking, now’s the time to learn.
  • Learning to cook will improve variety and taste. (Plus it makes you more attractive… so just imagine how sexy you’ll be with muscles and kitchen skills!)

Further reading

David Kessler, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating.

Allen Zadoff, Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.

Eat, move, and live… better.©

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