Even though you know that it is unhealthy to overeat, it can be a difficult habit to stop. Overeating can become such a routine part of your day that you may not know how to break the cycle. People overeat for many different reasons, and taking control of this problem can seem overwhelming. You may not even know where to start. Below are 12 tips to help you on your path.
1. Do not deprive yourself
The most important way to prevent yourself from overeating is to not deprive yourself of your favorite foods. While removing junk food from your home makes you less likely to eat it, denying yourself altogether sets you up for failure.
By allowing yourself to indulge once a week, the less likely you will be to obsess over “forbidden” foods. Another way to enjoy your favorite foods, but not overeat is to buy higher quality alternatives. For example, you can still have chocolate, but by purchasing a more expensive brand, you may be more likely to make every bite count.
Dark chocolate is even good for your heart! Some people assume that if they drastically reduce the amount of food that they eat, the weight will just drop off. In addition to making you hungry and grouchy, this unhealthy mindset can cause you to cut too many calories. When this happens, your body goes into a panic mode and will start to naturally pack on the pounds in order to survive.
2. Keep a food journal
Creating a food journal can be a very helpful tool for chronic over-eaters. When you write down what you eat, you are forced to see what actually goes in your mouth.
By increasing your awareness, you will be more empowered to make the changes in your life that will stop you from overeating. Recording your eating patterns also helps you to know when you are most likely to overeat.
Do you binge on potato chips while driving or are you more likely to attack the ice cream waiting for you in the freezer at 11 p.m.? Are you a “nervous nibbler” or do you overindulge at meals? When you know your overeating patterns, you will be able to better prepare yourself and resist the temptation of mindlessly consuming food.
Another benefit to writing in a food journal is that you can monitor your emotions. Despite the fact that french fries are yummy and that sugar has been scientifically proven to be addictive, the reality is that most people use food as a coping mechanism. If you can identify your emotions surrounding food, not only can you stop overeating, but you may become happier as well.
3. Use smaller plates
Its all about controlling the portion size. Even though you may be used to enormous portions, the amount you should be eating is probably much smaller.
When you eat out, restaurants may give you a juicy steak that covers your entire plate, but the actual amount of meat you should be eating at one time is approximately the size of a deck of cards. Filling your plate up with pasta?
Unless you are planning on running a marathon, the actual portion of pasta is a half a cup of cooked noodles. The human stomach is approximately the size of your fist. And while it is expandable and can certainly retain large quantities, the portions that we think of as “normal” are entirely too much. Relax… You can always go back for seconds.
4. Wait 20 minutes before you eat more food
It can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. So sit back, and enjoy some conversation while you wait for your food to digest.
The food will probably still be there after the 20 minutes have passed. If you are still hungry, eat. But if you wait, then you will most likely find that your hunger has disappeared.
5. Eat small meals frequently
Eating small meals every three to five hours prevents you from becoming hungry and also keeps your blood sugar on an even keel. Even if you are not diabetic, low blood sugar can make you feel fatigued, sluggish and irritable. These factors alone can make you feel like stress-eating. Having healthy snacks in between meals can keep you satiated and full of energy. Examples include nuts, hummus, fruit and raw vegetable. Just make sure you record what goes in your mouth.
6. Eat breakfast
The saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” is more than just a cliche. If you skip breakfast, you are more likely to overeat at lunch or for your mid-morning snack.
And if somebody brings in doughnuts at the office, it will be that much more difficult to resist temptation if you are already hungry. Your breakfast should be healthy. While it is common to eat refined carbohydrates such as sugary cereals, waffles, pancakes and white toast, these foods are setting you up for a crash.
Try some oatmeal. There are many different types and textures, just do not eat instant or prepackaged oatmeal. If there is no time for oatmeal in the morning, simply prepare it the night before. Enjoy some whole wheat toast with peanut or almond butter and a piece of fruit. Eggs, as long as they are not fried with copious amounts of fat, are a high-powered option packed with protein.
You could even have dinner foods for breakfast. Just be considerate that the people you live with may not welcome the scent of onions cooking at 6:30 in the morning. In all fairness, some people can become ill if they eat too early in the morning. However, it is still important to try to eat something small such as a slice of whole wheat toast, a handful of raw nuts or even a piece of fruit. Just make sure to take a healthy snack with you if you become hungry later in the morning.
7. Eat slowly
What’s the rush? If you gobble your food, your brain will not be able to register that you are full until it is too late. Also, you are more likely to ingest air when you inhale your food.
This can lead to gas, heartburn, and indigestion. With so many people taking medications for digestive problems, it is fair to speculate that eating too quickly is a major culprit in many cases. When you eat slowly, you can savor each bite and be less likely to go back for more.
8. Eat mindfully
Once you understand the need to slow down your eating, its is also helpful to appreciate your meal. Focus on the tastes, the textures and the aromas of the food. You do not have to become a “foodie,” but since you need food to survive, you may as well enjoy it. Another tip for eating mindfully is to eliminate distractions when you eat your meals. Turn off the television, your phone, and the computer.
It can be difficult to pay attention to the amount of food you are eating if you are completely absorbed in watching a show. And by turning off the technological devices, families are more likely to talk to each other. Enjoy your food and the conversation. You might get to know your kids and find that your relationship with your spouse is better.
9. Eat less “problem” foods
While you do not want to completely eliminate your favorite snacks, it is helpful to minimize the “problem” foods from your diet. “Problem” foods have low satiety and can be addictive in nature.
These foods include unhealthy fats, processed sugars, and refined carbohydrates. Potato chips, fried foods, ice cream, cookies and white bread can easily lead to overeating. Even though they are tasty, you have to eat a lot of them in order to feel full. Set aside a special time when you can enjoy these foods, as long as it is not on a daily basis.
10. Eat more protein
Eating foods high in quality protein helps to increase feelings of satiety and stabilize your blood sugar.
Even though some people think the best way to stabilize blood sugar is with candy or juice, having a handful of almonds is much more effective. Foods high in protein include organic meats, eggs, fish, nuts, and beans.
11. Eat more fruits and vegetables
In addition to providing most of your required vitamins and minerals, eating fruits and vegetables can help to prevent overeating. Fruits and vegetables leave us feeling full because they are packed with fiber and have a high water content.
Fiber has the added bonus of keeping you regular. Regular bowel movements eliminate toxic wastes and can improve your energy and mood. The high water content in fruits and vegetables also helps you to stay hydrated, another trick to prevent overeating.
12. Drink water
Sometimes hunger can be mistaken for thirst. The next time you feel like you have to eat, try drinking a glass of water.
Then wait 20 minutes and see how you feel. You might be surprised to find that the hunger pangs have gone away. Drinking water helps to flush your system, and may even relieve some minor aches and pains.
Eating should not be a stressful event. Most diets are counterproductive because they are either outrageously expensive or have you eating ridiculously low portions. You are left hungry, frustrated and broke. These tips should function as a gentle guide to help you to take control of your eating. When you control what you are eating, you can conquer the urge to overdo it.