Are you a conscious eater or do you over-indulge and eat when ever? Overeating is easy to do, especially when you’re indulging in an unusually delicious meal. It’s also easy because many factors cause us to overeat, including stress and noshing too fast both of which we likely experience or do on an almost daily basis.
Fortunately, there are many tactics you can use to stop overeating once and for all, from slowing down to learning your body’s hunger cues. Use these tips to get your eating on track so you can feel fueled and satiated instead of full and frustrated.
1) Look Ahead
If you’re surrounded by unhealthy food all the time, it can be easy to eat all day long, whether or not you are hungry. Here’s one way to avoid this temptation: Think about how you’ll feel after you overeat, like those times when you know you’re full, but there’s still food on your plate.
A similarly powerful tactic is thinking about how you’ll feel if you don’t eat the food. You feel proud, happy, and more satisfied in almost every case than if you’d indulged unnecessarily.
Stop Once and For All: Before you grab the doughnut from your office kitchen—especially if you’ve already had a full breakfast—think to yourself: How will I feel when I finish this? Better yet: How will I feel if I walk away right now? Make this a habit, doing it every time you reach for an unnecessary snack; sometimes, you’ll want to indulge, and that’s okay. But you may find that you say “no” a lot more often than you say “yes.”
2) Eat Slower
It takes time for your stomach to tell your mind that you’re full because feeling satiated takes time.
The process of sending signals from your gut to your brain can take anywhere from five to 20 minutes, so it’s essential to eat more slowly. Eating too fast is a surefire way to overeat because we get this cue well after we’ve already overindulged.
Stop Once and For All: The next time you eat, set a timer for 20 minutes and see how long it takes you to feel full, paying close attention to the cues your body sends you. This will give you an approximation of how long it takes your body to feel full, which you can use to stop overeating in the future. Practice eating slower until you notice that “I’m full” feeling. Note that those with type 2 diabetes may not get these same hunger cues, making this tactic less effective.
3) Eat Mindfully
In our on-the-go world, we’re often eating breakfast in the car, rushing through lunch at our desk, and half-heartedly noshing on dinner while watching our favorite shows. In all of these situations, your focus isn’t on the food you’re eating. It’s on driving, working, or watching television, which can lead to overeating.
When you’re not paying attention to your body, it’s easy to miss the “I’m hungry” cue—just like when you eat too fast.
Stop Once and For All: Make a rule to eat at least one meal a day without doing anything else. Notice the difference in recognizing your satiation (feeling full) cues and how satisfied you are. Slowly increase this to two meals each day and eventually to all three.
4) Get Your Stress Under Control
It appears there’s always something stress us out, whether it’s a meeting at work or a family issue. This stress not only wreaks havoc on your body physically, causing everything from chronic high blood pressure and diarrhea, to headaches, chest pain, and more, it is causing you to overeat.
When stressed, your body releases cortisol, which also happens to increase appetite. Whether you are hungry or not, your body is craving food and quelling that “hunger” you eat. In many cases, you end up eating high-fat, sugary foods, making the overeating even worse.
Stop Once and For All: If you can’t reduce the amount of stress in your life right now, the next step is to recognize the potential for overeating and stop it before it starts. When stressed, rely on portioning your food, and when you go out to eat, get half of your meal put in a box for later before you even start eating. If you’re hungry for a snack, when you usually aren’t, check in with yourself: Is this stress or am I ravenous?
5) Eat Before You’re Hungry
This idea may sound odd, but think about these two scenarios:
You eat dinner a little early, not because you’re starving but because you know you’re going out with friends and don’t want to order out or you wait until you’re hungry and eat post-drinks. You pour a glass of wine, browse the fridge, take your time making dinner, eat until you’re relatively full and then head out.
You decide not to eat before going out because you’re not hungry. You wait to eat dinner until 8 pm after you’ve gone out for drinks. Now you’re ravenous. You dive into your cabinets looking for whatever is most comfortable with making and digging into the first thing you see. You eat so fast, you don’t realize how full you are and now you’re stuffed and wishing you hadn’t eaten so much.
In the second scenario, you’re so hungry that you may be experiencing slight nausea or a headache from the hunger. But you may even eat unhealthier foods because you’ll likely eat one of the first things you find; forget about taking time to make a healthy dinner.
You may have similar experiences if you wait too long to have lunch or breakfast late in the day.
Stop Once and For All: Most people tend to eat around the same time every day. Set the alarm on your phone for an hour before you’d typically eat each meal, so you remember to nosh earlier than usual. You’ll quickly find that you’re more likely to make rational, healthy choices about eating and how much.
6) Give Yourself Time
How many times have you looked down at your plate, knowing that you’re full, and finished it anyway? When you are done, you feel full and mad at yourself: Why did I eat the rest of that? I did not need it, and now I feel like crap. It’s hard to resist food, thanks to our need for instant gratification. But giving yourself time to decide whether to finish the plate may be what you need.
Stop Once and For All: The next time you’re in a moment where you usually eat more but know you shouldn’t, stop for 5 to 10 minutes. Give yourself time to decide if you want to eat the rest of the food on your plate. You’ll be happy to toss or save the rest of the food when your minutes are up almost every time.
7) Pay Attention to All Hunger Cues
If you’re waiting for your stomach to growl, you may be setting yourself up to overeat, because we don’t all experience the same hunger cues. Sometimes it shows up as a headache or a bad mood that comes on suddenly. A nutritionist once said, “I always know I’m hungry when I’m happily working on something, and all of a sudden, I’m annoyed by what I’m doing.”
Knowing how hunger can show up in your body is key to recognizing it before it’s too late, and you’re starving. Other potential hunger signals include:
Suddenly irritable (“hangry”)
Stop Once and For All: Make a note of which hunger cues you experience each time you eat. Slowly you’ll discover what means “I’m hungry” for your body, allowing you to eat right away rather than waiting until later, when you’re ravenous, and therefore more likely to overeat.
In Conclusion: Simply Stop Overeating
It can be so hard to say no when food is right in front of you and so easy to ignore that full feeling and eat until you’re so full you literally need to lay down because it hurts to sit or stand. Stop the cycle of overeating once and for all with these simple tips. Test each one to see which works best for you and then stick with it. Once it becomes a habit, you’re more likely to say no when you’re full. Be conscious!
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