Do any of these statements sound familiar from your childhood?
- No dessert unless you finish your dinner!
- You will sit there until your plate is clean – no matter how long it takes.
- There are starving children in Africa who would love to eat that.
It’s no wonder many of us have a habit to overeat. We are part of the “clean plate club” and never want to waste food. However, this mentality causes us to stop listening to our hunger cues, and we eat because it’s time to eat, everyone else around us is eating or because the food is there.
Overeating isn’t necessarily your fault. Some of it is ingrained from our childhood. In addition, look at the portions of food served at a typical restaurant, which have risen by as much as 300%. Somewhere along the way, we’ve been taught to eat until we are full, rather than just enough to satisfy our hunger. Do you pay attention to your hunger cues – both before and while you eat? Ideally, you want to stop eating when you are about 75-80% full. This gives your stomach room to digest your food better and you are less likely to have excess fuel to store as fat. Often, it takes 10-15 minutes to realize we are satiated, which also leads to overeating.
Here are my favorite hacks to eat more mindfully and to reduce the risk of overeating.
- Drink more water
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the majority of people do not drink enough water. Dehydration accounts for countless ailments and symptoms we encounter on a regular basis, and usually we don’t attribute them to dehydration. For example, hunger and cravings are often dispelled by drinking a tall glass of water.
What’s the best way for YOU to drink enough water? Do you prefer a bottle of water by your side throughout the day or tracking in a water intake app, like the one found on Lifesum or WaterMinder? Over the next few days, try the different options and see what works best for you to stay properly hydrated. You may even notice your cravings dissipate and you’ll be less likely to overeat.
- Eat mindfully
Ever notice you can fly through a bag of chips in front of the TV without even noticing? That’s a perfect example of mindless or distracted eating. Whether it’s in front of the TV or while scrolling through your phone, distracted eating can cause you to eat more than you planned. If you don’t pay attention to what you eat, you may not feel satisfied and are more likely to grab something unhealthy to “fill” you up the rest of the way. Be mindful when you eat, and you’ll be satiated much more quickly.
- Write it down
I know – this is the step everyone hates, but studies have proven time and time again, writing down what you eat helps you eat less. Sometimes, we’re unaware of how much we are eating, until we start tracking it. Keep a food journal with you and jot down every little thing you eat, even if it seems minuscule or unimportant. Or, take pictures of everything you eat, before you eat it – or track in on your phone in Lifesum or other app. It also helps to note how you’re feeling so you can correct behaviors once you spot a pattern. A food/mood journal is one of the tools I use with my clients, as it focuses on what you are eating, how hungry you are and how the food makes you feel.
- Focus on your portions
One of my favorite simple hacks here is to use a smaller plate and portion out my food, rather than serving family style. If you are at a restaurant with large portions, ask your server to box up half when you order, or ask your friend to split an entrée. Make sure your plate is at least half full of colorful veggies, with a small portion of healthy carbs (potatoes, yams, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) and some clean protein, like grass fed meats, wild salmon, pasture raised poultry, pasture raised eggs or organic tempeh. If you still feel hungry after finishing your plate, wait at least 5-10 minutes before having seconds – and choose more veggies!
- Don’t wait until you are famished
It’s generally a good idea to eat every 4-6 hours during the day. Sometimes, if you wait too long to eat, you may feel ‘hangry’ or dizzy and you are not able to fill yourself up quickly enough. You tend to eat rapidly, inhaling your food instead of chewing it and usually overeat. One of the ways to manage this is to ensure you are eating well balanced meals which include lots of colorful veggies, clean proteins, healthy fats and slow burning carbs. This is also important for snacks. If you grab a quick candy bar or bag of chips, it doesn’t have the nutrients to keep you satisfied until your next meal. Instead, plan your snacks with protein, healthy fat and fiber. Need some guiltless and delicious snack options to keep you satiated until dinner? These snacks are designed to address your cravings: Crunchy, Sweet, Salty and Creamy. Click here for your free eBook “Guilt Free Simple Snacks”
Overeating is one of the many facets of emotional eating and can be triggered by stress, boredom, anger, stress or other emotion. I too have struggled with years of emotional eating and overeating – feeling shame and guilt around my food choices. I finally broke through my struggles and found freedom around food through a series of simple lifestyle and mindset changes. The small changes can start you on your journey to address emotional eating and avoid overeating – and they are simple and don’t cost much!
What’s your trigger for overeating – stress? Boredom? Anger? Zoned out in front of the TV? Comment below or click here to let me know.