By Deborah Kesten
If you’ve ever lost and then regained weight, what’s the best way to stop overeating and keep weight off for good?
Rather than starting yet another diet, try tasting, really tasting your food—or meditating for a moment before eating. In other words, think outside the diet.
Welcome to the wonderful world of overeating research!
Our original research on Whole Person Integrative Eating (WPIE)1,2unlocks some truly remarkable reasons you overeat and gain weight—and, conversely, how to overcome overeating, overweight, and obesity. Want to reap the rewards? Here are 10 tips—from our research and that of others—that could help you overcome overeating and reduce odds of being overweight or obese.
#1. Choose Chocolate
Savoring some chocolate might remind you of something you’d like to overeat—but don’t write off chocolate just yet as a (heavenly) food that could help you lose weight (yes, you read that right). In a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers showed that it’s possible to eat chocolate and weigh less if you choose the right kind—a cocoa content that’s 70% or higher, and the right amount—an ounce a day, about the size of a credit card. (Sorry, but more isn’t better `cause if you overeat chocolate, the calorie-count climbs too high to reap the rewards.) The secret to chocolate’s metabolic mystery? The antioxidant epicatechin, which revs up your metabolism.
#2. Feed Your Senses
Here’s your excuse to buy that favorite gourmet olive oil you’ve sniffed in one of those fancy olive-oil boutiques. Scientists in Germany have linked an aroma—specifically, the scent of olive oil—to eating and weighing less. Somehow, the scent of olive oil lead research participants to feel satiated sooner than those in the canola-oil scented group. And it gets better: those in the olive-oil group lost weight, while the canola-oil folks gained weight. Can “sense-filled” dining really up your odds of eating less? Yes, according to my research on Whole Person Integrative Eating,1,2“Sensory Disregard” is one of the 7 overeating styles we identified. To find out if aroma is a stay-slim tool that works for you, try your own experiment with scent-sory olive oil and other scintillating scents.
#3. Nix Night Eating
Call it nighttime hunger, nocturnal eating, or night eating syndrome (NES). Regardless of what it’s called, if you do a lot of overeating after you’ve had dinner or well into the wee small hours, it’s a triple weight-gain whammy! Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reveal why: 1) your metabolic rate and digestion slow down at night; 2) consuming a lot of food at night wreaks havoc with hormones that control appetite, and; 3) eating when your body is meant to relax and restore itself busts your body’s built-in biological clock. The take-away: Simply put, human beings aren’t meant to eat a lot in the evening hours. It’s a formula for gaining weight and making it hard to lose weight.
#4. Dine by Design
When you eat in emotionally (think eating while surrounded with angry people) and aesthetically (visualize eating in your car in a traffic jam) unpleasant surroundings, my Whole Person Integrative Eating research1,2revealed you’re more likely to overeat. So think about the atmosphere in which you’ll be eating ahead of time. As often as possible, each time you eat, design a pleasing dining experience by creating an emotional and physical atmosphere that’s as pleasant as possible.
Which leads to…
#5. Pay Attention to How You Feel
Emotional eating—turning to food to soothe negative emotions or out-of-control food cravings—is the #1 predictor of overeating and weight gain, according to my Whole Person Integrative Eating research.1,2To get control, try this: First, commit to getting in touch with your feelings before, during, and after eating. Next, make a conscious choice to eat when your emotions are balanced—not negative. Then recognize that one of the best reasons for eating is a healthy appetite, meaning, don’t let yourself get too hungry. The bottom line: Commit to eating for pleasure, with a healthy desire for food, and experience feel-good emotions when you eat and enjoy!
#6. Eat with Others
A famous study that began in the early 1960s in the small town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, explores the influence of human relationships and social support on the metabolism of high-fat, high-cholesterol, calorie-dense foods. Amazingly, this study suggests that when social support is present in our lives, especially when we eat, what we eat is somehow metabolized differently—so much so that it can keep you from getting sick. My more recent research on overeating1,2 revealed that eating alone more often than not—what I call Solo Dining—is yet another “new normal” eating style that strongly increases the odds of overeating. When it’s time to eat a meal, invite others to join you. Share mealtimes with friends, family, or coworkers as often as possible. Or if you have a pet, consider eating at the same time as your furry friend!
#7. Don’t Diet
Although dieting, judging food as “good” or “bad,” and thinking a lot about the “best” way to eat may not seem to have much in common, they are all characteristics of the overeating style I describe as “Food Fretting.”1,2If you see yourself in the food-fretter scenario, you’re at increased odds of overeating and weight gain. To get off the food-fretting treadmill, first and foremost, stop dieting. Instead, perceive food and eating as one of life’s greatest pleasures, and choose Integrative Eating as your most-of-the-time dietary lifestyle. Choose wisely (see “Get Fresh,” below) and enjoy.
#8. Get Fresh
If your most-of-the-time way of eating is, say, a donut and coffee for breakfast; a burger, fries, and coke for lunch; pizza for dinner; and chips as a snack, my research on Whole Person Integrative eating suggests that “fast foodism” is your main overeating style.1,2If a diet of mostly fast and processed foods is typical for you, consider getting in touch with your inner fresh-food fairy. You can do this by replacing sugar-, fat-, and salt-laden foodish foods—ingredients that can amp up your “overeating engine”—with more fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds, and lean, free-range, chemical-free animal foods. Worth a try, don’t you think?
#9. When You Eat, Eat
Do you ever eat while watching TV? Or while working at your computer? Or when you’re driving? If you eat while doing other things, you’re doing “task snacking,” a Whole Person Integrative Eating overeating style that is linked with overeating and increased odds of weight gain.1,2The antidote? Mindfulness eating. Give up eating while doing other activities. Instead, stay mindful, keep focused on your food, and do one thing at a time. In other words, eat when you eat!
#10. Quit Chemical Cuisine
Obesogens are the manmade chemicals—plastics and pesticides—which have found their way into our food supply and beverages. They wreak their havoc on both appetite and weight by mimicking estrogen, a hormone that can make you fat. The solution? One quick tip for avoiding “chemical cuisine” is to stay away from bisphenol A (BPA) found in canned foods, bottled beverages, meat packed in plastic, and more.
The key take-awayis this: To attain and maintain weight loss…for life, think outside the diet by changing beliefs you have about dieting, losing weight, and keeping it off. Replace limiting weight-loss “think” with insights into the underlying reasons you overeat and gain weight—some of the overeating styles we just told you about. The 10 key weight-loss solutions are your first step in jump-starting a relationship to food and eating that can help you turn overeating into optimal, whole person integrative eating…and attaining and maintaining weight loss…for life.
- Scherwitz L, Kesten D, “Seven Eating Styles Linked to Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing 1, no. 5 (2005): 342–59.
- Kesten D, Scherwitz L. “Whole Person Integrative Eating: A Program for Treating Overeating, Overweight, and Obesity,” Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal 14, no. 5 (October/November 2015): 42-50.