Overeating. We’ve all done it from time to time. Maybe the piece of cake you were eating was so good, you finished it off even though your stomach was full. Or perhaps you ate the entire half-pound burger, even though you know you would have been satisfied with a smaller one. But you were treating yourself to a meal out, so you told yourself it was okay.
The reality is that overeating every once in a while isn’t going to cause you to pack on the pounds or drive you to an early grave because of its detrimental impact on your health. However, if you tend to eat too much on a regular basis, both of these consequences could very well occur, making finding ways to avoid overeating a priority to your health, and possibly even your life.
Here are five tips to avoid overeating to consider:
1. Eat Slowly. Why does this simple suggestion work? The Harvard School of Public Health explains that “eating fast short-circuits the signals that your digestive system generates to signal that it’s getting full.” By eating more slowly, you give your body time to communicate to your brain that you’ve had enough, helping you to stop before it’s so full that it physically hurts.
2. Eat When You Get Hungry. In a post on WebMD, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD explains that if you eat when you're physically hungry, then you’re eating in a “mindful and relaxed state.” This helps you avoid feeling deprived of food, which is often the result if you try to ignore the hunger. Deprivation can lead to food obsession, thus causing you to overeat even though you feel like you shouldn’t be eating at all.
3. Let yourself eat what you want sometimes. If you’re trying to spend a majority of your time eating healthy, good-for-you foods, then giving yourself small opportunities to enjoy some of your 'unhealthy' favorites in moderation can help make your eating plan easier and more enjoyable. After all, when you know a treat is ahead, making healthier eating choices isn’t quite so daunting a task. I recommend tihs frequently with my clients -- rather than thinking something you love to eat is 'off-limits,' it is simply 'saved for later.'
4. Get More Protein in Your Diet. Ask the American Council on Exercise (ACE) what to do to avoid overeating and one suggestion that is offered is to get more protein in your diet. ACE reports that this “can help you avoid high blood sugar spikes that may lead to consuming more calories.” Two of the best sources they hope you consider are lean meats and almonds (the latter is thanks largely to studies that found that people who snack on almonds prior to eating tend to lose more weight). However, it is important to remember that almonds are packed with calories, so keep it to a small handful.
5. When You Eat, Do Nothing Else. Have you ever sat down with your lunch while reading or watching TV, only to look down at your plate at some point to discover that it is gone and you don’t even remember eating it? That’s why Eating Well says that you should “focus on your food” so you know exactly how much you are eating. Plus, this enables you to pay attention to those fullness cues that are signaling you that you’ve had enough.
Follow these five tips and overeating will be a thing of the past. Or, at least it won’t be such a big part of your present, which makes it good for your health.
My most important tip, however, when it comes to overeating is of course to practice Mindful Eating. Focusing, eating slowly, appreciating the source of food, and paying close attention to your body's fullness cues are all essential in eating the right amounts of food at the right times for optimal health.
Pieces of this article were contributed by Shelly Stinson