Author: Margaret Dew
May 7th, 2018 • 14 min read
Last Updated: August 12th, 2018
Inspiration of the article:
Unless you're keeping yourself in check or you're simply good at stopping yourself, it's very easy to fall in the habit of overeating. While overeating can provide a quick boost for feelings of happiness, its not a great idea if you're trying to lose weight.
So if you've been spoiling yourself by reaching for that last second (or third/fourth/fifth) serving of lasagna, you're making it hard for yourself to achieve your weight loss goal. You are overeating.
Unfortunately overeating happens way too often in all of us. In addition, there is a pretty good chance that we don't even notice that we are overeating. Yikes!
If asking the question "How do I stop overeating and what are some tips to avoid that?" is one of your concerns, then read on because this article is for you :)
If you have a habit of overeating, its normal. Humans have a tendency to overeat and there are plenty of others that probably overeat 2 times more than anyone you know. According to an article from healthdata.org, authors informed that an estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight and that nearly three-quarters of American men and more than 60% of women are obese or overweight.
There are plenty of reasions why Americans are overweight and obese. To name them all is beyond this article, but there is one crucial reason of all: overeating.
Related: 15 Healthy Weight Loss Habits
At the house that I currently live at, the first thing I see as soon as I step inside is a basket of fruits right on the kitchen table. I arrive home from a day of work at the same everyday: approximately 5:10 PM. As soon I am done switching to pajamas I would usually end up grabbing an apple from the basket to munch on. Why? Because apples are healthy and because they're there.
I have a habit of grabbing food at a readily available location. I'm tired from work, I need something to eat, and apples are yummy. I'm responding to my habits and outside cues. If the fruits basket wasn't there, I would grab the next readily available food nearby and start munching down on whatever I find. I have created a habit that is associated with coming home from work and feeling tired. I just want rest and be done. I want to feel better.
Our bodies are designed to eat when we spot food. We feel more satisfied when we eat until we feel full. When we see food, our brains say, "Hey look, theres food! Lets eat!"
So when you're taking another slice off of that yummy cake, you may have just formed a habit of eating where you desire to feel entirely satisfied.
Here's a useful tactic: Take your time eating and you will feel full sooner than you normally would for the remaining leftovers on the plate.
When you take your time eating you benefit from better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with your meals, unless, umm, you WANT to suffer from poor digestion and increased weight gain.
Bottom Line: Take your time eating and enjoy the food a little more!
Did you know that food can actually make you hungrier?
Depending on the type of food that you eat, you might find yourself feeling hungrier sooner than you would expect. Foods with little to no nutritional values in them can cause your blood sugar levels to rise---making you feel hungrier sooner.
Examples of these are:
To add onto that, sugar activates the brain in a way that other foods don't: keeping it further away from feeling full.
Related: 15 Healthy Weight Loss Habits
Some salty foods can also make you feel hungrier.
Air conditioning has been brought up in the past to be a cause of weight gain. Although I agree that air conditioning is a good topic to talk about weight gain, I think the more appropriate topic would be to focus on weather, or tempature.
Temperature can cause us humans to react in interesting ways. For example, from researching seasons and how they affect dieting and weight loss, I learned that spring is the best time of the year to lose weight as opposed to the summer. The warmer the temperature is, the less energy/calories your body needs to keep you warm.
When our bodies are in the thermoneutral zone zone, this is where our body does not have to regulate our body temperature, so we feel less inclined to eat because we already feel relaxed and the need for satisfaction is less likely to be strongly desired.
However, when our bodies are above or below this zone, we increase the amount of energy we spend, which "decreases energy stores", such as fat (4).
Restricting calorie intake until you’re starving, chowing down on whatever’s nearby, and then re-starting the diet all over again plays a role in developing overeating habits.
When we restrict calories to a level under what’s needed to function optimally, our bodies think that they are starving. And when we finally do eat, we’re more likely to stuff our faces, causing us to eat well past the point of satiety.
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I recall a day last year where I wasn't in the mood to eat anything beginning from the moment I woke up (6:30am) to the time I had just arrived in the area back home from work (5pm)
The feeling of hunger was really overwhelming...
So I went to buy chinese food from a local fast food restaurant. I was so hungry that I ate as quick as I can. I didn't care about anything but to get rid of the hunger. I ended up finishing the whole entree... in the shortest time I could ever imagine. But I was still feeling a little hungry. It was my first meal of the day and the terrifying feeling of hunger was fortunately deteriorating after that meal. I was almost there. I couldn't wait to feel full and get on with my day.
But I was still hungry.
So I ended up buying another entree and ate more until I was completely full.
An hour later, my stomach began to hurt. I felt like the food in my stomach was about to explode through my skin. This was the absolute worst bloating feeling I had ever went through. I gained 1.5 pounds the morning afterwards. It took me weeks to burn that off.
Eat regularly and don't starve yourself like I just did!
Simply put, if you're not practicing mindful eating then you're more likely to overeat.
Leo Babauta shared a great story of when he used to eat mindlessly on a daily basis.
He was just like any average person who suffered poor eating habits to relieve common problems that many of us are familiar with: stress, lack of socializing, increased cravings, and the increased desire to satisfy ourselves. But, when he finally started changing his eating habits, he realized how bad things were. He realized how hard it was to change after being so accustomed to eating to fill his needs before.
Remember what I said in the beginning about forming habits and responding to them? This causes you to overeat and gain weight.
When Leo started changing his eating habits, things were finally beginning to change. I'm going to share you a list of things he shared when practicing eating mindlessly, which I think is crucial if you want to lose weight more effectively. These are some of the things you might just benefit from:
So pay attention! If you've been given an overquantified plate of food, please be aware that you might be overeating! When portion sizes are increased, people eat more.
As mentioned earlier, foods that barely have any nutritional value in them can make you hungrier. This happens when they cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
So, instead you should try to eat for foods that are more rich in nutrients. For your convenience, here is a quick list of foods that are rich in nutrients:
Chronic stress affects our health in so many ways, and overeating is unsurprisingly one of them. Regular physical activity in the gym is a guaranteed tactic to help manage stress and won't result in excessive pounds that the weight stress eating does to you.
In fact, reducing your stress levels is one of the best ways to lower cortisol, which is the hormone that can lead to belly fat.
One of the best ways to keep yourself from overeating out of boredom or losing track of how much you’ve consumed in one sitting is to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating is the opposite of the emotional eating that often leads to overeating. It makes eating a much more thoughtful process. You’ll be paying attention to when you’re actually hungry, not just when it feels like you should be eating because of the time of day or external cues.
It takes into account what you feel like eating, too, like perhaps you want something warm for lunch because it’s cold out. When you do sit down to eat, even for snacks, mindful eating asks that you give food your full attention and take note of how you’re engaging your senses. And finally, you slow down so that you can observe when you’re full. Intuitive eating is quite similar, too.
Still searching for ways for how to stop overeating? If you’re someone who struggles with eating between meals, intermittent fasting can be helpful in preventing consistent overeating. The benefits of intermittent fasting and alternate day fasting range from regulating the hormones that decide when you feel hungry or full to weight loss. It doesn’t need to be drastic, either.
While there are tons of options for intermittent fasting, ranging from to just not eating for 12–16 hours, essentially you stay away from food for a determinate amount of time and then, during eating hours, you enjoy what you want, with a focus on protein and quality, complex carbohydrates. With intermittent fasting, the pressure is off on overeating to some extent, since you’ll completely ban food outside of eating hours and then have the freedom to enjoy as much as you’d like during meal times. You’re likely to find that eventually, you’re practicing more mindful eating naturally.
If you think you might overeat at times but aren’t too sure when or how much, keeping a food journal is a good way of identifying problem spots. I use the MyFitnessPal mobile app to keep track of my calorie count and manage my day to day tasks when it comes to physical activity and my diet plan.
Having your own day-to-day journal can be really handy in helping you count your calories after every meal, snack, or even beverages. In addition, you are easily able to spot when you are about to overeat or when its time to put a raincheck on that cheesecake for another time.
The more you write down, the more you're able to go back to it and adjust/analyze changes accordingly! I keep an active "journal" myself by using the MyFitnessPal app. It allowed me to easily manage my calorie intake and I ended up losing 11.4lbs in one month back in November last year. It works wonders to keep track!
If you're also taking note of how you feel before and after every meal or exercise, you will be able to better approach your next days coming. For example, do you find yourself coming home later than usual and eating a couple of chocolate chip cookies? Do you find that when you come home just 30 minutes earlier, you spend the extra time to cook something that is healthier? Do you tend to make healthier decisions when you go to the gym on mondays? Look for patterns that can help you spot where your bad habits are, and adjust accordingly!
One of the most important benefits of eating slowly is that it gives your body time to recognize that you’re full.
It takes about twenty minutes from the start of a meal for the brain to send out signals of satiety. Most people’s meals don’t even last that long!
Imagine the extra calories you could ingest simply because you didn’t allow your body time to register that it no longer required food. Now imagine the effect of those extra calories on your weight.
Eating slowly also helps us feel more satisfied — which is different than just being “full”.
When you slow down, savor a meal, pay attention to tastes and textures, and appreciate each mindful bite, you leave the table feeling good in your soul… even if all you ate was a baloney sandwich.
Overeating happens so common especially in the life we live in now. There are so many opportunities to slip, fall, and get behind. But with acknowledgement, commitment and mindfulness we can push ourselves to reach our weight loss goal further than we could imagine. The biggest takeaway from here is to stay consistent and keep yourself in check. This involves mindful eating, healthy food choices, being physically active and keeping yourself comfy. The moment your body desires something else--disrupting your flow---is the moment that everything else will be slowly dragged down along, because then your consistency is no longer consistent and your focus needs to be shifted to accomodate the slack.
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