How many times have you eaten when you weren’t even hungry or kept on eating past the point you felt comfortably full? I’m betting it’s happened more than a few times. Many of us are guilty of overeating and, subsequently, weigh more than we should. Overeating also makes losing weight harder than it needs to be.
There are lots of reasons people overeat including habit, greed, stress, boredom, and bad portion control. But, one you fix these problems, you’ll find losing weight and staying slim so much easier.
Here are my top five tips for preventing overeating!
1) Use smaller plates
According to a large number of studies, most of which were conducted at Cornell University, the smaller your plate, the less you are likely to overeat. Small plates make your meals look bigger than they really are, and that tricks your brain into feeling fuller, sooner.
As losing weight involves eating less food, if you put your smaller meals on regular plates, they may look insubstantial, and you end up thinking “that’ll never fill me up!” This is not a good mindset to have before eating a meal.
Instead, small plates make those smaller servings look bigger and more filling. The result? Less tendency to overeat.
2) Stop and chew your food
Your brain and stomach might only be a couple of feet apart, but they can take a very long time to talk to each other. In fact, it can take as long as 15 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full. That whole time, you will continue to eat, despite having had enough.
The more you chew, and the slower you eat, the sooner your brain will get the message you are full, and the sooner you’ll stop eating.
Many years ago, there as a diet called the Mastication diet that required followers to chew each and every mouthful of food 32 times – once for each adult tooth. You don’t have to count your chews, but I do suggest taking a few seconds to chew each mouthful of food before swallowing. This will also make your meals easier to digest, resulting in less bloating.
3) Ask yourself, why are you eating?
Are you hungry? Or are you bored, tired, stressed, upset, sad, angry, or lonely? A lot of people are emotional eaters, and eat not because they are hungry, but because food makes them feel good.
The next time you find yourself reaching for food outside of mealtimes, ask yourself why you want to eat. If you are genuinely hungry, it’s okay to have a snack. But, if you are just bored, or are eating out of habit, be aware you are eating unnecessarily, and go and do something else instead.
4) Drink more water – especially before meals
The next time you find yourself reaching for food outside of mealtimes, grab a tall glass of water instead. Water contains no calories, but can still fill you up. It’s also a good way to replace an unhealthy habit (eating when not hungry) with a good one (drinking water to hydrate.)
5) Eat less variety
Have you ever noticed how you can eat a lot more food when you are at something like a buffet? This is because your brain really likes experiencing lots of different culinary tastes and textures. You might even find that, even though you are feeling full, you can still eat more when you select something that tastes very different to what you ate before. That’s why so many people can still eat a dessert after a big meal!
You can use this factoid in reverse by overloading your taste buds with similar foods to reduce overeating. This is called sensory-specific satiety. To help sensory-specific satiety work for you, try limiting your food choices. For instance, build your meals around fewer (healthy) ingredients to reduce the variety of flavors, colors, and textures you’re exposed to. Or, if you go to a restaurant or buffet, choose similar-tasting dishes for your appetizer and your main course rather than a range of flavors.
For more information on developing healthy eating habits, and eating healthily in general, make sure you check out my article Nutrition Facts – A Practical Guide About Nutrition.