Human beings have an innate fear of hunger, perhaps one that was borne out of the need to survival in early days. Even with evolution, this instinctual fear has not been supplanted, and in a world where convenience reigns supreme, it is not difficult to see how most people resort to overeating. This does not come without its fair share of challenges, overeating is likely to cause you to pile on the weight faster.
To counter this, you need to train yourself to eat following the body’s cue. That’s because hunger is the signal the body gives when energy levels have taken a dip. If you listen carefully, it is possible to eat just the right amount of food. Failure to observe these cues means that you are likely to overeat, usually with crazy cravings. Below are seven simple tricks to stop overeating and help you stay healthy.
1. Recognize What Your True Food Needs Actually are:
In learning how to stop overeating, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to recognize what your true food needs are. This allows you to understand your body’s cues as well as establish what you need to do at a specific moment in time.
Starvation – This is an unnerving and empty sensation which, in extreme cases, is accompanied by dizziness. Your body, essentially, has extremely low sugar levels. The surprising thing is that in such a scenario, the risk of binge-eating is extremely high.
Hunger – You are probably thinking about when you will have your next meal. Ideally, if you don’t get food within the next 45 minutes or so you are bound to slip into starvation.
Average Hunger – Moderate hunger is characterized by a growling stomach. At this point, you are probably wondering how to deal with it. For the most part, this is the ideal time to eat.
Satiated – This means that you are satisfied. You are neither hungry nor full, comfortably so. In fact, you can have another meal at a different time as you are relaxed at this point.
Full – At this point, you are merely eating for the sake of it. Your stomach feels a little bloated and there’s a sense of discomfort. One of the cues of this stage is that the food suddenly doesn’t seem as appealing or tasty as it did in the first few minutes.
Stuffed – At this point, discomfort has set in and your clothes feel a little too taut. Some people will also experience some heartburn for the simple reason that the stomach’s acidic contents keep coming up the food pipe. You may even feel nauseated because of this overfeeding.
2. Do Not Skip Breakfast:
In a fast-paced world, one of the things that you will often do is to skip breakfast because it seemingly saves time. But this comes at a cost because you are likely to overeat during the day. In fact, research conducted shows that people who eat more protein, fat and carbohydrates – the typical breakfast- remain satisfied for longer periods compared to those who skipped breakfast and ate heavy meals during the day.
What’s more unnerving perhaps, is the fact that even for those who ate breakfast, rarely was it a full balanced meal. This is likely to have you overindulging to make up for the energy deficit. Below are some simple tips to help ensure you have breakfast in the morning:
- Prepare breakfast the night before so that you have no excuse in the morning. This may mean chopping your fruit servings, packing some yogurt and even preparing your preferred smoothie.
- Place servings of cereal or instant oats on the table ahead of time. You may also do this at work so that on arrival, you can fix a meal before your work day begins.
- Study your body and do what is befitting. For instance, there are people who cannot stand an early breakfast because it nauseates them. If you belong to this category, how about a light snack early in the morning followed by a proper late breakfast at around 9 am – 10 am.
3. Train Yourself to Eat Food at a Slower Pace:
Research studies have shown that eating slowly is linked to a lower caloric consumption. The truth of the matter, however, is that when you are hungry and on the move, you are less likely to eat slowly. In fact, many people tend to munch down greedily when famished.
There’s a downside to this, and it explains why most people overeat when hungry. Eating quickly does not give the stomach ample time to signal the brain that you are actually full – and so you continue eating. To reverse this, how about focusing on slow, intentional eating? This may be hard for those who are used to gulping down food, so how do you start working on this?
The answer lies in been patient and exercising willpower. You learn to reduce your pace over time, part of which involves putting your spoon and fork down during meals. This is a conscious reminder on the need to eat slower, thus allowing your brain to receive signals that you need to stop eating from the stomach. It explains why, a slower pace of feeding allows you to feel full faster.
4. Serve Salad First:
Serving fresh fruits and salads is a timeless trick for anyone who wants to stop overeating. When served before the main course, they not only help you to keep healthy, they are also a great way to bulk up.
Rich in fiber, salad not only helps you feel full faster, it also has the added advantage of allowing you to eat the healthy foods first. This trick is especially important for the little ones for whom the appealing display of a plate of fries and that of guacamole-filled salad is a no-brainier.
Most children (and adults too!) would rather have a plate of glazed pork ribs than a bowl of healthy greens. For kids, it is tougher because their tummies are still tiny so they get full faster. It is no surprise the salad-first treat works for adults as well. While at it, focus on a clutter-free kitchen space.
On average, you are more likely to eat the first thing in sight, and if that happens to be a bowl of potato crisps, it is likely even your willpower will not be effective. In line with this, aim to keep fresh fruit and healthy snacks such as nuts within easy reach – and the unhealthy stuff far into the cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind – but this could also mean out of stomach!
5. Consider the Size of Your Plate:
The logic in serving on smaller plates revolves around the fact that you not only have less space for lots of food, you are also likely to feel just as satiated. It has long been said that your eyes will play tricks on you if you serve on gigantic plates; you end up thinking that you are eating less, while in reality, you are probably wolfing down more food than you should.
Take for instance how adults and kids serve cereal. Adults will often serve in a slightly larger bowl, and this translates to almost a third more serving. In kids, this is even more pronounced because the little ones are easily affected by food visibility, the amount of food available as well as how easy the food is to reach. Various studies have been conducted to show that even serving cutlery has an effect on the amount of food you serve. The bottom line is this: to stop overeating, use smaller crockery and cutlery.
6. Opt for High-Volume Meals:
High-volume meals, by definition, refer to foods which have high water content. These are recommended because they play a great role in suppressing hunger. Such foods include fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only do they present bigger portions for far less calories, they also tend to be healthier than foods which are low in water content.
To put this in perspective, consider the amount of salad you would have to eat to feel satisfied when compared to the amount of potato crisps for the same effect. With salads, you get to eat considerably smaller portions compared to potato crisps or crackers. The golden rule here is to eat more food, but that which has a low caloric view. Below are simple tips that you can use to help you stop overeating in this regard:
- Opt for fresh fruit instead of dried food. These tend to have a higher volume.
- Introduce extra vegetables to your frozen dinner to bulk it up and eat your way to healthy portions. Excellent examples include fresh tomatoes, steamed broccoli and stir-fried cauliflower among others.
- Ensure that meals are also rich in fiber. This is recommended because fiber helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Since the body processes fiber slowly, you are likely to remain satisfied for longer. The result is fewer hunger pangs and binge-eating, which in turn helps you eat less.
- Lastly, stay hydrated. Drink enough water during the day. Sometimes, it is not actually a cue for hunger – instead, the body is thirsty and all you need to reset is to drink some water.
7. Keep a Food Journal and Avoid Emotional Eating:
A food journal, just as the name suggests, is a journal with entries that include all your meals in any given day. This works because you are able to hold yourself accountable. Writing down everything that you eat goes a long way in helping you track poor food choices.
Studies underscore the importance of a food journal with results that indicate people eat significantly less when they have to make entries into the journal. The beauty about this is that you do not need to carry a physical journal as there are so many smartphone applications that you can use to monitor your food intake. What’s more, this is a great tool for those who struggle with emotional eating.
Emotional eating is defined as the act of overindulging in response to stressors. Whether it is caused by a verbal fight with your partner, stress at the workplace or financial challenges, emotional eating is not healthy. Distractions are thought to be time-wasters, but in the case of emotional eating, they are a great way to avoid this bad practice.
Find non-food ways to calm your nerves and channel the energy to more productive activities. This could mean calling up an old friend, walking in the outdoors and even meditation. Doing this before slumping on the couch with a bag of fries will help you pick up healthy eating habits!
In addition to this, make sure that you get enough rest each night. A poor night’s sleep makes it easy to overeat as the body tries to compensate for the low energy levels. It also helps to eat several regular small-sized meals as opposed to three large meals. If you struggle with this, consider adding low-caloric snacks in between meals.
A handful of nuts, a granola bar or a glass of juice will help you keep the hunger pangs at bay in a healthy manner. While these tips work across the board, it is important to consult your nutritionist if you suffer from a pre-existing disease or are struggling with obesity.