It’s that time of they year when we’re all a little more motivated to make healthier food choices. Whether it’s a desire to have more energy, heal a chronic disease or just watch your figure, choosing more nutritious foods is always a great place to start. But, what if you feel that you already do make healthy food choices but aren’t finding the results you were expecting?
Overeating is a common habit for many Americans, and can lead to unwanted weight, even if it is on healthy foods. If you find yourself uncomfortably full after meals or reaching for food when you’re not even hungry, here are some tips to help you conquer this nasty little habit and become more in tune with your body’s signals.
Don’t wait until you’re “starving” to eat. Waiting too long to eat is a known trigger for overeating. In this ravenous state, your body kicks into survival mode and you’re more likely to eat at a fast pace, which disables your body to register your satiety cues before you’ve eaten too much. Ideally, you want to eat when your hunger level is at a 4 on a scale of 1-10, 1 being ravenous and 10 feeling sick from eating too much. At a 4, you begin to feel the first signs of hunger, which could be mild gurgling/growling of the stomach or difficulty concentrating. If you struggle with recognizing your hunger at first, keep in mind that going over 5 hours without eating during the day is usually too long, so schedule meals and snacks within 2-4 hours.
Eat what you really want. How many times have you really wanted to a cookie but settled on an apple, only to finish the apple feeling unsatisfied and then ate the cookie too?! Often when we eat foods that we don’t really want, we overeat to compensate the pleasure factor, and sometimes end up eating what we wanted in the first place too! Sometimes you have no strong preference in what to eat, but sometimes you do! In the case of the later, choose what really sounds good, enjoy it and you’re less likely to overindulge.
Eat in a relaxing and enjoyable environment. Ever tried to stuff something in your mouth in a rush? Or to enjoy your food during a tense conversation? Yeah, not exactly the most pleasurable experiences, are they? Having a calm and pleasant atmosphere when eating is key to enjoying your food. In the right situation, you should have ample time to eat and be able to really savor your meal. Nothing ruins a meal like feeling hurried, anxious, or upset. Unpleasant meals often lead to compensating with overeating either at the time or later that day.
Reassess your hunger half way through your meal. If you’re a part of the “clean your plate” club, then this one's for you. Hunger doesn’t end when all the food is gone, it ends when your body says so! So what should your plate look like at the end of a meal? Well, anything really! Some days you may clean the plate and go back for more, others you may be satisfied with just half a portion. There is no right or wrong amount to eat, as long as you’re listening to your body. Stopping half way through a meal for a mini break of a few minutes can help you become better in tune with your fullness level.
Remember, you can always have more later! Sometimes we feel that it’s now or never. Whether you're at your favorite restaurant or your aunt made her special dessert, sometimes you can find yourself feeling out of control when it comes to "limited time offer" foods. But, remember this: you’re an adult and if you want something specific to eat, then go get yourself some. BOOM. Internal myth blasted! Continuing to eat despite you were full a long time ago, only decreases the pleasure factor and makes you feel miserable after the fact. Remind yourself that you can always have more or get special food item “X” later, when you’re hungry again and you can really enjoy it!
Using any or all of these five tips will take away the anxiety of changing your dietary habits. It’s all about finding the balance that’s right for your life and body, which no one else can tell you. So plan accordingly, take the time to enjoy and listen, and your body will tell you exactly what it needs (or doesn’t!).
Disclaimer: The information shared on this website is for general purposes only and has not been reviewed by the FDA. The information is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical conditions and is not intended to take the place of advice from your medical professional. You should seek the care of your doctor before changing dietary or lifestyle habits. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.