Tips on How to Prevent Overeating
Overeating is kind of the ‘M.O.’ over the holidays. We tend to think ‘Well, I’ll just jump back after these next few weeks.’ But unfortunately, it tends to be a bit harder to get back on track like that.
Once you begin eating healthy, exercising, and conditioning, you immediately begin to build muscle. Every day after that, you are gaining muscle, losing weight, and getting healthier by the day. But, if you do not continue your routine, no matter if it is a hard workout or not, you will begin losing all the muscle you worked so hard to gain and tone.
In as little as two weeks, and with no physical activity, you will have to start from square 1, as if nothing was done at all!
There are two types of overeating:
- Eating when you are not hungry.
- Eating too much although you know you are full.
Our culture is saturated with food advertisements – enticing us to ‘indulge’, ‘laugh, eat, tis’ the season’, ‘drink’ etc., etc.- and they are all designed to make us give in and eat more than we actually want and drink more than when need to. Advertisements are designed to entice us to eat when we don’t actually feel like it, and the food that is consistently being advertised (foods high in saturated fats, high in sugar, extremely processed, and high in salt) that trick your brain and taste buds into thinking that you need more.
Many of us have been taught to finish the food on our plates or we can’t leave the table, we snack, we eat large meals morning, noon, and night, and begin to crave food that has little to no nutritional value.
Yes, you can re-train your brain.
1. Pay attention to what you’re eating.
Stop scrolling the gram. Stop staring at your computer and eating on the side, make eating the only activity that you are you are doing, no multi-tasking. Look forward to eating as a time to meditate, relax, and truly take a break from everything.
There is a research that shows taking away the visual aspect of how much you’ve eaten, will trick your brain into thinking it hasn’t eaten enough.
- Putting away all that blue light (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) will give you a break from the screen, and consequently, may be more productive afterwards.
- Take time to prepare your food – even if its takeout. Plate it! Look at the portion sizes, don’t let your brain trick you.
2. Sugar and Salt – We all Love it, But it Doesn’t Love You
Sugar and salt are taste bud magicians. Yes, these are the cause of overeating sweet and salty food products – which are most likely highly processed. As you cut down on highly processed foods, your palate will adjust so that over time, you’re satisfied with far lower amounts of sugar and salt.
- Breaking the habit: Fruit! Natural sugar. Really craving? Slowly savor and chew each and every (small portion!) bite of your favorite guilty pleasure.
- SALT! Our one weakness. Try to go for lightly roasted nuts, unsalted savory treats, and taking them home to toss in herbs and spices yourself so you can control what goes in and out.
- Dip raw veggies in hummus. Note that some commercially prepared dips are high in sodium, so you need to read the nutrition label carefully. OR better yet, make your own.
If you really want to indulge in sugar and salt, stick to three bites. That’s it. Ask yourself:
Is this a complex flavor? Or is sugar/salt dominating the overall taste
Will this truly satisfy me, am I just eating to eat it?
Will this nourish me? Or will I be hungrier after. Are these just empty calories?
Real food fills you up, it does not prompt you to eat more because you aren’t satiated. That’s the sugar and salt talking.
3. Comfort foods – Don’t Neglect, Just Answer Differently
These emotions can often lead to eating when you truly aren’t hungry. Let meal time be a way to honor yourself and real hunger, not a way to soothe feelings of uneasiness and unrest.
Need a pick-me-up? Go for a walk. Chat with a friend. Vent to your journal, draw, you name it! Anything!
Women who show higher levels of stress respond differently to pictures of highly caloric food than women with lower stress levels. The parts of the brain that lit up were the ones that controlled reward, motivation, and habitual decision making. They also showed less activity in the regions of the brain that linked to strategic planning and control.
What does this mean? Persistent stress suggests that the brain will alter its response to food in ways that will lead to terrible eating habits. Fight it!
Ask yourself the same questions:
- Am I really hungry?
- If you’re not, but still tempted to eat, do something else for 10 minutes.
- When we are experiencing weird emotions, we go to autopilot, and if autopilot involves eating, it could be extremely detrimental. Teaching ourselves to “purposefully pause” can help us become more mindful and less stress-driven.
- Gradually increase your “pause,” to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, and so on. You may not be able to control your comfort food cravings, but you can change your response to them. By gradually lengthening your response time, you may find that you’re able to change your habit from “crave & cave” to “pause & pass.”
- You’ve made it!