No matter our cravings, we all love to overindulge in foods, especially when shared with good company. However, if we habitually overeat, it can lead to a host of health problems. Here are 5 tips to help you overcome overeating starting today.
What are the Effects of Overeating?
Anything done in excess is never recommended. When it comes to overeating, especially excessive consumption of junk food such as burgers, bacon, cakes, chips, and sugary drinks, your body will end up having more calories than it needs. Calories that are not burned for use as body energy are stored as fat. This increases your risk of chronic health problems such as the following:
• Excess weight
• Sleep disturbance
It's also no coincidence that you feel bloated and uncomfortable when you overeat. MD Anderson's Research Dietitian Erma Levy explains that the discomfort you feel after eating beyond the point of fullness is due to your stomach expanding and pushing against other organs. At this juncture, you may feel “tired, sluggish or drowsy” or your clothes may already feel tight.
Furthermore, some people respond to negative emotions or stressful situations by overeating. Emotional hunger, which is easily triggered by the stressors of daily life, can increase your intake of unhealthy foods. Elevated cortisol and insulin levels as well as your hunger hormone ghrelin are some of the reasons behind your stress-induced food cravings.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that overeating is different from binge eating. Binge eating is a form of eating disorder characterized by frequent and uncontrollable consumption of large amounts of food.
You may derive enjoyment from food when you overeat, but binge eating is followed by guilt and shame partly due to this feeling of lack of self-control. Those who suffer from this eating disorder often have a poor body image and low self-esteem. Talk to your doctor if you think that you have the disorder.
How to Avoid Overeating
1. Practice Portion Control
Portion sizes refer to the amount of food that is consumed in one sitting. Practising food portions allows you to avoid overeating by reducing your average food intake.
Moreover, it makes you more mindful of what you put on your plate-- enabling you to both improve your food choices and enjoy a wide variety of meals.
Here are some tips to help you practice portion control:
1. Eat Slowly and Mindfully: It takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to send signals to your brain that it’s full. Slow and mindful eating allows this exchange to happen, creating a space for you to stop and reduce your food consumption.
2. Use Smaller Plates: A University of Cambridge study shows that people eat more when “offered larger-sized portions, packages, or tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions.” Try using a smaller plate to help control your portion size.
3. Share Your Food When Dining Out: To reduce your food intake when eating out, order or consume half a portion only. Either share the other half with your friend or have it wrapped in a to-go container.
2. Add More Protein and Fiber to Your Diet
For a sustained eating pattern modification, the change has to be gradual. Instead of removing anything unhealthy from your diet or reducing your portions in an instant, why not slowly introduce protein-rich foods such as eggs, potatoes, and legumes to your meals? High-protein foods make you feel full throughout the day even when you eat less.
Apart from protein, fibre-rich foods such as whole grains, broccoli, beans, and avocados also make you feel full longer because it takes a long time to digest them. This is how fibre curbs your increased appetite or overeating tendencies.
3. Set Aside Distractions When Eating
Many studies suggest that distractions such as smartphones, television, and working while eating can result in the overconsumption of meals. One reason is that divided attention may make you eat faster, giving your stomach insufficient time to tell your brain that you’re full. As a result, you may end up eating more than usual.
By removing all the distractions, you can eat slowly and mindfully- thus giving you more time to enjoy the texture, smell, and taste of your food.
4. Start a Food Journal
Monitor your food intake daily through a food diary, a useful tool to help you stop overeating. Your journal will make you understand your eating habits and patterns by identifying what goes onto your plate. From there, you can start building a healthy eating plan to avoid mindless eating.
What to jot down? You may include what, how much, when, and where you’re eating but not for weight loss and calorie-intake monitoring. Instead, your journal should let you dig deep concerning your relationship with food, according to the Center for Growth.
5. Don’t Skip Meals
Skipping meals causes intense hunger and increases your craving for sugary foods. If you don’t eat for an extended period, your metabolism slows down and your body goes into survival mode. Under such a condition, you can't help but eat more when you finally have your meal.
To avoid overeating as a result of skipping meals, Wellness Dietitian Kylie Arrindell suggests going for healthy snacks between meals or frequently eating smaller meals throughout the day.
We’ve all been there. We consume lots of food in buffet restaurants and during parties and family gatherings. The above 5 tips are a good starting point to build a healthy relationship with food and make the right change. By being intentional about what you eat, you’re taking care of yourself better for a stronger you.
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