Today, we look at how to stop overeating so you can lose your excess pounds.
Overeating is something most of us are guilty of from time to time. There would be few amongst us who could claim never to have finished off an open bag of potato chips because they would “only go stale” if we put them aside for another day, or to never have eaten the last of the cookies because “four cookies are not worth keeping.”
This type of overeating is common. If it only happens occasionally and you are not battling a serious weight problem, no harm should come of it. Overeating does, however, become a problem if it’s something that you do often enough to impact your health and weight or your weight loss efforts. In this situation, knowing how to stop overeating is vital.
There’s no way around it. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to learn how to stop overeating.
Following are five common reasons people overeat, along with some tips on how to stop overeating and start making better food and lifestyle choices.
Reasons Why and Tips on How to Stop Overeating
1) You think all healthy food is low in calories
When we view a certain food as being healthy, we tend to assume it is also low in calories. Asked to estimate the calorie count of snack foods labeled as organic, participants in one US study consistently evaluated the snacks as containing 40% fewer calories than they actually do. Another study, also in the US, found that most people who buy meals from fast-food chains underestimate the number of calories in their food by around 200.
A common trap that can lead to overeating is believing that low or no-fat and low-sugar or sugar-free foods are healthy and low in calories. The reality is that packaged foods that contain little or no fat may have a high sugar content. And foods with little or no sugar may contain a significant amount of fat. If you’re not aware of this, you could eat far more of the product than you otherwise would.
So if you are trying to lose weight and you’re concerned about overeating, make it a priority to find out the calorie count of any and all foods you intend to eat. If you prepare your own meals, an electronic calorie counter will enable you to do this easily by giving you a calorie breakdown of the ingredients you use.
When eating out, check the restaurant’s website to see if it lists the calorie count of their meals. If it doesn’t, try to dine in establishments that display this information.
Being aware of the number of calories you are about to consume will help prevent you from overeating. This has undoubtedly been the case in New York, where fast food restaurants show the calorie count on their menus beside the meals. Since the introduction of this system, the average diner is consuming approximately 160 fewer calories per visit.
2) You’re trying too hard to be healthy
Research carried out at Duke University in the US showed that diners in restaurants offering healthy, low-calorie alternatives such as steamed vegetables and salads, are three times more likely to order a side of French fries than they would if they were dining at a restaurant that didn’t offer healthy alternatives.
Researchers concluded that this is because by merely considering eating healthily, we feel we’ve done the right thing without actually having done so. It was also found that after weighing up our options, many of us go on to choose the meal we think we will most enjoy. This is the case regardless of whether it is healthy and low in calories or unhealthy and fattening.
Before selecting a meal or snack that will hinder your weight loss, stop for a minute. Ask yourself if you really want the food you are thinking of getting. You may find that you are only ordering it out of habit. This one step alone will go a long way towards helping you to stop overeating.
Thinking we can’t have something can make us feel deprived, causing us to desire it even more. By asking yourself if you really want the food, you are permitting yourself to have it. This pause for thought results in the majority of people making healthier food choices.
3) Your friends influence your food choices
It’s been established that when we consume approximately 35% more when dining with others compared to when eating alone. Studies have also determined that women eat more when having a meal or a snack with other women than they do when they eat in the company of men.
Research has also shown that having overweight friends and family members can result in us eating more. A super-slim friend or family member can also be an unwise dining companion if you’re trying to lose weight. The reason for this is that we unconsciously take cues from people we aspire to be like or look like.
This means that if we aspire to be as slim as our friend, we may follow her lead when it comes to food choices. That will not be a problem if she eats healthily, but beware if she is one of those lucky people who can eat anything and everything and not gain an ounce!
While we can’t change the eating habits of our friends, we can change our own eating habits. When dining out with a slim friend, try ordering your meal before she orders hers. This way, her choice of food won’t influence yours.
If you do slip up and order something fattening, eat it slowly. And remember, you don’t have to eat everything that’s in front of you. Pause after every few mouthfuls and ask yourself if you’ve eaten enough. Don’t let the fact that you could have made a better meal choice trigger an all or nothing mentality. This could see you reasoning you may as well have dessert since you’ve broken your diet anyway.
Rather than spending time eating with a slim friend, try to arrange things that do not involve food. Go for a walk together instead, catch a movie or window shop.
4) You hyper-eat
According to Dr. David A Kessler, author of ‘The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite’, foods containing high levels of sugar, fat, and salt trigger overeating. Such foods are said to stimulate the reward center of our brain, making us feel good.
When we eat them, we quickly become conditioned to wanting more of the same. This is as much for the feeling it gives us as for the taste of the food itself. We can then find ourselves in an unhealthy eating pattern that will pile on pounds and be difficult to break.
In one study, participants were instructed to eat a high-fat, high-sugar snack at a particular time five days in a row. When told to discontinue this routine, those who took part in the study craved sweet food every morning at the time they’d become used to eating it.
To successfully stop overeating we must change the way we think about food. Don’t view it as a reward or something to make you feel good. Visualize unhealthy food for what it is, which is food that will impact negatively on your weight and health.
5) You’re an emotional eater
Some people find themselves overeating not because they are hungry, but because they regard food as being both comforting and something that provides relief from stress. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally overindulging in our favorite treats or desserts. A problem arises, however, for those who immediately turn to food whenever they are stressed, upset, angry, bored, or tired.
If this is something you habitually do, acknowledge to yourself that no matter how much food you eat it will not resolve your emotional hunger. Any relief eating under such circumstances gives you will be very short-lived. The issue or emotion you are trying to avoid by using food as a distraction will still exist. You will also regret having overeaten, so it’s a no-win situation.
Being aware of your emotional eating triggers is the first step in controlling overeating. If you are unable to find a healthy way of dealing with the uncomfortable emotions that lead to overeating, you will have a tough time figuring out how to stop overeating and, as a result, managing your weight.
Final Words on How to Stop Overeating
In this article, we’ve looked at five common reasons why people overeat. Being aware of the reason or reasons you overindulge in food is the first step towards stopping overeating. Make any necessary lifestyle changes, practice mindful eating, exercise regularly, and you will lose weight.
If you try and you are unable to stop overeating, seek help from a medical professional.