Do you find yourself eating when you’re not really that hungry or just eating too much?
While over-indulging occasionally won’t do much harm, if done often and over a long period of time it can lead to too much body weight and serious health issues such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
There are many reasons people overeat (eg, stress, boredom, sadness) but the good news is there are some things you can do to help avoid overeating:
1. Pay attention to your food
Eating attentively (or mindfully) can influence how much you eat and is one of the simplest things you can do to prevent overeating. Stop everything else you’re doing and pay attention only to your food. Enjoy the experience, taste and sensation of eating.
2. Have a tech-free meal
One way to make sure you’re paying attention to your food is to eat your lunch away from your desk, and your other meals away from any screens. This gives you the chance to enjoy your food without distractions and tune in to when you feel full.
3. Use a real plate
Use a real plate even if you get takeaways. Transfer your takeaways from the box or carton and put it on a real plate. This helps you see the portion size more clearly. Take some off if it’s too much.
4. Watch out for sugar and salt
It’s easy to overeat sweet and salty foods because they are super appealing to your taste buds. Foods high in sugar and salt are often highly processed, don’t fill you up and make you crave more. Try to eat healthy, unprocessed foods, which are better for you and more filling.
5. Take three bites
If you do eat something high in sugar or salt, start with three bites. Savour each bite slowly and think about which flavour is coming through the most. Ask yourself whether eating more of that food will truly satisfy you. You may find three bites are enough.
6. Beat the comfort-eat
Try to eat only when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored, stressed or unhappy. Find other ways to handle unpleasant feelings, like going for a walk, meditating, keeping a journal or talking to a friend. Drinking a glass of water can take your mind off food, too.
7. Pause and pass
If you find you’re about to comfort eat, stop and ask yourself if you’re actually hungry. If not, but you still want to eat, pause for 10 minutes before you prepare any food. Do something else in that 10 minutes, like go for a walk or stretch your body. Gradually increase your pause time so you don’t “crave and cave” but “pause and pass” instead.
If you have any concerns about overeating, please contact your GP or local healthcare provider for information and advice.
- 3 strategies to prevent overeating Harvard Chan School, US, 2015