Are there some days where you feel out of control with food?
Overeating is common. But, fortunately, there are many ways to stop overeating.
Some involve looking at other areas of your health (like sleep and stress levels). Some require a bit of tweaking to your meal planning.
And some require you to modify the environment in which you eat!
In this post, I’ll explain 7 ways to stop overeating with mindful eating techniques.
When do we ever JUST eat?
Nowadays, when we’re eating, we’re also scrolling social media, watching TV, working at our computer, or driving.
Unfortunately, this distracted eating leads to overeating. In fact, a large review of 24 studies found that distracted eating led people to eat more calories during a meal (1). If that wasn’t enough, mealtime distractions can also increase the amount of food you eat later that day!
Start with eliminating all technology for at least one meal per day. Try putting your phone in a different room, stepping away from your computer at lunch, and turning off the background TV at dinner.
We live in such a stimulated society, that it can feel weird to not have the constant noise, pinging, or distractions! Start small, recognize how it feels, and keep trying!
There is some ridiculous advice on the internet about preventing hunger.
People are recommending the craziest things all to try to make your body forget that you are hungry!
Physical hunger is not a bad thing. It’s biological! We’ve become so out of touch with our internal hunger cues. Which is most likely due to the fact that hunger is demonized and we’ve become mindlessly distracted whenever we eat.
Think of your hunger as a scale from 1 to 10. Number 1 is ravenous hunger. You would eat anything and everything in sight! Number 10 is painfully full. It’s that food coma feeling you get after Thanksgiving where you’re super uncomfortable.
The safe zone lies between 4 and 7!
Don’t eat past a 7. Check in with your hunger midway during the meal. Where are you on the hunger scale? Are you satisfied, but could probably eat more? If so, you’re likely at a 7, which is a good place to stop.
I know we’ve all done it at some point!
But, eating chips straight from the bag, or ice cream straight from the pint doesn’t allow you to stop and assess your fullness score (see above).
A large part of mindful eating is optimizing your environment in a way that doesn’t require heroic willpower or discipline. It’s no surprise that eating straight from the container can lead to overeating and mindless munching.
Don’t eat food straight from the container. Portion out food items into a small bowl and put the food container back into the pantry. You can always go back for more if you still feel physically hungry!
Protein and fat provide many benefits when learning how to stop overeating.
For one, protein and fat both stabilize blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar is stable, you are less likely to ride the “sugar craving rollercoaster.” This rapid fluctuation in blood sugar can lead to more cravings and overeating throughout the day.
Additionally, protein and fat are slowly absorbed and are more satiating. This is just a fancy word for feeling full and satisfied! When you include protein and fat with your meals and snacks, you feel less hungry between meals and can stay in the “safe zone” of the hunger scale.
Start with including a healthy protein and fat with your breakfast meal. Here are some breakfast ideas to try! Then, pack at least 1 or 2 snacks that contain a source of protein and fat as well. Download my snack pairing guide for over 30 examples.
Oftentimes, overeating is the result of emotional hunger.
Knowing whether your hunger is emotional vs. physical can help you discern whether your body actually needs something else instead.
Before grabbing a meal or snack, do a quick assessment of your hunger level. Using the questions above, is your hunger emotional or physical? This is a particularly useful tool to use during stressful or (of course) emotional times!
Not all emotional eating is bad. Food can be nostalgic, celebratory, or cultural and social! But, when we start using food to cope with or hide our emotions, that’s when it requires intervention.
If you’re experiencing emotional hunger and emotional cravings, what does your body actually need at that moment? I am almost certain it is not a whole package of cookies or a large pizza.
Do you need more sleep? Do you need to talk it through with a friend or a therapist? Do you need to be comforted? Try to find the underlying reason behind the emotional craving.
Sleep is crucial to balance appetite hormones and regulate hunger.
Studies show that sleeping less than five hours per night causes an imbalance in your appetite hormones.
The next day you feel constantly hungry and never satisfied. On top of that, you will experience a 40 percent increase in sugar cravings the next day.
When you do eat sugar with more sleepiness, research shows people will eat 300 more calories than when well rested.
Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Develop a regular nighttime routine, and avoid using electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime. To boost your natural sleep cycle, try getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight per day to help set your internal clock. A post-lunch walk is a great way to do this!
Most diets out there make you rely on THEIR rules.
They tell you what you should and shouldn’t be eating.
Short-term, restrictive diets may make you lose weight initially. But, when we restrict many foods in our diet, we often become obsessed with those foods. Sometimes, this can lead to overeating once we finally allow ourselves to have those foods.
Instead of focusing on what foods you can’t have, focus on building a solid foundation of healthy habits, regularly planned meals and snacks, and undistracted mealtime.
Avoid restrictive dieting (unless medically necessary). Fuel your body with enough nutrients and a variety of foods all throughout the day! Listen to your hunger cues and honor them. Add satisfying protein and fats to prevent blood sugar fluctuations that may lead to cravings and overeating