We know to lose weight we should eat fewer calories than we burn throughout the day. That sounds so simple, but when you try to put it into practice, it’s tough.
Overeating is a major problem. Most of the time we eat on an emotional level, rather than eating because we need to. It’s a response that we need to stop doing, and deep down we know it. On the surface, it’s something we all struggle with. Even those who don’t need to lose weight can end up struggling with the response to eating on an emotional level now and then.
All the exercise in the world isn’t going to help avoid the overeating issues. Trying to exercise the overeating off is like trying to cure a symptom rather than the problem causing the symptom. To stop the issues with overeating, you need to tackle the overeating. After all, weight gain and health problems are just the symptoms.
I’m right here to help you. This is something that I had to do, and something that I really didn’t want to admit was a problem. I will admit that it wasn’t easy at first, but it was worth it in the long term. And the steps to stop overeating did become easier. Now it’s a matter of habit and listening to my body and not my head!
So, here are all the steps you need to stop overeating right now.
Understand Your Body’s Signals
To be able to stop overeating, you need to understand more about your body and how it works. We all have this terrible habit of eating too much because we think our body needs the nourishment. You see, our bodies have this genuine fear of being hungry.
This dates all the way back to the cavemen days. Back to when people didn’t know where their next meals were coming from. We had this fear that we would go hungry so we would eat as and when we could. It didn’t matter if it was more than we needed at the time, because we didn’t know if we could get the nourishment later in the day or even over the next few days.
Our bodies don’t handle hunger very well. Why should they?
Now, worrying about where the next meal is coming from isn’t as common. Most of us, especially those reading this, will know that they will at least get something for three meals a day. It may not be much, but it is something.
Yet, the body’s fear of hunger is still there. We still have this natural focus to get as much food as we can in a short space of time. Usually, we do this with every meal, and in between meals, so we end up eating more than our bodies really need.
Of course, that fear remains, and there’s no settling it. Our head will still tell us to get more food, because what if we can’t later? What if a plague wipes everyone out and we’re left having to source food for ourselves in the middle of the wilderness?
Well, this fear is a little unrealistic and irrational now. So, we need to start listening to our bodies and understand what they are trying to tell us. We need to understand this hunger scale that we have. Are we really starving or is our body tricking us to make us overeat?
This also works the other way. Our bodies may feel overfull. This is when we’ve eaten so much that we start to feel sick. But we just can’t seem to stop trying to pile it all in.
When we understand the signals and what our bodies are really telling us, we can start taking steps to stop overeating daily.
Set a Timer for Your Meals
We don’t need to eat on the hour, every hour. Most of us will only get hungry after four hours of no food. When you break this down, you have three meals within a 12-hour period. Considering you’re up for around 16 hours a day, that is very realistic.
And you don’t need a full meal every four hours. You could opt for a smaller meal or a snack around the three-hour mark to give yourself extra time until your next meal. This is something many of us do between lunch and dinner (often around the 3pm slot) to make sure we can survive the night without any food at all.
If you eat more often, there are high chances that you’re overeating. Your body doesn’t need the food, but you may be struggling to understand the hunger cues. If that’s the case, don’t worry about it. You can tackle it with the help of a timer.
Set your watch so an alarm goes off every four hours or so. You could even set it, so it goes off for snacks during the day, too. You can’t eat until the alarm goes off.
Try a timer for every three hours or so. You’ll get your three meals and two snacks a day in most cases. You’ll also eat regularly and won’t run the risk of blood sugar drops, which can cause that starving feeling and lack of energy.
Tempted to eat before your alarm? Try to remove anything that you would usually reach for. You’ll also need to realise that your temptations are more emotional than need. We’ll move onto how to tackle the emotional eating next.
Find Other Ways to Tackle Your Emotions
You’re stressed, or bored, or angry, or even happy! We always find a reason to eat. Sometimes it’s just habit. We’re watching a movie so feel the need to have some crisps, cookies, or popcorn.
Well, it’s time to tackle those emotions. They’re making you overeat, because unless it’s at an hour where your alarm is going to go off, you don’t need the food to sustain you. And most of the time the food you reach for involves empty calories. You wouldn’t get any nutrients from them even if your alarm sounded.
So, you need to find another way to tackle your emotions. Find another way to deal with the stress or stop the boredom. If you’re happy, celebrate in a way that doesn’t involve treating yourself to food. If you’ve accomplished something, reward yourself in a different way. We’re not dogs, and we don’t need food to tell us that we’ve accomplished, gained, or achieved something!
There are so many ways to tackle the emotions. If you’re boredom, change what you’re doing and find something to keep you entertained. When you’re sad, do something that will make you happy that doesn’t involve food. If you’re happy, celebrate by buying a new item of clothing or toy. If you’re stressed, do some exercise instead to help release more happy hormones or listen to soothing music to help calm you down.
You’re eating because that’s become a habit. If you make some changes to your habits, you’ll find it’s easier to stop overeating daily.
Think About the Food that You Are Eating
Before you let anything pass your lips, make sure it is going to fuel your body. Stop eating the processed, salty or sugary stuff and start focusing on nutritious and wholesome meals. Make sure they are energy dense, in a way that the energy will be released across the space of your three to four hours.
That doesn’t mean all processed, and sugary food is banned from your home. You just want to eat the food in moderation and make sure most your meals will help to offer good fuel to your body.
High protein meals are excellent for this. The same applies to high fibre and high complex carby meals. These will breakdown in the body slowly, so you have more energy throughout the day.
Anything that involves simple carbs, sugars, processed rubbish will just lead to boosting the blood sugar levels. You get these sudden boosts of energy but then a sudden slump straight afterwards. All you do is reach for more of the sugary, bad stuff and repeat the cycle.
Let’s remember that the processed food is usually much higher in calories than the energy-dense foods. You’ll consume hundreds of calories in one chocolate bar and less than 100 calories in a breast of chicken. On top of that, your chocolate bar doesn’t even give you any nutrients! You don’t help your body in any way. You’ll consume thousands of calories in a day, rather than the 1,500 calories or so when you opt for a healthy and balanced diet.
Those poor food choices are leading to overeating because you feel the need to eat more. It’s time to focus on healthier foods with lower calories. You feel the need to eat less of them, and you won’t even feel like you’re on a diet!
Stop Skipping Breakfast
So, you need to eat less, but you still need to eat at the right time. Remember that timer that I encouraged you to set? Well, start the first alarm for breakfast.
Those who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat during the day. Yes, scientists have proven this in studies, so start taking the tip seriously. It doesn’t matter if you want to eat or drink your breakfast (green smoothies can be an excellent way to start your day), just make sure you start your day with food.
When you don’t eat breakfast, you’re allowing your body to go longer without any fuel. It can’t go that long, and it will start to panic that you won’t get enough. You get the starving cues from your body and will gorge on anything and everything that you can find. Remember that fear of hunger?
Usually, the things you can find aren’t exactly healthy. You reach for the chocolate bars or the cookies. Anything but fruit, vegetables, proteins, and fibre! You end up reaching for the food that gives you a quick burst of energy, just to tie you over until your first meal of the day.
If you eat breakfast, especially if you eat a healthy breakfast, you will get the fuel for the start of the day. After three hours, you can reach for your healthy, fibre filled snack. You won’t feel the need to snack on the processed junk because you know deep down that your body doesn’t need it. In fact, if you have a fibre-filled breakfast, you may not even feel the need to have your snack and can wait until lunch time!
Drink Water Before Every Meal
But what about overeating when we have food on our plate? One of the best tips is to have a glass of water with every meal. In fact, drink a glass of water before every meal. You’ll find that this is amazing for filling you up.
Chances are you don’t drink enough water anyway. Our bodies send the same cues for thirst as they do for hunger, and it’s up to us to work out which cues we’re being sent. We always get it wrong. Well, most the time we get it wrong. It’s not until we get other signs of dehydration that we start reaching for fluid.
Instead of getting confused or trying to work it out, why not just reach for the glass of water first? Have it before you eat anything—anything at all. If you’re still ‘hungry’ after you’ve drunk the water, there are high chances that you were hungry anyway. Then you can reach for your meal or your snack.
If you’re on the timer plan, drinking water will still help you avoid overeating. Before you grab the food, have the glass of water and then allow it to sit for five or 10 minutes. Then you can start eating. Your stomach will more likely tell your brain that you’re full much sooner than if you started eating straight away. You’ll feel the need to eat less, so you consume fewer calories.
Slow Down Your Eating to Give Your Brain Chance
Your brain needs a chance to register that you’re no longer hungry. We tend to wolf our food down, often without even realising. How often do you watch TV or do something else while eating? Do you walk and eat? Maybe you have a habit of eating alone at your desk so you can get back on with work.
Well, it’s time to slow down. It takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. Within that 20 minutes, you can easily overeat!
Start by turning off the distractions and giving yourself time to eat. Chew your food at least 10 times before swallowing, so your stomach has a time to process it all. You’ll slow down the eating so much that your stomach will be able to send messages to your brain, so you get them before you go past the point of being satisfied.
When you’ve finished half of your plate, put the knife and fork down and give yourself time. Really think about whether you’re hungry or not. If you are still hungry, have half of the amount left on your plate and set the knife and fork down again. Listen to your body and repeat the process until either all the food is gone or you’ve decided that you are satisfied.
This can be difficult to learn. It takes people time to understand what their bodies are trying to tell them. Don’t worry if it takes you time, but do make a conscious effort to learn.
Don’t worry about leaving food on the plate either. Some food you can put back in the fridge and have another day. You could even create ‘leftover dinner’ one night a week, so you finish it all off.
If you still struggle, try having lunch or dinner with other people. Spend the time talking between mouthfuls, so you are forced to slow down on the amount that you eat.
Try to Avoid Overeating
Now it’s time for you to stop overeating. This is one of the best things that I did. Not only do I eat fewer calories, but I also make sure that my body is fueled in the best possible way.
I’m not going to lie and say that it is easy. Some of the steps are simpler than others, but there are some that I found very difficult. Learning my body cues and listening to what my body was trying to tell me wasn’t simple. I had to use the timer trick at first.
Over time, you will learn the messages your body is sending and help to tackle the fear of going hungry. It’s more of an irrational fear now, anyway. You can stop overeating with the above tips and make sure your body is fueled properly throughout the day.