Figuring out how to stop overeating is a huge challenge for a lot of people. Junk foods are addictive, we eat for emotional needs, and portion sizes have gotten out of control so that we often aren't sure just how much food we really need.
But there are some simple things you can do to reduce overeating. The most important thing to do to stop overeating is to cut all the processed junk food out of your diet.I know that sounds harsh, but chips and cookies are full of addictive substances - salt, highly processed sugars, oils and flours and scary chemicals - that urge you to eat more even if you know you're not hungry.
The best trick to use for cutting out junk food is to figure out what your cravings are and replace them with healthier alternatives. Once you've cut out junk foods, you should find it so much easier to avoid overeating since you won't have those addictive substances interfering with your normal decision-making process.
Even if you work through all that, it can still be tough. I often make meals that taste so good, I have to remind myself not to eat too much or I'll wind up totally stuffed! Not that you have to worry too much about overeating healthy whole plant foods, but it's no fun to have a belly so full it hurts.
If you need help knowing what proper portions should be, check out this article on healthy portion sizes.
These are 10 strategies that have helped me figure out how to stop overeating:
1. Make a meal with only a few different flavors.
Your brain wants you to experience a certain amount of a flavor before it will tell you it's had enough, regardless of what your stomach is telling you. So the more different components there are to your meal, the more your brain will egg you on to have just another bite of sweet potatoes.
I'm sure you can all think back to a Thanksgiving dinner where you just needed to have that last helping of garlic mashed potatoes, even though you were totally stuffed. My weakness was always the sweet potatoes...
2. Control what you buy at the store.
The most common suggestions for grocery shopping are to avoid it when you're hungry, and to not buy food you don't want to eat. I agree, wholeheartedly, but I also think that quantity matters.
When I buy a pound of brazil nuts, Phil will eat them pretty quickly. When I buy a handful or two at a time, he rations himself without even really thinking about it.
I know plenty of people who joined a wholesale shopping club to save money, but wind up eating more because they have the food in the house. If you have somewhere to hide the excess from yourself until you actually need it, the wholesale idea can work.
3. Slow down and chew!
Let's face it - most of the enjoyment of food is in the taste and the texture. So why not savor it? The first few bites are the most satisfying. It can also really help to think about swallowing all of your properly chewed bite before taking your next bite.
I often find myself in the middle of eating a meal, and realize that I haven't really thought about what I'm eating. I stop, take a breath, look at my plate, and then focus on chewing it properly and enjoying the marvelous creation I made!
4. Use smaller plates.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones! You can't fit as much food on a smaller plate, and a smaller portion will look more visually satisfying when it fills the plate. This will send a subtle hint to your brain that this is all it needs to feel complete.
5. Eat the best part of the meal first.
I am always saving the best bite of my meal until last, and it makes it really motivating to finish what's on my plate. I don't know how I started this habit, but when I think about eating the yummiest part first I don't care so much about eating everything.
It's probably left over from when I was a kid and hated things like asparagus. I needed to save the good stuff to wash it down. I'm still working on this one, but I never said I was perfect.
6. Brush your teeth!
It sounds silly, but if you brush your teeth right after a meal it tells you that you're finished. No stray snacking on leftovers, dessert isn't quite as tempting, and it eliminates the reminiscence of dinner on your breath.
7. Have a small afternoon snack.
If you go from lunch to dinner without eating anything, and then are so starving that you eat dinner in 5 minutes flat, you're most likely inhaling more than you need.
Try having some fruit, or some veggies with hummus in the middle of your afternoon for an energy boost and to keep you from overeating at dinner.
8. Don't be afraid of fat.
Eating it does not equal carrying it unless you overindulge. Some fat in your diet can actually help you lose fat on your body, and it will help you feel full so that you can stop eating other things. Always go for whole foods fats (like avocados, nuts, seeds or nut/seed butters).
The fat in food is calorie-dense (9 calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram), so you don't need much! But have you ever noticed that a little bit of peanut butter on a celery stick is so much more satisfying than a whole loaf of bread?
9. Drink lots of water.
Water during a meal can dilute your digestive juices, but if you have a glass half an hour before you eat it will give you a temporary full feeling and you may be less tempted to scarf down 4 portions of spaghetti.
Drinking water throughout the day, between meals, is also a good way to keep your mouth fresh and your stomach full.
10. Drink some herbal tea.
I find that green tea is a really nice treat and surprisingly makes me feel quite full. With just a small amount of stevia or unrefined sugar, it's a great replacement for dessert. Try different kinds until you hit on one you love. I used to drink orange spice for a long time, but am currently in love with jasmine pearl. Be careful with black tea as it has a lot of caffeine in it.
Now, remember that you don't have to be perfect - I'm still working on some of these things. The important thing is just that you start somewhere. Pick one or two ideas that will have a big impact for you, and work on them. Once you make something a habit, you can work on taking more steps in the right direction.