Three Ways to Conquer Overeating

Posted 02/21/2017 | By HealthCorps

Overeating can happen in one of two ways.  You can either eat too much during a normal eating experience or eat when you aren’t hungry, usually due to emotional or psychological cues.

Many of us simply can’t handle being constantly bombarded with food messages.  Our environment is designed to instigate eating, with readily available food twenty four hours a day.  We are bombarded with constant food advertising and supermarkets and fast food outlets are set up to entice us to buy more food than we need.  We often end up eating when we’re not hungry simply because “food is there.”  The types of food we are mostly eating also tend to set us up to want more and more.

There are strategies to help you to limit the impact of the constant food messaging, so that you use your own hunger cues and nutritional needs instead, to guide your eating habits.

  1. Focus on your food – If you are sitting at your desk and trying to eat while managing emails and text messages, then you will consume food without “feeling it” or registering how much you are eating.  We need to  “eat with our eyes,” meaning if we allow ourselves to really view and notice what we’re eating and how much we’re eating, we are less likely to gorge and eat mindlessly.  If you can’t leave your work desk, stop what you are doing and focus on your meal.  If you can take periodic tech breaks to enjoy your meal or snack.  At home, commit to preparing your food, so that ingredient choices and portion sizes register.  If you tune into the preparation of your food, you will also begin to enjoy the aromas and colors of the ingredients.  Eat at home without distracting vices (phone conversations, TV shows).  This too can help to limit how much you eat.
  2. Monitor sugar and salt consumption – These two condiments help to prime your palate, making it easy to consume too large portions of foods high in sugar and salt.  Find healthier versions of these foods by learning to read labels and ingredient lists, and asking for clarification of menu items.  You can also prepare healthier versions at home when you are in charge.  Use fresh, dried and sautéed herbs to flavor foods, and use fruit puree or cut up fruit to replace sugar and oils.  Rinse canned beans thoroughly to remove all vestiges of salt.  Pick and choose “treat moments” when you indulge and savor small servings of decadent desserts or foods, like cheese.

  3. Learn to eat when you are truly hungry and start to recognize and manage emotional cues and cravings.  Meals and snacks should correlate with true hunger.  Stress-eating is a surefire way to overeat.  Mindfulness can play a huge role in helping to curb eating patterns that are driven by emotion and feelings.  One way to handle an overwhelming need to eat is to hit the pause button and examine why you really want to eat.  Are you truly hungry or are you just reacting to a negative (or positive) circumstance?   Grabbing a glass of water or chewing gum while you analyze your hunger cues can help to limit emotional eating.  

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