Overeating. We’ve all done it. Sometimes it’s because we have access to more food than usual, like on Thanksgiving. However, for some, overeating can become habitual, which can cause food addiction, weight gain, and other unwanted side effects.
It’s easy to let yourself fall into unhealthy eating habits. So, read on to learn more about overeating and the tricks you can do to help you maintain a healthy relationship with food.
What Is Overeating?
Overeating is eating more than what’s necessary to fuel your body.
Short-term effects of overeating include:
Eating past the point of feeling full
Mindlessly eating because you’re bored or distracted
Experiencing nausea, abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating, or heartburn after eating
Long-term effects of overeating include:
Unwanted weight gain
Difficulty losing weight
Prolonged digestive discomfort
Why Do We Overeat?
There are various reasons why people overeat. For some, overeating can be an effective way to help deal with difficult emotions. For others, food is their mutual connection to others, making it easier for some people to interact with others within their community.
Food can also be addictive, like traditional snack foods. Sweet, salty, or crunchy foods can be highly pleasurable because it causes the brain to release dopamine, effectively stimulating the brain’s reward centers. Just like other addictive drugs, dopamine releases the body’s own opioids in the brain, which signals that it needs more.
Studies prove that foods high in sugar and fat affect the brain, like heroin, opium, or morphine. Individuals also develop a tolerance to sugar, meaning the more sugary foods they consume regularly, the more and more food they’ll need to be satisfied.
Tips & Tricks to Avoid Overeating
Portion Size Education
Read food labels and reputable research sources to learn the recommended portion sizes for different foods. These are just guidelines, but they will create a baseline for what a realistic serving size looks like. Knowing the expected amount of food also helps you stay accountable.
You can also try eating your meals off a smaller plate. This will trick your brain into thinking you’re consuming a full plate of food while you consume smaller portions.
Don’t Skip Meals
Currently, intermittent fasting is a prevalent diet trend. It involves eating only for a small period each day. However, this diet may lead to a feast-or-famine mentality that will cause you to overeat.
Skipping meals can also lead to overeating. The longer you go without eating, the more intense your hunger will be when you finally eat.
To avoid intense hunger, include healthy snacks between meals or eat more small meals throughout the day. These habits will leave you feeling much more satisfied and comfortable around food.
Identify & Limit Foods You Overeat
Everyone is unique and has their own preferences on which foods and drinks they like the most. It can be easy to mindlessly indulge in your cravings, but this can lead to regret later.
Keeping a food journal may help you identify the foods you may tend to overeat.
Most people tend to overeat calorie-dense foods that are high in:
Saturated and trans fats
We’re not saying you can’t ever treat yourself to something sweet. Instead, you should consume everything in moderation. You don’t have to skip a meal to enjoy dessert, have one scoop of ice cream instead of three.
Ask “Why” You’re Eating & Listen to Hunger Cues
While there may be many reasons why you want to eat, the only time you need to eat is to nourish and energize your body. By being mindful while eating, you’re more likely to notice how your body reacts to the food you’re eating.
The more you pay attention to how your body feels and reacts to the food you eat, the more likely you will pick up on hunger cues that will tell you when it’s time to stop eating.
Once you’ve eaten something, it takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that it’s full. To ensure you’re not eating too much too fast, thoroughly chew each bite and take time to sip from your drink every once and a while.
You should also wait about five to ten minutes before getting up for a second serving. Eating should be an enjoyable and mindful experience, so take your time and really pay attention to how you feel throughout the meal or snack.
If you decide you’re still hungry after waiting, go back for some of the good stuff (e.g., vegetables, salad, etc.).
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