Avoid that distressing “too full” feeling with these tips.
Well, it happens to everyone: You get to your favorite eatery, order your favorite delicious dish and finish the whole plate. But when your stomach complains, you know your eyes were larger than your belly, and now you wish you could reverse and eat half as much as you did.
Overeating is easy to tumble into, particularly in the US where restaurant portion sizes seem to get larger by the day. Overeating can lead to weight increase and blood sugar problems — both of which are connected to chronic diseases such as diabetes. But it can also make you feel plain overweight, and that can influence you for the rest of the day. There’s no reason to feel guilty if it occurs to you — but if you’re overindulging more than you’d like, there are numerous things you can do to help avoid it.
Continue reading for tips from two nutrition experts on why you’re eating too much and how to substitute it with healthier food habits.
Try to identify why it’s happening
The first step when you want to change a routine is awareness. This means realizing out the “why” behind what you’re doing, which applies to eating too much and your food habits. Identifying why you are overeating and what could be triggering it is helpful since there’s typically a reason (even if that reason is just you’re doing it carelessly).
According to dietician Amanda Nicole Steinberg, one of the most common reasons of overeating is not eating enough during the day or skipping meals. “Many times, clients will miss breakfast or work during lunch. Since they may not have eaten sufficient during the day, their bodies are in starvation mode at night,” says Steinberg. “When they’re lastly around food, it becomes difficult to control.”
Sometimes people feel embarrassed when they binge because it feels like they are “bad” or have no self-discipline, but that’s not the case frequently. “Individuals may think that they don’t have the willpower to rein themselves at night. Though, it’s not an absence of willpower; it’s the biology of our famished body screaming for food,” Steinberg says.
Even if you find it hard to fit in full meals during the day in a busy schedule, one thing you can do is always carry snacks with you. Keeping nutritious snacks at your desk, in your purse or backpack or in your car is one way to make sure that you at least have something to munch, even if it’s not a full meal.
Try to be more conscious when you eat
At this age, it’s normal to spend all three meals in front of some type of screen – from computers to phones to the TV. Although that’s common, it’s not exactly perfect. This is why mindful eating can be useful if you struggle with this habit.
“Technology, eating out of boredom, eating at our desk — all of these can equate to unconscious eating,” says Jayne Williams, an integrative nutrition coach. “When we aren’t tuned in to our plate, we lack common ‘hunger’ and ‘full’ signals. We end up eating more than we would have if we’d been attentive to what we were doing.”
Even if you’re not mindlessly eating, another common reason of overeating is using food to help handle emotions. Emotional eating is regular since we often relate foods with happiness and celebration – like ice cream and cake on your birthday. So if you’re feeling low, sometimes you long for those things as a pick-me-up.
There’s knowledge to explain this too. “Food can offer you a dopamine effect to the brain, making you feel good momentarily,” Steinberg says. “Many times, individuals will overdo to dull pain from emotions with food.”
If you find yourself emotionally eating, you can try and search for other ways to feel happy naturally. Playing with a pet, getting some exercise or talking to a friend can give you a similar dopamine-enhancing effect.
Pay attention to your body to see if you’re full
Most packed food comes with a serving size on the box, but then you’re basically left to your own devices to figure out how much you should eat in a single sitting.
And restaurants don’t make this simpler, because portion sizes usually have several times more calories, fat, carbs, sodium and sugar than you should eat every day. So how do you know what portion sizes are right? Irrespective of how much food is on your plate, you should connect with your body while eating to see if you want to continue eating because you’re hungry, or if you really feel full and should stop.
“When you’re halfway done with your meal, check in with yourself to see if you’re satiated or still hungry to keep eating more,” Steinburg says. “An important reminder is you can all the time eat the food again, so there is no reason to have to finish it in a single sitting. If you’re at home, put the food away to relish later when you’re hungry again. If you’re at a restaurant to eat, take the food to go.”
If you have a habit of filling your plate with lots of food, one tip you can try is using smaller bowls or plates. You might be amazed by how well this simple switch can help. “Six-inch diameter bowls are one of my preferred tricks,” Williams says. “It’s harder to binge if it doesn’t fit in the bowl. Just make sure you are stocking up on fresh vegetables with lots of color, fresh greens for more fiber, lean protein (vegetable or animal) and healthy fat in that bowl.”
Make sure you’re meals are more balanced to help avoid overeating later.
Make sure you have a balanced diet
First, count the primary food groups and macronutrients that you need and how to balance them. When you get the correct amounts of protein, fat, and carbs, your blood sugar remains balanced, which means you will feel nourished and satisfied longer. In each food category, there are improved choices than others. Picking complex carbohydrates like whole grains, for instance, will help you feel more satiated than a simple carb like white bread. Adding fat and protein to each meal will also make sure that you stay full longer.
“The suggestion I give all my clients is, balance their plates half with vegetables, one fourth with carbohydrates and one-fourth of protein,” Steinberg says. “Also, include healthy fats into the meal, for instance, olive oil, avocado or nuts. This balance keeps you sated without making you feel heavy. Merging carbohydrates with fat, protein, fat and fiber from vegetables or fruit reduces down the digestion of carbohydrates, making you full for longer.”
If you struggle with binging at night, especially, being more conscious of balancing your meals is a great way to begin.
Don’t turn any foods ‘off-limits’
It’s normal for people to obsess on what we are told we “can’t have.” This is why if you decide to quit sugar or never have an Oreo again, you’ll long for those foods you can’t have. “When we don’t let ourselves have a specific food, it becomes difficult to control ourselves around that food when we ultimately allow ourselves to eat it. Instead of putting foods off-limits, let yourself to have what you’re craving attentively,” Steinburg suggests.
Another advice is when you allow yourself to treat in something like a dessert, make sure you’re fed and satisfied with healthy food first. This makes it less probable that you’ll cross limits when it’s time for dessert.
“For instance, if you have set pasta off-limits because you feel like you cannot rein yourself when you eat it, try having a portion of pasta with vegetables and protein,” Steinberg says.