7 strategies to avoid over eating
Overeating is clearly a big problem in developed countries. The
statistics are quite shocking… In the UK, 58% of women and
68% of men are overweight or obese. In the US, if current trends
continue, 86% of adults will be overweight or obese by 2030.
There are many factors causing this crisis, including a lack of education, lack of exercise and less physically demanding jobs, but the overriding cause of the obesity epidemic is overeating. Overeating is big business. Processed food companies want us to eat more of their products and to eat them more often. Why wouldn’t they?
These businesses are out to maximise profits.
Think about the slogan, “once you pop, you just can’t stop”. That’s exactly what they want – for their customers to not be able to stop eating their products. And clearly it’s working. A lot of science goes into designing processed food products, the optimal amounts of sugar, fat and salt are included to make these foods almost irresistible. Terms such as ‘mouth feel’, ‘maximum bite force’ and ‘sensory specific satiety’ are used to determine how ‘more-ish’ a food is and what can be done to make it even more ‘more-ish’.
With that said, it would be unrealistic, unnecessary and not much fun if we were never able to eat something a bit naughty from time to time. After all, eating is a highly pleasurable experience.
But if we are aware of the tactics used by the food industry giants, we can make
better, more conscious decisions about any consumption of their foods. We must make it on our terms and take back control of our satiety mechanisms!
One of the best ways to avoid feeling deprived is to learn how to enjoy a predominantly wholefoods based diet.
In this guide, we will look at how we can avoid overeating. It’s more than just avoiding hyper-palatable processed foods. There are a whole bunch of strategies that we can use to ensure we eat the right amount and feel satisfied. When we get these strategies in place, it will make attaining your ideal physique a lot more manageable.
1. Track what you eat or at least be able to accurately recall what you’ve eaten
A recent study concluded that we might be underestimating our daily caloric intake by as much as 50%. That’s like somebody believing they are consuming 2000 Kcal per day but is actually consuming 3000 Kcal per day. If you’ve never tracked food before and haven’t yet had success in reaching your goals then why not give it a go, even if it’s just for a short
2. Portion control
Portion sizes can also be managed with other methods than using a food scale. Plate size has been shown in studies to influence portion size. It makes logical sense – use a smaller plate and you’ll be able to fit less food on it. Another study demonstrated how plate colour influenced portion size.
Greater contrast between the colour of the food and the colour of
the plate led to an increase in serving size of 22%. Another study demonstrated that people ate less food from red plates than they did from white and blue plates. Smaller red plates anyone? Worth considering.
3. Water/fluid intake
A really simple and effective strategy is to make sure you stay well hydrated. Sometimes when we think we are hungry, we are really just thirsty. So next time you think you are hungry, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes. If you still feel genuinely hungry then try having a meal or snack using some of the other strategies included in this guide.
As well as water, tea, coffee, and herbal infusions are great options.
But watch your caffeine intake doesn’t become too high, as this can negatively impact your sleep. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your satiety hormones and make you more likely to overeat. Flavour your water by adding chopped fruit.
4. Choose foods with a higher volume (more filling)
Let’s give an extreme example to illustrate this point…
Which will make you feel fuller? A regular sized chocolate bar or a bowl of oats with fresh
blueberries and chia seeds?
45g Dairy Milk bar – P3 C26 F14 (242 Kcal)
Oats, berries, chia – P8 C41 F5 (241 Kcal)
Double cheeseburger (440 Kcal)
100g popcorn (335 Kcal)
The main take home point is that some foods will fill you up more than others.
By choosing foods that are higher in fibre (vegetables, fruits and wholegrains) over energy dense foods that contain higher amounts of fat and sugar, you will feel fuller for longer and will be supplying your body with essential vitamins and minerals.
5. Eat mindfully
There’s no doubt about it, modern life has changed the way we eat. TV dinners, grabbing a quick bite as we work at our desks and scoffing our food down so we can keep on top of our busy schedule has several negative effects. Mainly, digestion.
When we are stressed our bodies are not in a good state to digest food.
Adrenaline and cortisol are released when we are stressed, and this is sometimes referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately we are not living in a utopian society where we can eliminate stress but one strategy we can use before we eat is to purposefully relax and take some deep
breaths. This will help us to activate the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and
Get out of the office for lunch!
Other ways to eat mindfully include eating more slowly, paying attention to the flavours and textures of the food, thinking about the nutritional benefits of the food and chewing food more. It takes 15-20 minutes for our brain to recognise that we’ve eaten and that we’re full.
Eat slowly, chew food well, pay attention to the colours, flavours and textures of the food, and think about how the food is benefiting you nutritionally.
6. Protein intake
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (the other two being carbohydrate and fat). Protein is required for the growth and repair of our bodies. It also promotes satiety, therefore it is important to consume at least 3 meals each day containing protein. Some eggs at breakfast, chicken or fish at lunch and another serving of meat with dinner is ideal.
Protein is also the least likely macronutrient to be converted to fat and stored in the body, and studies have shown that consuming extra protein does not result in gaining more body fat. High protein intakes are not recommended for people with pre-existing kidney problems but are otherwise fine for healthy individuals.
7. Alcohol intake
Alcohol is not considered a macronutrient but it does contain 7 Kcal per gram. Most alcoholic drinks also contain sugar. If you are planning on having a drink, spirits with low Kcal mixers are the way to go.
But be aware that alcohol intake reduces our self discipline. Studies
show that people consume significantly more Kcals when under the influence of alcohol. Kebab anyone?
A great tip for limiting the potential damage of alcohol on your goals is to eat before you drink. This will slow the release of alcohol into the bloodstream, meaning less intoxication and less disruption to your willpower.
1. Track your food intake with an app like My Fitness Pal.
2. Consider using smaller plates.
3. Stay hydrated.
4. Include more filling, less calorie dense foods.
5. Relax before you eat and eat mindfully.
6. Include high-quality protein with each meal.
7. Go easy on the booze.
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