It’s a simple mathematical formula of energy in vs energy out. But the reasons you’re overeating could be one or many, so without knowing why you can’t stop at less food it’s going to be hard to change that.
1. You’re hungry
This should be pretty obvious, but if your tummy is growling it’s going to be very difficult to avoid eating. The trick is to eat a big enough quantity of food without overdoing the calories.
If your calorie needs are lower than normal (which they will be if you’re trying to lose weight), fill up on plenty of low calorie vegetables, salad and some fruit. Eat plenty of protein – a portion at every meal and snack – as protein is the most satiating macronutrient.
Figure out what balance of fats and carbohydrates make you feel best – some people don’t feel satisfied without enough carbs, whilst others are still hungry if they eat a fat free meal. Choose higher fibre carbohydrates such as quinoa instead of white rice, and oats instead of refined cereals.
One of the most filling substances is something called resistant fibre which is found in green bananas, beans & legumes, and cold, cooked new potatoes. So try swapping mashed potato for mashed chickpeas, or use lentil flour to bake with.
2. You’re dehydrated.
Your body can mistake being thirsty for being hungry, so try having a drink first. Interestingly, warm drinks take longer to leave your stomach than cold ones, so a hot cup of tea or herbal tea might satisfy you more than plain water.
If you drink smoothies, make them with less liquid so they’re thicker – this makes them slower to digest and are more filling. If you eat a low carb diet you might not be holding onto fluids as well, so try adding a little Himalayan salt to filtered water or to your food.
Electrolyte drinks are an option, but choose sugar free ones unless you’re taking part in long distance endurance exercise (such as a run lasting more than 90 minutes), and for the most part they’re an unnecessary expense. The more protein you eat the more water you need to, since water is involved in the metabolism of protein.
3. You’re not paying attention.
Mindlessly eating means you won’t notice when you’re full, so watching TV, checking emails or working could result in eating more from your plate than you really need. If you’re really busy and have to work while eating, only put on your plate what you intend to eat – measure out a portion that’s within your calorie and macro requirements and you can happily finish your plate knowing you’ve not gone over.
4. You eat by the clock.
If 4pm is snack time, that’s what you’ll do. But this is often due to habit rather than actually being hungry. Have you ever been out of routine (perhaps you’re in the middle of a meeting you can’t get out of) and realised that you got by until an hour later without starving? Try holding off until you’re genuinely hungry before eating just because ‘it’s time’.
Similarly, have you ever accepted a chocolate from the tin or piece of someone at work’s birthday cake just because it was offered to you? Were you really hungry or just being polite?
5. You eat too often.
By this I don’t mean you’re just eating too much over the day. But rather that if you’re eating small amounts often (as opposed to fewer, larger meals) your stomach may not be being stretched enough to fully stimulate a hormone called cholecystokin (CCK) which in turn makes you feel full.
Rather than grazing throughout the day try a week of three main meals and see if this reduces hunger and food consumption over all. I say a week, because if your body is used to eating at certain times, your appetite will rise at these times out of expectation, so it may take a few days to get used to a new routine.
6. You are not calorie aware.
If you’re new to dieting and nutrition you simply may not be aware of the nutritional values of foods. Start reading labels, learning about calories, fats, protein and carbohydrates, and consider using an app like MyFitnessPal to plan and evaluate how much you’re actually consuming.
Take a look at your eating habits and see if any of the above could be the reasons you’re overeating. And take a look at some of the calorie and portion controlled meal plans on offer on Watchfit – they’ve done the hard work for you so all you need to do is follow the plan knowing you won’t be eating too much.