Overeating can have many causes, but they all produce the same result. You gain weight and feel like you’re out of control.
While you may be blaming yourself for lacking willpower or not trying hard enough, there could be something else at work. The real reasons why you eat more than you intend may surprise you, and many of them are relatively easy to fix.
There are many common lifestyle habits that tend to undermine a healthy diet. Take a look at this list to find out which things you’ll want to do differently.
- Be flexible. You may think you’re being virtuous for starting a super-strict diet but being too rigid can backfire. Allowing yourself a few treats can keep you from feeling so deprived that you wind up eating a whole pizza.
- Shrink your menu. On the other hand, planning your meals and snacks around a limited number of healthy foods can help you eat less. The lack of variety dampens your appetite.
- Eat mindfully. A lot of overeating happens when you’re busy with something else. Sit down and pay attention to your food instead of watching TV. Beware of nibbling while you’re preparing meals or lingering at the table after dinner.
- Slow down. A leisurely pace gives your brain time to tell your stomach that you’re full. Chew thoroughly and pause between bites.
- Listen to cravings. Intense urges are usually trying to tell you something important. Eating light snacks can keep you from getting so hungry that you long for junk food.
- Avoid low fat foods. Did you know that low fat foods are usually only about 10% lower in calories? Plus, they’re often higher in sugar and sodium, which can make you want to eat more.
- Limit artificial sweeteners. Sweetness is one of the signs your brain uses to try to determine how much to eat based on how many calories a food has. Artificial sweeteners make those calculations difficult. Over time, your brain loses the ability to make correct judgements.
- Sleep well. A lack of sleep can make you want to eat more and make it difficult for your body to digest food efficiently. Go to bed early on a consistent basis so you can get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Socialize wisely. We tend to eat more when we have company. Be especially vigilant when you’re enjoying holiday dinners and office parties. Try to find a lunch mate who eats healthy, so you can support each other.
- Exercise more. Physical activity burns calories and helps to fight depression and anxiety, which can lead to overeating. Aim to work out at least 30 minutes a day 3 times a week.
- Deal with your feelings. While it’s natural to associate food with celebrations and comfort, it’s important to have other ways of managing your emotions. Call a friend or write in your journal.
- Talk with your doctor. A slice of cake rarely does much harm, but sometimes there are deeper issues at work. If you binge frequently or feel guilty and ashamed about your eating, talk with your doctor. Effective treatments are available.
Understanding the reason why you overindulge is the first step in finding solutions that enable you to stick to a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Use these tips to take control of your eating, so you can stay fit and enjoy your food more.