Avoiding Overeating?

By Deirdre Parkinson, Naturopath

Overeating is something that we’re all guilty of at one point or another but it can be dangerous as it can lead to weight gain, and subsequently health problems.  Read on to learn about ways that you can stop overeating, and how water rich, low fat foods can help you to lose weight.

How to Stop Overeating

As babies, we instinctively know how much food to eat and when to stop eating.  It is only as we grow older and are exposed to differing food patterns such as fad diets, advertising and so forth that we forget how to balance the amount of food that we eat and start to learn the habits of overeating.  Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to unlearn these habits:

Eat slowly – it takes 12 minutes or more for food satisfaction signals to reach the brain of a person with healthy weight levels.  In an obese person, it may take upwards of 20 minutes.  Eating slowly allows the signals more time to reach the brain and stops you from overeating.

Be aware – make eating an experience, don’t do it while you’re otherwise occupied.  If you are distracted or rushed, food does not register well in your brain.

Savour the first bites – the first bites of your food are the best as your taste buds are at their most sensitive.  By taking the time to really enjoy the start of your meal, you are likely to take more notice of when you are feeling full.

Choose satisfying foods – avoid foods that give you a lot of calories for very little volume such as chocolate, chips, and other junk foods.  Meals that are high in fibre, water, or protein will satisfy your stomach without overloading you with calories.

Look at appearances – a smaller plate and a well-presented meal increases your awareness of food and helps you stop eating when you reach a comfortable level of fullness.  The brain looks at the plate and decides if the amount of food is adequate.  It takes time but the smaller the plate, the smaller the portion of food you will eat.

Decrease stress – stress is notorious for causing overeating as when you are stressed, you eat to stop yourself from feeling bad.  One of the best ways to stop yourself from eating when you are feeling stressed is to take a short 10 minute walk instead.  The walk will help your body produce endorphins, its feel good chemical.

Be careful when socialising – at restaurants or when eating with friends, you may be apt to eat more.  This is because there is often an overabundance of food, making it difficult for you to limit your portions.  You feel obliged to finish everything on your plate, and because you are busy chatting and having fun, you may not recognise when you are feeling full.

Separate food from depression – certain kinds of foods can make you feel low and, also, when you feel down, you are more likely to binge on high carbohydrate foods as they increase the production of serotonin, a mood regulating chemical.  You need to learn to stop before you eat and ask yourself why you are reaching for the food.  If you are feeling down, reach out to people or write down your feelings instead of reaching for food.

Counteract boredom – when you are bored, you are likely to overeat as you are looking for stimulation. Food provides stimulation in the form of colour, aroma, flavour, and its ability to raise blood sugar levels.  To break the habit of eating when you’re bored, you need to think of something other than food.  Call a friend, find a hobby, whatever you enjoy.

Dehydration – sometimes we think that we are hungry when we are simply dehydrated.  Dehydration is commonly mistaken for hunger.  Before you reach for the food, have a glass of water and see if that satisfies your hunger.

Water Rich, Low Fat Foods Encourage Weight Loss

If you are trying to lose weight, then water rich, low fat foods may be absolutely perfect for you.  Low-calorie-density foods help you to lose weight and control feelings of hunger.  These foods include fruits and vegetables, soups, lean meat, and low fat dairy products.  By eating foods that are low in calorie density, people are able to eat portions of food that feel personally satisfying.  Thus, they then have less hunger pangs and do not feel deprived, even though they are actually consuming fewer calories.

But what is calorie density?  Simply put, calorie density is the amount of calories present in a gram of food.  It is also known as energy density.  The energy density of food has a rating system that goes from zero to nine.  Water has a zero density, while fat, which has nine calories per gram, has a rating of nine.  Fruit, vegetables, low fat foods, and water rich foods all have a low energy density.

However, reducing the calorie density of your diet also needs to be combined with portion control of some kind.  This is because, even though there are less calories, if you ate twice as much food you would not lose weight.