Back in college, I was known in my circle of friends as the girl who would consume copious amounts of food.
It wasn’t unusual for my friends to wait for me at the dining hall while I went for 3rd’s, 4th’s, and sometimes even 5th’s. Yes. 5th’s.
College was a period of indulgence (in many ways, not just food), and the campus dining hall was a loyal supporter of my overeating habits. Thankfully, I had 5 a.m. crew practice and afternoon lifting sessions to help counter-balance my excessive caloric intake.
When I look back at my eating habits as an undergrad, I shiver as I remember how I would run to grab a steak and cheese sub as a “snack” between the times the dining hall was closed from lunch to dinner. It was a little ridiculous. Once, during Thanksgiving, I managed to polish off 2 1/2 pumpkin pies over the course of 2 days.
That’s right. 2.5 pumpkin pies. Not slices. PIES.
I just loved food. I loved eating. And would always manage to stuff my face until I could barely move.
(This was too cute not to put up.)
It wasn’t until I got out of college, was living on my own, buying my own food and making my own meals that I started to pay attention to my eating habits. I soon realized that food costs money. D’uh. And by overeating just for the sake of it, meant that I’d have to buy more food. And when you’re just out of college, money can be scarce.
Couple this with the fact that I had just started my career in the fitness industry and your image as a trainer has a lot to do with your success (whether people want to admit that or not) and so I began to take my nutrition more seriously.
For me, that meant teaching myself how to eat less and to stop myself from eating to the point of unbuttoning my jeans. I have to confess, that it has only been within the last year that I’ve gotten a handle on this. It has taken me a solid 7-8 years to train my body, my mind and my emotions to eat only what my body needs.
Over the course of this time, I’ve developed my own personal strategies to help prevent overeating. Keep in mind, that these are the things that have worked for me, and may not necessarily work for everyone. Also, there is too much to be said about emotions, hormones, and the psyche when it comes to overeating. Almost too much to begin to talk about in this blog, so I don’t want you to think that I’m downplaying these factors.
Rather, I want to provide you with some ideas that you can begin to implement today, even at your next meal, to help prevent you from over-eating. And here they are:
13 Simple Tips to Prevent Overeating
1. Eat with smaller utensils and plates.
Brian Wansink, PhD, a Food Psychologist at Cornell University, suggests that by eating on a smaller plate, we sorta “trick” ourselves into thinking that we’ve been given enough food. This comes after a recent study he completed regarding overeating. Next time you go to serve dinner, try using a salad plate or even just a saucer.
The less room on your plate, the less food you’re likely to put on it.
2. Eat with your shirt off.
I can’t remember which fitness blog I picked this up from, but it really does work. When it comes down to eating better and exercising, 99% of us just want to look good. So, take off your shirt before you decide to go for that 2nd serving or for that dessert you don’t really need.
Even better, eat with your shirt off. Or put on a pair of skinny jeans you want to fit into as a reminder as to what your goals are.
3. Don’t eat in front of the t.v. or the computer.
I found that being distracted is one of the biggest reasons why most people overeat. You’re in front of the t.v. eating dinner and before you know it you’re plate is cleaned and your back getting another helping because your show is still on.
Turn off the t.v. and put away the laptop when you eat so that you can focus on your meal and as a result, eat less.
4. Set the table.
While dinner is cooking, take the time to set the table. This not only will kill time that you may use snacking before the food is done, but it also formalizes the eating process and helps you slow down.
5. Put half the amount of food on your plate than what you would normally get.
If my eyes were bigger than my stomach, we’d be comparing basketballs to golf balls. Once the food was on my plate, I always felt that I had to finish it off. So to help prevent that feeling, I began to take my time when I served myself, and actually put only 1/2 the amount of food I thought I needed.
Then, after eating, if I still felt hungry, I could always go back for seconds.
6. Slow down and chew your food.
It takes time for your body to tell you when it’s full. If you inhale your food before allowing this time to pass, you could end up eating more than you actually need.
Not only this, but by swallowing larger food pieces your stomach and digestive tract have to work harder to break the food down into smaller sizes, thus creating more work for your G.I. system and potentially causing digestive complaints like gas and bloating.
7. Put your fork down between each bite.
This step helps you do #6. Another useful tactic is to stop half-way through eating, get up from the table, go do something (like wash the dishes) and then come back to your plate. You may find that when you sit back down, you won’t need to finish off your plate.
8. Don’t wait until you’re ravenous to make dinner.
Waiting until you’re ravenous to make dinner means 1) You’re going to rush making the dinner and miss out on the experience of making a good meal 2) You’ll probably end up snacking while you’re cooking (something I’m very guilty of) and 3) You’ll eat way more than you really needed to when the food is done.
Cook before you get hungry and you’ll prevent replicating the chipmunk photo from above.
9. Plate your food, and then put the rest of the food away in the fridge before you eat.
I find that if the food is out on the counter or stove top, I am more likely to go back for seconds since it’s already there. However, if I put the food away right after I’m done cooking, I’m far less likely to get more since it requires an extra step to take the food out and plate it. Investing in good glassware containers is a great place to start with this.
10. Brush and floss your teeth right after you eat.
I mentioned in #4 that by setting the table you begin to formalize the meal. Eating isn’t something that should be done on the fly. Rather, I feel that the whole cooking/eating process should be treated as an event. And by flossing and brushing your teeth, I feel, you subconsciously tell your body that eating is done.
11. Purposely leave 2-3 bites of food on your plate.
Luckily for me, I was never told by my parents that if I don’t eat the food on my plate that kids in Africa would starve. What a crappy way to teach your kids how to attach feelings of guilt to food. It’s no wonder we have so many hang-ups over food over silly things we’re taught like this.
By leaving a few bites of food on your plate and saving it for later you proactively prevent yourself from eating more than what you think you need.
12. Eat in peace and bring your awareness to how your body is feeling.
Along the lines of slowing down and avoiding distractions, by bringing your attention to how your body feels when you’re eating you start to become aware of your body’s own cues that its full. By eating in peace you minimize distractions that would normally take your attention off eating, thus preventing you from listening to what your body is saying.
13. Eat the right amount of fat, protein and carbohydrate in your meals.
Eating a metabolically balanced meal with carbohydrates, fat and protein will help stabilize your blood sugar and in turn, help satiate your appetite. Too little carbs in the meal and you may get hungry later on. Too little fat and protein, and you may find yourself craving sweets. To understand more about balancing your meals, check out the Metabolic Typing Diet, one of the first books that initially got me started with nutrition coaching.
It takes time to figure out exactly what your body needs. By slowing down, avoiding distractions and listening to your body’s cues, while taking your shirt off, you can begin to stop eating before the point of no return.
Now that you’ve read mine, I’d love to hear yours.
What are your tricks to help you eat less? Let us know in the comments below.