If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I have struggled with my weight throughout my adult life. I’ve tried and (mostly) failed many times to lose weight. And while I believe in what I wrote in my post entitled What If Just Being Me Was Enough, I also realize that, particularly as we age, there are very real health risks associated with being overweight. That’s why, perhaps along with you, I will once again set my sights on losing some weight in the new year.
Making good choices is at the heart of the weight loss strategy I plan to use, and part of making good choices includes when to acknowledge that enough is enough. Easier said than done, to be sure. So, to help us both, I’ve put together this list of 18 ways to keep from overeating. You don’t have to try them all. Just select a few of the ones that seem particularly relevant to you and give them a try. Let me know what works!
18 Ways to Keep From Overeating
- Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat. If you want to go a step further, record the calories and other nutritional information for each food. Don’t forget to include your beverages. Keeping track of what you eat is a good way to understand where your weaknesses are and really be honest with yourself about how much you’re eating. As Dr. Phil says, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
- Eat real food. If all you’re eating is salads and Lean Cuisine meals, you’re setting yourself up to overeat the minute you find yourself in a situation where there is real food. Salads and diet meals are fine as part of your menu, but white-knuckling through each day, feeling deprived, is a scenario that is unsustainable and will almost inevitably result in overeating eventually.
- Design your environment to support healthy eating. If you have a weakness for chocolate cake, then it’s not a good idea to have a chocolate cake sitting on your kitchen counter. The “I’ll just have one bite” approach is a good way to end up eating the entire cake … one bite at a time.
- Know your trigger foods. Just like with the chocolate cake mentioned above, if you know it will be hard for you to stop eating a certain food, it’s best to keep it out of your house or buy it only in portion-controlled packaging. Sure, 15 low-fat Pringles is only 90 calories or so, but if there’s 150 Pringles in a can — and you know that once you start eating them, you can’t stop — well, you can do that math. Better to buy a single-serving bag of regular chips.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Feeling tired throughout the day is a sure-fire way to trigger overeating.
- Don’t skip meals. If you drive through the day drinking coffee and skipping lunch, by the time you get home in the evening, you’re likely to eat everything that you can get your hands on … and then order a pizza. Combine that with failure to implement #3 in this list, and it’s a “recipe” for disaster.
- Add vinegar and cinnamon to meals to control blood sugar. Both vinegar and cinnamon slow the rate at which your body metabolizes food, so you stay full longer and avoid the post-meal sugar crash.
- Resist the urge to “not waste food.” I know this goes against everything your grandmother taught you, but eating something simply because throwing it away would be wasteful just doesn’t make any sense. The moment you realize you’re full — better yet, before you’re full — scrape your plate into the trash.
- Hydrate. People often mistake thirst for hunger. Make sure you’re drinking enough water.
- Squeeze into those jeans when headed to a party. You will be far less tempted to park yourself by the buffet if your jeans are already barely zipping up.
- Walk away. Whether at a party, in the kitchen at work, or any other place where tempting food is plentiful, one of the best strategies is to simply move yourself away from the source of the temptation. How far away? As far as necessary to keep yourself from grabbing a handful of candy or refilling your plate.
- Ask for a doggie bag. Don’t wait until you ask for the check to ask for a box for your leftovers at a restaurant. The moment you feel yourself starting to get full, flag down your server and ask for a box. Once your food is boxed up, remove the box from the table so you’re not tempted to continue picking at it.
- Recognize that there are no “bad” foods. Since the beginning of time, humans have been tempted by the “forbidden fruit.” No food is inherently good or bad. Instead, think in terms of how much of the food you’re eating and be mindful of your trigger foods. One doughnut won’t kill you — or your diet. But if you can’t stop at one, it’s best to choose something else.
- Start today, not on Monday. I admit, I’m the worst when it comes to putting off healthy, portion-controlled eating. Start today. Not tomorrow morning, right now. I don’t care if you’ve eaten 5,000 calories today, meaning it wouldn’t “make sense” to worry about not overeating this evening. What doesn’t make sense is eating another 5,000 calories.
- Avoid “mindless” eating. Often, eating is a social affair. You’re eating with family, coworkers, or friends. So, I’m of the opinion that the advice to not talk during mealtime or give your meal your full focus is unrealistic. Instead, enjoy your meals with people whose company you enjoy. What you should get under control is truly “mindless eating,” like grabbing a bag of chips before you sit down to watch TV or mindlessly grabbing handfuls of junk food while you read the newspaper or watch your kid’s soccer practice. Those calories can really add up, and you’re not even really enjoying the food.
- Pay attention to those calories posted on the restaurant menu. When you realize the enormous difference in calories between an order of cheese fries and a baked potato, it makes it a whole lot harder to accept ignorance as bliss.
- Stop ignoring empty calories. It’s so easy to grab a soda from the vending machine or snag a doughnut as you walk through the conference room, grab a handful of candy or a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies. Train yourself to really view these types of foods as worthless. They provide your body with no nutritional value whatsoever and they add to your daily calorie intake, meaning either you burn off the extra calories with exercise or you accept that you’re going to gain weight.
- Finally, be your own best friend. Stop being so hard on yourself. For many of us, our inner dialogue is filled with criticisms that we would never say to someone else. A lot of us were trained to be modest and humble, and that has its place. But when it comes to getting your head straight and getting your eating under control, you need a cheerleader. And who better to do it than you? If you have a good day where you’re eating mindfully and make good choices, give yourself a round of applause. If you have a day where you mess up, let it go. Beating up on yourself for overeating doesn’t burn a single calorie. Regroup and start fresh … But remember, start fresh at the next meal, not on the next day or next month or even next year. Start now.