It’s easy to think of overeating in terms of binge eating … like when you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet and take the phrase ‘all-you-can-eat’ as a challenge. However, a lot of people overeat daily without meaning to.
So, what is overeating?
Overeating is simply consuming more calories than you expend.
Why do we overeat?
Normally, though not exclusively, people unwittingly overeat because they underestimate how many calories are in certain foods or they aren’t aware of (or don’t listen to) their hunger cues, i.e. your body telling you you’re hungry or full.
What can we do to reduce our chances of overeating?
If your goal is to lose weight, it’s important to take measures to reduce the chances of you overeating. Following these 4 tips will help:
1) Eat slowly
Eating slowly not only allows you to savour your food, it also gives your body time to digest.
It takes a while for our brains to register when we’re full as the chemical signals from the gut take time to get through the bloodstream to the brain. If you’ve ever been really hungry and shovelled your food down quickly, it’s likely that you got a sudden feeling of uncomfortable fullness afterwards. This is because you finished your meal before your body had the time to process that it was full. By eating slowly, you’re more likely to pick up on your body’s hunger cues which will prevent you from consuming extra calories that you don’t need.
2) Eat to 80% full
Once you start to eat slowly, you can practise eating until you’re 80% full. To explain what 80% full means, I first need to explain that 100% full is when you are completely stuffed, you can’t move and you can’t possibly eat anything else. 80% full is when you feel satisfied but not uncomfortable. Being in tune with your body’s warning signs will help you to stop eating before you have to loosen your belt or change into your stretchy pants.
3) Eat without distraction
If you’re watching TV or scrolling through social media as you eat, you’re distracted from the fact you’re eating, so it’s easy to absentmindedly overeat. Taking a break from technology whilst you eat will allow you to focus on how much you’re consuming. Being free from distractions may even allow you to enjoy your food more as you can concentrate on its taste and textures!
4) Eat unprocessed foods
Certain foods contain more calories per gram than others. For example, cake contains more calories per gram than carrots. Foods with a high number of calories per gram are easier to overeat. It wouldn’t take you long to eat 2000 calories of cake, whereas to eat 2000 calories of carrots, you’d have to eat a lot of carrots and it would probably take all day!
To lose weight, the majority of your diet should be foods that have a low number of calories per gram. Generally, processed foods have more calories per gram than unprocessed foods. Eating foods with a high-fibre content, such as fruit and veg, will also give you a longer-lasting feeling of fullness than starchy foods, such as bread.
For more information about the science behind hunger, check out my article on ‘Understanding your hunger’.
View Karen R. Koenig's short video on The Rules of 'Normal' Eating.