Overeating is a serious problem and it isn’t easy to figure out just what is causing the desire to eat even when you aren’t hungry or know that have already eaten too much. The key to breaking the cycle of eating is to understand the root cause and deal with the issues and triggers that lead you to eat. As is commonly said in the healthy eating world, “If hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution.” Keeping this mantra in mind we are going to look into how exactly you can find out what is causing you to eat and how you can take back control of your diet.
Finding Your Eating Triggers
The only way to find a solution to stop yourself from eating is to find the reason or reasons why you are drawn in to eat. This can be anything from simple habits, like if you always eat in a certain situation like on the drive home from work if you stop off for a snack, to stress or emotional eating where you mask mental issues using food to feel good or fill your time. Of course there are many other reasons why you might eat and so you need to be tenacious and observe yourself.
By constantly questioning yourself each time you feel the urge to eat you can pinpoint the different reasons and situations that lead you to overeat. This is the most important step, and at first, just identifying the reasons you are eating will help even if you are not able to control the urges; just take note, be honest with yourself and remember that you are making progress. It can be a big help to find some outside support. Family, friends and online message boards can all be great places to find support if you can’t stop eating. Sharing your story and hearing the plights of others can help you manage.
Boredom is a Typical Trigger
Learn to Master Your Triggers
After you’ve identified the reasons that make over eating a problem you will need to learn how to control the urges when they arise. Just being aware is a big step, but many times relying on willpower alone to stop eating will not work. Triggers for eating can be deeply ingrained and difficult to overcome and a step by step process may work better than trying to stop cold turkey.
First, make yourself aware that you are not eating because of a need for food as nourishment but for some other reason. This gives you a chance to decide to avoid eating all together. Telling yourself, “I am not hungry I don’t really need to eat this”, may stop the problem in its tracks. If you still have a strong desire to eat something, try to make a choice that is going to satisfy your desire for food.
Eating a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream are not satisfying meals, instead prepare yourself something healthier and more substantial. A balanced meal or snack, with good sources of protein, fat and fibre will help in a few ways. First, this type of meal takes longer to prepare and to eat. While you are preparing and eating the meal, the cravings for food are being met. Any time spent preparing and eating the food is time not spent snacking. Along with this tip would be the suggestion to avoid “simple” foods that are very easy to eat, take no preparation and are probably highly processed. These types of snack foods will do very little to curb your appetite and are more likely to create a cycle of continuous eating.
If it is inevitable that you will eat this kind of snack food try to separate it into smaller portions and take your portion to another room to be eaten. Avoid chowing down right from the fridge or from the bag. A good plan is to alternate a healthy meal with an unhealthy one. If you have a craving for this sort of unhealthy snack food, eat it with one of the filling healthy meals mentioned before. You will still get the satisfaction from the food, but you will also now begin to disassociate it from being a snack food to being part of a larger meal.
Drinks are On You
Try using no-calorie beverages in place of eating. If you are on an eating spree, try using a drink to break the cycle. Pour yourself an 800 mL glass of your favourite drink and finish that before you eat any more. If this helps, try waiting an additional 10-20 minutes after you finish your drink before eating again. Keep these drinks around the places you keep your food to help remind you to drink more.
If you eat out of boredom like me, a trip to the fridge or cupboard looking for something to eat is often thwarted by the sight of a bottle of water or flavoured drink. A great example of a good drink is water with lemon and stevia, which makes a great no calorie lemonade. Try to avoid having too much artificial sweetener, especially aspartame, which can be very unhealthy.
Control the Access to Food
The first step to controlling problem eating is controlling access to food. If you house or office is stocked with pre-packed trigger foods it makes it much too easy to over eat. If you have a problem where you can’t stop eating a certain food, try limiting the amount of that food you keep on hand.
First, try to go grocery shopping once a week and buy the food you will want to eat for that week. This makes it easy to buy great fresh foods which are generally healthier than packaged foods. Also this can be your first gateway to preventing overeating. Instead of stocking up on problem foods, you can buy a much smaller amount. This way you either have the choice to eat your entire supply quickly, in one or two days, or to practice restraint and make it last the whole week, thereby eliminating the problem of not being able to stop eating. Once you’ve run out of the bad foods you’ll be left with healthy choices.
Avoid the Fad Diets
Getting a good diet plan which teaches you about food and how to eat properly is an important part to combating overeating. A diet that works can be a key piece of the puzzle to getting the tools you need to make healthier overall choices in your life.
Be sure that you find a reputable, proven diet plan that teaches you how to eat long term and not a “fad diet” which will try to starve you for a short period and puts impossible restrictions on what you eat that aren’t sustainable. These types of fad diets are responsible for the yoyo effect of weight loss and gain that are reported on by the media. A real diet plan which emphasizes healthy eating and gives you a proper plan to follow can be one of the best things for teaching the mental and physical tricks you need to stop eating more than you’d like.
Summing it Up
- Find the foods and situations that cause you to overeat and take note of them in your daily life
- Try to avoid these triggers as often as possible
- Find some good support, avoid negative influences
- Eat healthier, larger and more balanced meals more often which may or may not include trigger foods
- Avoid simple, highly processed foods
- Portion your food when you eat it, don’t eat right from the bag or fridge
- Drink more water and no-calorie beverages, but avoid too much artificial sweetener
- Control access to trigger foods by changing the way you shop
- Start a healthy diet which teaches sustainable eating habits, avoid fad diets which focus on short term starvation or eliminating food groups