Just finished a meal, but still want more? You’re not alone. A recent study* found that 65% of us are prone to overeating and snack at least once between meals, with 18% admitting that snacking has become a habit. And it’s not simply greed that has caused the average woman’s waistline to expand over the past 60 years – our busy, modern lifestyles are to blame, too.
“We’ve lost touch,” says Dr Aria Campbell-Danesh, a behaviour psychologist who specialises in overeating and weight management. “The human appetite is designed to regulate the amount of food our bodies need. However, in a society in which we’re bombarded with food advertising and high-sugar foods engineered to promote overconsumption, we’re off-kilter.”
It sounds simple but taking our relationship with food back to basics could be the solution. That means three balanced meals a day, enjoyed without distractions. Yet many of us eat just one meal a day. “Family responsibilities, relationships and work demands mean that mealtimes are frequently relegated in importance,” says Dr Aria. “We skip meals, eat in our cars and devour a sandwich while checking e-mails. This all aids overeating.” So if you love eating while watching your favourite series , it could be showing on your waistline!
Try these 5 ways to avoid overeating and feel satisfied with every meal…
1. Steer clear of larger portions
All we need in order to find ourselves overeating is the food right in front of us. A study showed that people who were unwittingly served 50% more food, ate 43% more overall.
So, eat on smaller plates when possible, and if you’re at a restaurant where you know they have large portions, ask the waiter to bag up half your meal before the food even makes it to the table (this might sound a little extreme, but there’s no reason to eat everything in one sitting just because you’re paying for it.
2. Never food shop after work
You make less healthy food choices when you’re hungry. In fact, hungry shoppers buy 23% more junk food as they’re more likely to choose high-calorie products. Because you’re likely to be hungrier between 4pm and 7pm, avoid shopping during this period. If it’s your only choice, go with a shopping list and stick to it.
3. Don’t fall for health halos
Just because something is sugar, fat or gluten free, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier. Sugar-free foods are often loaded with fat, and fat-free foods often contain more sugar than the regular version.
In addition, picking gluten-free foods when you aren’t actually gluten intolerant could mean that you’re losing out on valuable fibre as gluten-free foods are often lower in fibre than their whole-grain counterparts. In short, always compare the labels and make choices based on balance and overall calories.
Studies have also shown that people will often eat more if they perceive what they’re eating to be better for them. The best advice is to stick to a diet of whole foods to avoid any hidden sugars, fats and calories.
4. Enjoy your meal – It’s OK!
For many people, the simple act of eating is accompanied by feelings of guilt, stress and low self-esteem. If you make your meals a ritual and eat consciously, rather than gobbling down a sandwich in between everything else on your to-do list, you’re sure to eat less overall. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for your body to register an important change in hunger, so you have to give yourself time to feel full.
5. Skip stress eating
Do you find that you eat more when you feel stressed? Stress hormones can trigger cravings, especially for calorie-dense foods. Add to that the fact that those hormones are fuel for belly fat, and you’ve got a double-whammy to deal with.
It’s important to find other ways to deal with stress, so before reaching for the chocolate bar, do something that will focus your mind and get you out of the stressful situation. Try meditation (which you can do by simply closing your eyes and paying attention to your breathing for a few minuets) or going for a walk to get some fresh air.