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Stop overeating to more effectively lose weight and live healthier

Stop overeating to more effectively lose weight and live healthier

Parties, picnics, donuts at the office, super-large portions at restaurants, fast food, all-you-can-eat buffets - it’s easy to overeat almost anywhere you go! There’s no refuge at home either. Refrigerators and pantries hold all that tempting comfort food that we turn to when we feel stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Given the popular pastimes of overeating and emotional eating, it’s little wonder that so many adults and children are overweight.

On any given day, millions will start yet another diet - eating according to some expert’s idea of proper nutrition - following the recipes, measuring the portions, and copying the menus. But will it work? Despite the hundreds of diets on the market, the fact remains that obesity is on the increase. Two-thirds of all adults in the US are overweight and obesity is spreading to children like a contagious disease! It seems we’ve lost track of what natural, healthy eating is all about. So yes, choose a diet plan that works for you. You can also change a few of your eating habits in simple ways to cut calories, eat less, and enjoy it more.


Do ask yourself whether you are truly hungry

When you think about eating, ask yourself “Am I really hungry right now?” One of the most common reasons people give for overeating is that they engage in emotional eating. They eat not because of hunger, but because of emotions. They eat to relieve anxiety, or boredom, or loneliness. They aren’t eating for nutrition - they are eating for comfort - and the comfort is brief, often followed by regret. Instead, tune in to your body sensations - let your body tell you when to eat. Find other ways to cope with difficult emotions: make an action plan, talk to a friend, see a therapist, join a support group, write in your journal, pray, pamper yourself, go work out at the gym, do something nice for someone else. There are dozens of ways to lift yourself out of the dumps without binging on ice cream.

Do stock up on healthy foods and keep them handy

Ban sugary, fattening foods from your home. Stock your shelves and refrigerator with healthy foods that you can grab on the go. Choose fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and salads with protein (beans and chunks of tuna, for instance). Plan ahead and take your own healthy snacks to the party or picnic. Keep fresh, healthy snacks at work so that you can avoid those donuts sitting next to the coffee pot.

Do take small portions

Super-sized meals in today’s restaurants are way too large, unless, of course, you are an NFL linebacker. Share your meal with a dinner companion or ask for a carry-out box and put half your meal in it. Take it home and have it for lunch tomorrow. At parties, banquets, and buffets, take only a small portion of each type of food you like. If you take more food than you need, you’ll feel obligated to clean your plate - and eat too much. With small portions, you can always get second helpings if you still feel hungry.

Do drink water and stay hydrated

Drink water throughout the day so that you don’t mistake dehydration for hunger. Water bestows many health benefits, including a boost to your metabolism.

Do stop eating when you feel full

It doesn’t matter if there is food left on your plate. It doesn’t matter if others around you are still eating. It doesn’t matter if someone offers you another helping. Stop eating when you feel comfortably full. How do you know when your stomach is full? Put down your fork. Sit quietly for a moment and focus your attention on the sensations in and around your stomach. It might help to place the palm of your hand firmly against your stomach. You’ll feel a comfortable pressure - a fullness . Notice additionally that you no longer feel hungry. These are the signals from your body that it’s time to stop eating.


Do not let your environment dictate your eating habits

Most overweight individuals eat in response to environmental cues - whether they actually feel hungry or not. They eat because they smell food, or because they see other people eating, or they see a commercial for food, or a dessert on the cover of a magazine at the grocery store checkout. Remind yourself that external cues are not an indication that you should eat. The essential key to a healthy weight is to eat only when you feel hungry, in response to your own physical sensations. Trust your body to tell you when to eat.

Do not fill up on foods with high levels of simple carbohydrates

Sugars, fats, starches (from wheat, corn, potatoes and rice), many processed foods, and alcohol break down rapidly in the digestive system, converting to sugar. These High Glycemic Index (HGI) foods are high in calories and low in nutritional value. HGI foods are stored as fat because the body gets energy more efficiently from proteins and high fiber foods that digest slowly. HGI foods raise blood sugar, causing the pancreas to pump more insulin to bring down sugar levels. As blood sugar levels drop, the result is fatigue, which many people interpret as a need for more sugar. Over time, excessive intake of HGI foods can tax the pancreas, bringing about health risks such as hypoglycemia or type II diabetes.

Do not wolf it down

If you eat quickly, your stomach doesn’t have sufficient time to get the message to your brain that you’ve eaten enough - and that lag time could result in overeating. Your best bet is to eat slowly, take small bites, pause between bites, and savor every morsel. Really take the time to taste food and enjoy it. The more you enjoy it, the less you need to feel satisfied.

Do not endow food with illogical meanings

“Those donuts are calling to me. Cookies are my best friends. Hamburgers have a hold on me that I can’t resist.” Overweight individuals endow food with illogical meanings, reinforcing the belief that they are powerless over what they eat and how much they eat. Naturally thin people never think like this. To them, food is food and nothing else. Start thinking about in a more realistic manner and you’ll have more control over your choices.

Do not beat up on yourself if you take a day off from your diet

If you adhere to healthy nutrition and occasionally indulge in eating something sinfully fattening and delicious, then you are eating the way naturally thin people do. Thin people do eat fattening foods - occasionally. When they do, they look forward to doing so, they enjoy it, and they don’t feel guilty. Why? Because over the next few days they carefully select healthy foods that make up for their indulgence. In this way they always maintain whatever weight they choose. If you follow your diet plan six days a week and take a detour one day a week, you’ll find you can enjoy a sinful delight and still achieve your target weight over the long run.

Jumping cartoon

With a few simple behavioral changes in your eating habits you’ll discover you can eat sensibly, enjoy nutritious foods, and stop overeating. My recommendation is this: instead of implementing these dos and don’ts all at once, add a new one each week. When you’ve implemented all ten, you might want to maintain a spreadsheet so that you can log in each day whether or not you completed each do and don’t. There are several apps that you can download to your electronic devices that will help you keep track of your consistency. Celebrate your successful days and learn from those that didn’t work out so well. The secret to getting the weight you want is not perfection, but persistence.

More expert advice about Dieting

Photo Credits: Midsommar kaka by Flickr: Urban Hafner; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D., L.P.C.Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Life Coach, Hypnotherapist, and NLP Practitioner

Dr. Judith E. (Judy) Pearson, the Habit Maven, has over 20 years of experience in private practice. She is a certified Master Clinical Hypnotherapist, serving as the Executive Director of the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists...

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