Three Ways to Avoid Overeating at Meals
Sometimes those holiday and birthday feasts are just amazing. And it’s not just the abundance of delicious food but also the people, the decorations, and the ambiance. It is way too easy (and common) to indulge on those days. But it doesn’t always stop there. Sometimes we overeat on regular days. Or at regular meals. Or All. The. Time. Here are three tips to avoid overeating at meals.
(Psst, turn these into habits and ditch the willpower!)
Tip #1: Start with some water
When your stomach is growling and you smell amazingly delicious food it’s too easy to fill a plate (or grab some samples with your bare hands) and dive into the food.
But did you know that it’s possible to sometimes confuse the feeling of thirst with that of hunger? Your stomach may actually be craving a big glass of water rather than a feast.
Some studies have shown that drinking a glass or two of water before a meal can help reduce the amount of food eaten. And this super-simple tip may even help with weight loss (…just sayin’).
Not only will the water start to fill up your stomach before you get to the buffet, leaving less room for the feast but drinking enough water has been shown to slightly increase your metabolism.
Tip #2: Try eating “mindfully”
You’ve heard of mindfulness but have you applied that to your eating habits?
This can totally help you avoid overeating as well as having the added bonus of helping your digestion. Just as being mindful when you meditate helps to focus your attention on your breathing and the present moment being mindful when you eat helps to focus your attention on your meal.
Do this by taking smaller bites, eating more slowly, chewing more thoroughly, and savoring every mouthful. Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture. Breathe.
This can help prevent overeating because eating slower often means eating less. When you eat quickly you can easily overeat because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full. So take your time, pay attention to your food and enjoy every bite.
Bonus points: Eat at a table (not in front of the screen), off of a small plate, and put your fork down between bites.
Tip #3: Start with the salad
You may be yearning for that rich, creamy main dish. But don’t start there. (Don’t worry, you can have some…just after you’ve eaten your salad). Veggies are a great way to start any meal because they’re full of not only vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and health-promoting phytochemicals but they also have some secret satiety weapons: fiber and water. Fiber and water are known to help fill you up and make you feel fuller. They’re “satiating”. And these secret weapons are great to have on your side when you’re about to indulge in a large meal.
Have your glass of water, eat mindfully, and start with your salad to help avoid overeating at meals. Recipe (Water): Tasty (and beautiful) Pre-Meal Water Ideas
If you’re not much of a plain water drinker or need your water to be more appealing to your senses here are five delicious (and beautiful looking) fruit combos to add to your large glass of water:
- Slices of lemon & ginger
- Slices of strawberries & orange
- Slices of apple & a cinnamon stick
- Chopped pineapple & mango
- Blueberries & raspberries
Tip: You can buy a bag (or several bags) of frozen chopped fruit and throw those into your cup, thermos, or uber-cool mason jar in the morning. They’re already washed and cut and will help keep your water colder longer.
Have you ever acted against your better judgment? Ummmm, of course you have. We all have. Sometimes you do things that you later regret. And this keeps you from achieving that lean, sexy body that you want.
- You hit snooze rather than waking up early to exercise before work.
- You blow off your healthy eating plan to indulge in a hamburger and fries.
- You start an exercise program only to drop out two weeks into it.
These regrettable actions prevent you from achieving your goals and keep you stuck.
Most of us are all too familiar with this frustrating paradox. It’s almost as if there are two sides inside of you, raging war on each other. Your sensible side versus your emotional side. What you want versus what you do.
A psychologist named Jonathan Haidt came up with a mental model that explains exactly why you do things that you wish you hadn’t – and how to take control to finally do the actions necessary to get what you really want.
“The image I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness [of willpower], was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him,” explained Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.
Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant. The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. The Elephant, The Rider, and The Path are a great framework for understanding yourself and what drives you. All human change depends on it.
Here’s Haidt’s mental model for creating lasting change in greater detail…
The Rider: is your rational and analytical side. The Rider is a visionary that has the ability to think long-term, to plan, and that is willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs. The Rider loves to contemplate and analyze, has limited reserves of strength, suffers from paralysis by analysis, and relentlessly focuses on problems rather than solutions. Most crucially, the Rider is so small compared to the six-ton Elephant that anytime they disagree about which direction to go, the Rider will lose.
The Elephant: is made up of your emotions and instincts. The Elephant prefers the comfort and security of a well-trodden path, even if a new path leads to a better outcome – this is why it’s so difficult to change your habits. The Elephant has enormous strengths: love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. The Elephant is the one who gets things done.
The Path: is your surrounding environment, the context in which the Rider and the Elephant operate. A rocky Path makes change hard, if not impossible, even when the Rider and the Elephant work together.
There are three steps to lasting change:
- Direct the Rider
- Motivate the Elephant
- Shape the Path
1) Direct the Rider:
Change begins with a plan, and it’s the Rider who comes up with plans. Direct your Rider to analyze what’s right, and what works. When you’ve lost weight and made progress towards your fitness goals in the past what worked for you? Focus on these bright spots rather than on potential problems related to your desired change. Once you’ve come up with a plan, move on. It’s important to move quickly and to avoid getting bogged down with paralysis by analysis.
2) Motivate the Elephant:
In order for the plans of your Rider to succeed, your Elephant must feel emotionally invested in the outcome. Find an emotional connection that you feel deep down in relation to the goal. Don’t just think about why you want to achieve your goal – feel why you need to achieve your goal.
3) Shape the Path:
Make change easy. Reduce obstacles in your life, so that the new desired behavior is frictionless. Move the barriers between you and the actions that you want to take. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Spend time in the morning to prep all of your healthy daily meals. Get a trainer to hold you accountable to showing up to your workouts.
The key to effective change is getting the Elephant and the Rider moving together on a smooth path to success. Do this and you’ll stop doing things that you later regret.