People often eat even though they are not hungry, which is a common reason why people have trouble losing weight and keeping it off. Below, we have listed some tips you can use to try and stop eating when you are not hungry and control mindless eating:
Keep track of what you eat
Keeping track of what you eat is a great way to become more fully aware of what you are putting into your body. It gives you insight into when and what you are eating, and therefore, the ability to think about why you might be engaging in that behavior. You won’t be able to change your habits unless you know what they are, and tracking your snacks and meals is a great place to begin. Studies have shown that people who track what they eat in a food log actually end up eating less than those who don’t, and this is because a food log holds you accountable and allows you to make smarter choices going forward.
Take a break before you eat
Reflect before you eat. Are you actually hungry or are you just bored? Stressed? Tired? There are so many reasons why we eat aside from being hungry. Acknowledging this is the first step towards becoming more aware of why you are eating, and stopping it if you aren’t really hungry. If every time you were about to eat, you took a minute to think about your own emotional and physical state, there may be many more instances when you catch yourself before you eat something. Checking in with your body every few hours for hunger cues is a great way to make sure you are eating when you are hungry and not eating when you are full.
Find alternative activities aside from eating
Aside from thinking about eating before you actually eat, it is important to try and understand the cues your body is sending aside from the cue that you should eat. Let’s say that around 3:00 pm each day, you typically have something sweet to get you through your mid-afternoon slump. It is helpful to ask if you are really hungry, or if you are just looking for something to wake you up. It can be very helpful to try and get to the root of why you’re eating at various times in the day so you can adjust your eating habit to another activity, unless you are actually hungry. This could mean taking a quick walk, calling a friend, or stretching for a couple minutes.
Drink water throughout the day so that you do not mistake thirst for hunger
Oftentimes, people mistake hunger for thirst. Thirst signals can be very weak and can feel very similar to hunger cues, which makes it easy to confuse them. In order to make sure you are correctly evaluating your body’s internal cues, it is beneficial to drink lots of water throughout the day, even when you don’t feel dehydrated. Before eating something, drink a glass of water and wait ten minutes to see if what you thought was a hunger cue was really just a cue that you needed to have something to drink.
Plan meals in advance
Planning meals in advance can allow us to have an agenda for what we expect to eat throughout the day. It gives us a way to be accountable to ourselves when a mid-day cookie sounds like just about the perfect thing to munch on. When we know that dinner is just around the corner, it is much easier to skip the snack and wait for a full meal. Planning meals in advance, and actually preparing some of the food a day before eating, is a time efficient and easy way to keep on track with eating meals that are healthy and filling.
Use visual cues
One way to make sure that you stop eating when you feel full is by leaving visual cues for what you already ate. For example, if you are eating chicken wings, make sure to keep the scraps on the table as a visual reminder of how much you ate. Studies have shown that being able to see this tangible evidence of what you have already eaten makes you more likely to not overeat. This could mean leaving out your dirty plate and taking a new one should you want seconds, as a way of keeping the amount you ate on the top of mind during a meal. These kinds of visual reminders are a great way to make sure that we eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full.
Eat more protein
Eating enough protein is a great way to stay satiated throughout the day. Many studies have shown that eating food with a lot of protein keeps people feeling full for longer than people who eat the same amount of calories with higher amounts of carbs or fat. When you actually are hungry, eating snacks with high levels of protein in them can make you feel full for longer, which allows you to eat less snacks throughout the day, avoiding unnecessary calories.
Keep snacks out of sight
Out of sight, out of mind. Keeping snacks out of direct sight can curb our habit of eating simply because there is food in view. Putting snacks in a cabinet or a bin rather than having them easily accessible is one way to trick our minds into not even thinking about eating. Another idea when it comes to snacking, is to keep a healthier option in your bag throughout the day, so if you get tempted by something like a vending machine, you have a healthier option on hand. It is very easy to have a snack just because it is there, and trying to keep them out of sight is a great way to stop this habit.
Portion your snacks
It can be very easy to fall into the trap of eating directly from the bag when it comes to things like chips or pretzels. I have found myself watching a TV show and looking down to find that I ate almost an entire family-sized bag of chips. It is so easy to be mindless when eating from a large container. Instead of falling into this trap, which ultimately leads you to eat more than what makes you feel full, you can portion snacks out into a cup or bowl in order to be more mindful of how much you are eating. If anything, you will have to get up again to refill the bowl should you want more to eat.
After eating, it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes for the food we eat to make it to our stomachs. This means that it is very easy to eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time and feel very overfull. By eating slowly, you will be able to stop eating when you feel full, and not find yourself in a situation where you ate too much in a short while. Eating slowly also allows us to savor and enjoy our food more, making it a more enjoyable experience overall.