Overeating is a common problem many of us may face whether we’re normal weight or overweight. We tend to overeat, ignoring the physical signs of satiation during times of stress or anxiety, which may suggest binge eating is not only about calories, but a psychological and emotional problem. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to stop binge eating that may help avoid packing on the pounds — and eating our feelings.
"Overeating may be done in terms of calories, but it can also be used to sublimate psychological and emotional needs that the person doesn’t trust humans to fulfill," said Dr. Jeanette Raymond, a psychologist in Los Angeles, Calif., to Medical Daily in an email. There are certain foods that become comfort foods that can become addictive, and it’s usually whatever the person associates with comfort from childhood. Raymond shared that depending on her clients’ mood and what type of control they are trying to achieve, they can crave sweet, crunchy, or a mixture of both foods.
To successfully suppress your appetite, trigger the brain to feel full. Apply these five simple tricks to your diet to stay healthy, fit, and trim:
1. Eat breakfast
We often hear breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it provides us with the energy and nutrients needed to improve our concentration at home, work, or school. Breakfast is also important in helping us maintain a healthy body weight and stops us from binge eating on snack foods high in fat and sugar long before it’s time for lunch. A 2013 study found adults who skip breakfast tend to have more body weight, hypertension, insulin resistance, and elevated fasting lipid concentrations. This leaves people prone to overeating later in the day and increases their risk of developing obesity-related diseases.
2. Snack on Healthy Foods
When the uncontrollable hunger pangs begin to set in, it’s important to consume healthy snacks that can help us avoid food cravings. Consuming healthy snacks like “fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (e.g. chicken breast, fish) are great, because they contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our body can use in a healthy way,” said Dr. Lindsey Hoskins, a psychologist in Bethesda, Md., to Medical Daily in an email. She suggests replacing sugary drinks like juices and diet coke with water because it's a great way to feel full without consuming as many calories.
The more we eat addictive foods such as sugars, salts, fats, and carbohydrates, the more we want them. Consuming healthy fats can decrease sugars slowly to help avoid major cravings and prevent the body from experiencing rapid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Hoskins believes if we train ourselves to enjoy healthier foods that aren’t as addictive, this can be an essential tool to cut down on binge eating.
3. Use Smaller Plates
While this may be playing tricks on your mind, it’s for a good cause — your health. Eating on smaller plates can help curb your appetite because, quite frankly, we all know the larger the plate, the more likely we are to overeat. A 2006 study found children and adults serve themselves based on a size-contrast illusion, meaning they serve and consume more cereal when given a larger plate compared to those given a smaller plate. Plate and spoon size on the serving and consumption of ice cream was also evaluated.
At home, portions are a key factor for stopping the family from overeating at family dinners. “Plate accordingly... don't make dinner 'a la carte’” Dr. Dale Fernandez, a chiropractor at the Back to Wellness Center in Los Angeles, Calif., told Medical Daily in an email. Rather, Fernandez said, place food items on everyone’s plates in the kitchen in appropriate portions. All the serving dishes should be kept in the kitchen and not on the table, as many of us do. “Seconds are never necessary,” he said.
Physical activity can make us work up a sweat and even reduce our reaction to food signals post workout. Exercise is a great way to elevate our mood, help get our mind off food, and alleviate any stress. A 2012 study found exercise significantly reduced neuronal response to food, which could be detected in different areas of the brain. It also led to a significant decrease in activation in the parts of the brain that are associated with food craving, reducing incentive motivation, and reduced anticipation for food. Reduce your hunger pangs by getting a moderate amount of physical activity every day.
5. Mindful Eating
Overeating is a struggle that can be overcome with mindful eating techniques. Mindful eating includes pacing ourselves at meals and avoiding doing something distracting while we eat, such as sitting in front of the television or working on the computer. These distractions will interfere with our ability to perceive portion size, which can actually cause us to overeat. However, Kristen Smith, dietician in Atlanta, Ga., told Medical Daily in an email, those who eat fast and hardly chew their food don’t allow for the brain to recognize the flavor, nor give the food enough time to reach the stomach, and send a signal that it’s full. “I recommend to spend at least 20 minutes per meal and chew food to an applesauce consistency prior to swallowing,” Smith said.
Go ahead, and try these five tricks to curb your appetite, and resist the triggers of unhealthy snacking that lead to overeating.