Austin Personal Trainer Ross' Blog

A Precision Health & Fitness blog

Tips to Prevent Overeating: General Strategies

Posted by Ross Harrison, CSCS, NSCA-CPT on August 15, 2010

     Overeating is one of the greatest obstacles for people wanting to lose fat, get in shape, and improve their health. Eating too much can make it almost impossible to achieve your health and fitness goals, because any time you consume more calories than you burn, your body will be forced to store more fat. This will happen regardless of how healthy you eat, so it is important to avoid overeating as much as possible.

     The first tip is simply to eat slowly. This is something most people realize they should do, but few people actually follow through with it. The key is that it can take about 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you have eaten enough to fulfill your body’s physiological need. This represents the amount of calories (energy) your body needs to function properly and it does not necessarily have to do with feeling full.

     When you eat slowly, it minimizes the number of extra calories you consume before your brain tells you that you have eaten enough, which is a big step in preventing overeating. This also leads to the important question of how do you know when you have eaten too much? This question has multiple answers, but the simple answer is that if you feel full then you ate too much. There are some exceptions, especially for people who consistently consume too few calories, but feeling full is almost always a sign of eating too much.

     A second tip to prevent overeating is to drink low calorie fluids, such as water or healthy teas. Even though these beverages do not contain calories, they still help you feel satisfied and are useful for preventing cravings and other negative hunger related feelings. Drinking a glass or two (8-16 ounces) of liquid during your meal also causes you to eat a little slower and further decreases the chance of overeating.

     The final tip, and perhaps the most important one, is to eat as soon as possible after you start feeling hungry. Hunger feelings are your body’s way of telling you that you need to consume more calories. Initially feelings of hunger are minor, but they typically increase as time goes on. If you eat before your hunger intensifies, the hunger signals generally go away rather quickly.

     On the other hand, the longer you wait to eat, the more you will feel compelled to eat once you finally do start eating and this leads to the consumption of large quantities of unnecessary calories. Some people think the best approach is to ignore their hunger altogether and skip meals, but this is an incredibly bad idea. It may lead to some initial short-term weight loss, but it really just results in slowing down your metabolism and making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain fat in the future.

     Ideally, your goal should be to eat when you just start feeling hungry and stop eating before you feel full. This can be a challenge, especially because so many people use the feeling of fullness as the sign to stop eating, but if you can stop before that point, it will greatly help prevent you from overeating. Plus, it leads to better overall health and long-term fat loss.

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