You’re trying to lose weight and exercise regularly. Yet you find yourself craving different foods and before you know it, “just a few chips” turns into polishing off the bag. If this is a regular habit for you, it may be hindering your exercising efforts and stunting your weight loss abilities.
The important thing is to limit how much you indulge your cravings and curb your eating portions to a healthy level. Here are some ways to avoid overeating hurdles and what you can do to beat your cravings.
Determine Whether You’re Actually Hungry
Do Doritos just sound good, or is your stomach actually growling?
If you’re legitimately hungry, wait until lunchtime to eat a healthy meal, and opt for a snack like an apple or cheese that will hold you over instead. If they just sound tasty, it’s better to skip it and write it off as empty calories you won’t miss.
Starting off the day properly fueled will help stave off cravings and hold you over until lunchtime. Skipping your morning meal will leave you starving by lunchtime, causing you to eat more throughout the day to help you feel full.
Pay Attention to How Quickly You Eat
It takes longer to feel full if you eat too fast, causing you to take in more calories than you need in one sitting. Eating slower will help you process your food better, and lead to a more accurate feeling of fullness. Try to allow at least 20 minutes for your body to take in the food—this is 20 minutes to have a good mealtime conversation, too.
Don’t Think You Can Survive on Just Salads
Sure, this sounds great to the average dieter — and dark, leafy greens are packed with nutrients — but you need more than that to feel full. Eating just vegetables will leave you feeling hungry sooner, so add some energizing carbohydrates such as corn or beans, or protein like hard-boiled eggs or turkey to your salad and you will feel fuller, longer.
Get Rid of the Goodies
If it’s there, you’re more likely to eat it. Easy access to chips, cookies and other unhealthy foods makes overeating a thoughtless effort, so stick to the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Clear your pantry of unhealthy options and stock up on wholesome snacks you won’t feel guilty about using to hold you over until your next meal.
Drink More Water
Did you know your brain can confuse hunger with thirst? You could be eating when a glass of water would have done the trick. Drink water throughout the day, taking in one full glass before a meal, and one full glass during to avoid mistaking being dehydrated for hunger.
Processed Foods are Your Go-To
Another fun fact: Many processed foods are chemically engineered to trick your mind into thinking it’s still hungry. Although they are dense in calories, they lack actual nutrition and take longer for your body to feel full when you eat them.
Stress is Getting the Best of You
Whether you’re stressed about work life, home life or anything in between, this can cause you to lean on food to get you through it. Stress increases cortisol levels, which promote hunger and thus, overeating. Try other stress management techniques before you turn to food as a crutch.
Don’t Dismiss Your Cravings
If you never give in to your cravings, you will likely be unhappy, so don’t be afraid to indulge — sometimes. It’s all about the timing. A bowl of ice cream every now and then won’t seriously impact your health, so eat it and savor it, knowing it’s not something you will choose to eat every day. In the end, overeating leads to weight gain, which can increase blood pressure, increase your likelihood of developing diabetes, and other potential health issues.
Determine what your underlying reasoning is for overeating, and start there. If you or a loved one are trying to lose weight, but a healthy diet and exercise don’t seem to be working, it may be time to consult a professional.