You just sat down to a meal and you are starved! Your mouth is watering. You can’t wait to dive in. You grab the fork and eat!
Before you know it, the plate is cleaned. All the food is gone. But you don’t remember eating it. And you certainly don’t remember how everything tasted.
You want more! So, you go in for seconds.
Fast forward 30-40 minutes. You’re stuffed. Your stomach hurts and is bloated. You feel miserable. And you start berating yourself for eating so much. You can’t believe you’ve done it again!
This is a super common cycle many people are guilty of. Myself included! We either get so busy we put off eating until we’re starving. Or we’ve got other things on our minds when we’re eating.
This week’s blog is all about how to overcome overeating. I’ll dish out several exercises you can do to help you eat less mindlessly and more mindfully.
Let’s get to it!
Overeating it common. Everyone does it. I mean EVERYONE. Even those that teach mindful eating for a living (ME!) still overeat at times. We overeat because we’re eating mindlessly. We aren’t focused on the food. Instead, we’re focused on everything else.
Ummm…hello! Multitasking…am I right?
We try to multitask all day long. We’ve only got 24 hours in the day and we’ve got about 30 hours’ worth of stuff to get done! One area we can multitask is eating. It saves time, right?
Here are common ways I see people multitask with food:
Eating lunch at their desk while catching up on emails or work
Driving in the car while eating lunch or dinner
Catching up on your favorite show while having dinner
Walking around the house picking things up while having a snack
This is mindless eating. When you do other things while eating, you’re not focused on the food. You’re only focused on the other task. Since you aren’t focused on the food, it’s almost impossible for you to listen to the cues your body gives you when you’re full.
Because if you aren’t paying attention to the taste and texture of the food and how it feels in your mouth, you aren’t paying attention to your body signals.
And you overeat.
So, when you eat, you only eat. You sit and eat. No eating and doing something else. Just eating. Because if you’re doing something else while you’re consuming foods, you aren’t paying attention to your body’s signals.
Just do one thing at a time. Let’s chat about some exercises you can try to help stop overeating.
Rate Your Hunger
A lot of times, people wait until their ravenous before eating and eat until they’re over full. Sounds familiar? I know I used to eat like this (and still do sometimes).
Rating your hunger is all about slowing down and listening to your body. Many don’t understand what their body feels like when it’s full. But they know what it feels like when they’re hungry.
The goal is to eat something when you’re just starting to get hungry. And to stop when you’re hitting the “no longer hungry” mark.
There are a ton of scales out there to help guide you. Below is one that really sums it up.
The goal is to start eating when you’re feeling about 4 of the scale. And to stop eating when you hit 7.
You may want to keep eating because the food tastes great. Or because you’re bored. Or you think you can’t eat again for several hours so you want to be stuffed right now to get you to your next meal.
It’s okay to stop. And you should give yourself permission to stop and eat again when you feel like a 4!
This exercise pairs perfectly with the next one, which is getting you to slow down your eating.
Put the Fork Down
Oftentimes, when eating, people hang on to the fork or the food waiting for enough room to open up in their mouth so they can put more in.
By slowing down the rate at which you consume the meal, you’re able to listen to your body cues that you’re full. And avoid being stuffed! This is an exercise that really gets you to slow down.
Here’s how it works:
Sit down to a meal with no distractions
Take a bite of your meal
Place the food or fork down
Focus on shewing the food 25 to 35 times
When you’ve swallowed, take another bite
Repeat until you’re full
This’ll feel very annoying. And you likely won’t actually finish all the food on your plate. That’s okay! The goal is to get you to slow down so you stop when you’re no longer hungry. If you have food left on your plate, wrap it up and eat it later if you get hungry again!
I really like using this exercise in conjunction with rate your hunger. I feel they go hand in hand. But, if it feels like too much…then just start with one!
The STOP Practice
This a practice I love. I learned about it while getting my Master’s in Nutrition. As far as I know, Elisha Goldstein, PhD created the practice. (If she didn’t and you know who did, I’d love to know!)
I use this practice with so many of my clients. Particularly with the ones that feed their emotions with food. The STOP practice is simple:
S – Stop
T – Take a breath
O – Observe how you’re feeling
P – Proceed how you see fit
Many of us eat when we’re stressed, angry, sad, upset, scared, or any other feeling you can think of. The point of the STOP practice is to determine what you’re feeling. Take note (observe) of what emotion is happening at that time.
Once you determine the emotion, you have two options (proceed). You proceed in the manner that you see fit at that time. But whatever you choose, you can’t be angry at yourself later.
If you say “to hell with it” and give in, then so be it! You’re giving yourself permission to indulge that emotion with food. You’re not giving yourself permission to mentally beat yourself up over it later.
See the difference? You eat or you address the emotion. That’s how you proceed.
An important thing to remember is to NOT beat yourself up when you overeat. Instead, accept that it’s done. You can’t change the past. But you can change the future. Make it a point to practice mindful eating at your next meal.
In the comments, let me know which exercise you’re going to add to your life to help reduce overeating.