I wish I had a dollar for every time I ate more than I intended to or wanted to when I was supposed to be on a diet. But instead of a dollar, all I got was a failed dieting day that usually led to a failed diet. And then a restart, and another round of eating too much.
If you're having trouble not eating too much when you're trying to lose weight, here are some techniques I used that helped me lose over 150 pounds...and those I still use today to maintain my weight loss.
Avoid the Exercise Reward Mentality
If you’ve eaten more than you should have after you exercise, it might not have been from hunger but from the exercise-reward-mentality. The dialogue in your head might go something like this, “Hey, I worked out so now I can have more to eat.” This is false.
You worked out—great. But don’t undo your calorie burn by eating more than you should. Treat a workout as a way to improve your health instead of as permission to eat too much.
Eat Enough Protein
Protein is mentioned a lot in weight-loss articles, and there's a good reason for that. It makes you feel full for longer, and that sense of fullness helps you control how much food you eat.
For example, I often have plain Greek yogurt with some fruit as part of my lunch. If I switch out the Greek yogurt for a pack of crackers, I’m eating about the same calories but not satisfying my hunger for as long.
Eat protein with every meal. I recommend eggs, small amounts of nut butter, Greek yogurt, whey protein in smoothies, cottage cheese, protein bars, and lean meats.
Use Your Brain, Not Your Eyes
It’s easy to get carried away when you see a display of delicious food or read the descriptions of entrees on a menu. But instead of relying on your eyes to tell you what you should pick, use your brain.
Sure, that Asian chicken salad on the menu looks great, but is it the best choice for your diet? Probably not, especially if the chicken is fried and the salad is drenched in dressing.
Yes, your eyes are telling you to eat more. But what's the impact on your diet? Do the math. If that salad has 800 calories and you're trying to stick to a 1,600-calorie diet, that’s half your calories in one meal.
Watch for Appetite Triggers
Almost everyone has certain appetite triggers that make it difficult to stop eating, or eat food not on their weight loss plan. It’s important to know what your appetite triggers are to avoid overeating.
Common appetite triggers include:
Certain foods or sensations such as candy, cakes, your favorite childhood meal, bakery smells, the sound of popcorn popping, or frying meat.
Feelings associated with food such as happiness, stress, or even boredom.
Environments or places you associate with pleasurable eating, such as your childhood home, a favorite restaurant, or a movie theater.
You can’t always avoid these triggers, but knowing what yours are can help you stop the overeating cycle before you completely blow your diet.
Have an Inner Dialogue
One of the common mistakes I made that caused me to eat too much was failing to have a little internal conversation with myself before I started eating. I often ate too much, whether I was eating salad, choosing from a buffet, or sitting down to a scrumptious restaurant meal. I stopped eating too much by reminding myself of three things before I started:
1) The food needed to fit in my weight-loss plan.
2) I needed to decide in advance how much I was going to eat.
3) Eating too much was easy, but recovering from consistent overeating was hard.
Find your own questions or statements to repeat to yourself before you start to eat. Having an awareness of your habits, goals, and challenges prior to eating can help you make better decisions.