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5 Strategies to Stop Overeating

5 strategies to stop overeating

If you’ve struggled to lose weight in the past, part of the reason you struggled is that you might have a hard time resisting snacking and overeating. Don’t worry... you’re not alone! This is the main issue that many people face whenever they attempt weight loss.

So, how can you minimize these behaviors to ensure that you’re well on your way to achieving your weight loss goals?

Well, most people focus on their caloric intake because they know that they need to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. However, you need to be able to stick to a consistent calorie deficit in order to achieve weight loss. This is why it’s critically important that you work on developing behaviors/habits that help regulate your hunger/appetite and help you reduce snacking and overeating.

In this blog post, we're going to share five simple science-based strategies that will help you do exactly just that! Let’s get right into it.

Strategy #1: Focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods

One of the reasons you might find yourself snacking despite wanting to lose weight is that you feel hungry all the time. The simplest change you can make to your nutrition that's going to help you feel fuller throughout the day and prevent overeating, is to focus on eating as many whole unprocessed foods as possible.

These include foods like fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, yogurt, whole grains, and animal-based foods like steak, fish, poultry, and eggs. Whole foods tend to be less calorically dense and have more protein and fiber than highly processed alternatives, which will help keep you full throughout the day and reduce the amount of food that you eat.

By focusing on eating more whole foods you'll also end up eating less processed foods as a byproduct. The issue with processed foods is not that they inherently cause you to gain weight, it's that they're engineered to be very delicious so they're super easy to overeat. For example, a study by Kevin Hall [1] randomized participants to consume either a highly-processed diet of mainly foods like chips, soda, and candy or an unprocessed diet for 14 days.

The two diets were matched for the calories presented to the participants as well as the amount of sugar, fat, fiber, and macronutrients. So from a nutritional standpoint, both of the diets were actually pretty similar. However, even though the researchers controlled for all of these variables, the results showed that the participants that were randomized to the highly processed diet consumed an average of an additional 500 calories per day compared to the unprocessed diet. The reason this happened is likely just because the ultra-processed foods are more calorically dense and are hyperpalatable, meaning that they’re hard to resist because of the way they taste.

Strategy #2: Prioritize protein in your diet

Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which means that compared to carbohydrates or fats, protein helps keep you fuller for longer on a per calorie basis. For example, if you eat 300 calories worth of chicken breast you're probably going to feel fuller for a lot longer than if you just ate 300 calories worth of white rice or peanut butter. On top of its effects on satiety, protein also has the highest thermic effect of food, meaning that it requires the most amount of energy to break down and digest. So, if you eat 100 calories worth of protein you're actually absorbing slightly less than if you consumed 100 calories worth of carbohydrates or fats. The difference is minimal, but it is worth mentioning.

Now, you can't be on a diet that's only protein, but if you currently don't eat much protein, increasing your protein intake should help improve your satiety and reduce snacking. A good rule of thumb is if you usually have three to four meals per day you should try to consume about 30 to 50 grams of protein in each of those meals. A simple strategy to ensure that you’re consuming sufficient protein is to build your plate around it. Rather than serving yourself a meal and then figuring out how much protein it has, make sure to add sufficient protein to your plate and then build the rest of the meal around that.

Strategy #3: Eat more of your food earlier in the day

Aside from the types of foods that you eat and focusing on protein, the way you distribute your food intake throughout the day can also impact your snacking. In general, people who tend to eat more of their daily calories earlier in the day seem to have better hunger and satiety regulation and better body composition than individuals who tend to eat more at the end of the day. For example, in a 2022 clinical study [2], researchers tested the effects of meal timing on hunger and satiety.

Participants were divided into two groups. The early morning group consumed 45 % of their calories at breakfast, and 20% at dinner. Whereas the dinner group consumed only 20% of their calories at breakfast, and 45 % at dinner. So, one group had its largest meal in the morning while the other group had its largest meal at night. The results showed that both groups lost the same amount of weight, which makes sense since total calories were controlled for. However, the early morning group, which is the group that had the majority of their calories in the morning, reported significantly lower hunger and improved satiety compared to the dinner group.

If you currently don't eat much in the morning and you tend to eat way more at night, try to slowly start increasing the amount of food that you eat for breakfast. Shifting your eating behaviors to eat more in the morning might help you feel more energized which can result in being more physically active throughout the day and it may also help reduce snacking and overeating.

Strategy #4: Identify trigger foods and keep them out of the house

Let's face it, sometimes we overeat because we're hungry and sometimes we overeat just because we're bored and there's yummy food around. If you've been following us and reading our content, you know that we don't like labeling foods as "good" or "bad", avoiding certain foods at all costs, or labeling foods as healthy or unhealthy. That's because these types of behaviors can lead to super restrictive dieting habits that don't result in any sort of positive health outcome.

That being said though, it is important to find ways to minimize your snacking if you want to maintain a healthy body composition. For example, if you just absolutely love ice cream and you have a hard time not eating it, it's probably best that you don't have five different pints of ice cream in your freezer at all times.

Sometimes willpower can only take us so far.

If you make it more difficult for yourself to have high calories snacks by simply keeping them out of the house, then it's going to inevitably result in you snacking less on these foods.

Strategy #5: Prioritize your sleep

Your sleep habits can influence the types of foods that you eat as well as how much you eat. For example, a 2013 study [3] showed that a night of sleep deprivation resulted in a 13% increase in ghrelin concentrations. Ghrelin is also commonly referred to as the hunger hormone because it essentially tells your brain that you're hungry.

The increase in ghrelin concentrations was accompanied by an increase in hunger as well as an increase in larger portion sizes. In other words, if you are chronically getting poor sleep, it's more likely that you'll feel hungrier throughout the day and eat more overall food compared to sleeping sufficiently.

If you struggle to sleep well at night here are some things that might help:

  • Avoid large meals about two hours before going to bed
  • Avoid caffeine five to six hours before bed
  • Avoid artificial lights from your phone and your TV
  • Make sure you have a cool dark room for optimal sleeping conditions
  • Use a natural supplement like Sleep

Conclusion

None of these strategies are “magical.” There are many other strategies that you can use to stop overeating. However, If you're able to implement these five strategies into your day-to-day life, you'll probably notice that you have fewer cravings and less hunger which should help you reduce overeating and make it easier for you to achieve your weight loss goals.

 

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References

1. Hall, Kevin D et al. “Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake.” Cell metabolism vol. 30,1 (2019): 67-77.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008

2. Ruddick-Collins, Leonie C et al. “Timing of daily calorie loading affects appetite and hunger responses without changes in energy metabolism in healthy subjects with obesity.” Cell metabolism vol. 34,10 (2022): 1472-1485.e6. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2022.08.001

3. Hogenkamp, Pleunie S et al. “Acute sleep deprivation increases portion size and affects food choice in young men.” Psychoneuroendocrinology vol. 38,9 (2013): 1668-74. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.01.012

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