Overeating is something that most of us suffer from at one point or another. If allowed to continue unchecked, this overeating can lead to tremendous overconsumption of calories, thus thwarting any attempt at weight loss.
If you find yourself constantly overeating, you’ll need to find techniques that will help you exercise better control, even during your hungriest moments.
In this article, I’ll touch of 5 of my favorite techniques for keeping better control over your food intake, while avoiding accidental overeating.
Avoid Long Durations Without Food
The first and likely most obvious technique to guard against accidental overconsumption of food is to avoid having long periods without food. Surprisingly, there are a few reasons why spending long durations without food may be ill-advised.
The first reason that long-duration fasting can lead to overfeeding is its effect on ghrelin secretion.
Ghrelin is a hormone which is released by cells within the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. This hormone then acts on the brain to stimulate foraging, or seeking food, so that you can satiate your hunger.
Unfortunately, having high amounts of ghrelin in circulation during times when you would normally be eating can lead to accidental overconsumption of food, once you do have the opportunity to eat.
Additionally, it’s also suggested that you stick to a normal pattern of eating on a daily basis.
Ghrelin-containing cells actually work on a circadian rhythm, meaning that these cells release the hormone around times when you normally eat. Thus, if you deviate from your typical schedule by irregularly fasting for long periods of time, this continued release of ghrelin with no food intake following, can lead to immense hunger and overeating (1).
Further, it’s important to keep in mind that this suggestion is much different than using a daily intermittent fasting protocol. Whereas intermittent fasting can actually help reduce your hunger, irregular periods of fasting, i.e. differing from your normal schedule, may lead to hunger and overeating.
Overall, I suggest avoiding long periods without food in addition to sticking to a normal schedule of eating.
Drink Water Before Your Meals
Drinking a large amount of water just prior to having a meal where you could find yourself overeating is an easily applicable technique.
This technique lends itself to how the aforementioned ghrelin-containing cells actually secrete the hormone. Interestingly, these ghrelin cells are sensitive to stretch and respond accordingly.
Prior to meals, these cells are not stretched, since your stomach is empty. Upon eating food, these cells become stretched, inhibiting further release of the hunger hormone, providing you with a feeling of fullness.
Drinking large amounts of water just before a meal acts in a similar manner. The water takes up space in the stomach, thus stretching these ghrelin cells. Additionally, any food you eat afterwards will stretch these cells even further.
In fact, one study even showed that drinking just 2 cups of water before a meal led to less food being eaten, and additionally to more weight lost (2).
In essence, by consuming large amounts of water before a meal, you stretch ghrelin cells in the stomach, helping you to feel fuller, faster.
Stick With Your High Volume Foods First
We’ve all been there. You haven’t eaten for a while and you finally get dinner. Once you sit down, you immediately jump for the carbs and begin eating. Ten minutes later, all of your carbs are gone and all of your other healthy food remains.
While reaching for the carbs first always feels good, I suggest controlling yourself and opting for your high volume, low calorie options first. By doing so, you’ll fill up on beneficial food first, which will limit any subsequent overconsumption.
Prioritizing the consumption of foods which are rich in lean protein and fiber will actually slow down the rate of digestion. This means that you’ll feel fuller faster, while also remaining full for longer periods of time (3, 4, 5).
Consuming large volume foods such as vegetables also has the added benefit of stretching those ghrelin-containing cells earlier on during the meal, helping you avoid any overconsumption.
I suggest always starting with your protein and fiber rich foods and then moving on to the more delicious, yet higher calorie food options afterwards.
Have Protein Before Your Meals
In a similar fashion to the water suggestion, there is actually evidence that drinking whey protein either before or in between meals may lead to a reduction of food intake during the meal (6).
In my opinion this is one of the best options for avoiding overfeeding. The reasons for this suggestion are that the protein not only reduces appetite, but also allows for extra protein consumption, which (in addition to reducing appetite) can stimulate metabolism and theoretically help increase muscle growth.
I suggest first trying a whey protein shake, 30 minutes before your scheduled meal. If possible, you may even consider a whole protein source, such as meat, yogurt or cottage cheese.
While whey protein seems to be effective, consuming a whole source as mentioned will likely produce greater results, since digestion of those proteins requires more effort than for a whey protein shake.
Overall, consuming some form of protein within an hour before meals seems to be an effective strategy for reducing food intake and avoiding accidental overconsumption.
Eat More Slowly
Lastly, I suggest controlling the speed at which you consume your food.
Eating quickly becomes even more of an issue because it takes time for signals from the gut to reach the brain, which eventually results in stopping consumption of food. So, if you’re eating foods higher in calories, it is easy to accidentally overconsume calories before you realize what has happened.
While to date there isn’t a great deal of scientific data on this, it’s certainly logical that paying closer attention to your food intake will allow you to better control your eating and prevent consuming extra calories from less optimal foods that you enjoy and possibly eat too quickly.
I suggest eating in a more mindful and slower manner to allow for better control and management over the amount of food you’re consuming.
5 Techniques To Avoid Overeating
Overeating is an issue that many of us deal with on a daily basis. We have the opportunity to eat something we enjoy and so, more often than not, we consume far too much of it.
These techniques should allow you to have better control of your food intake, allowing you to avoid accidental overconsumption of food and overall calories.
- Lesauter, J., Hoque, N., Weintraub, M., Pfaff, D. W., & Silver, R. (2009). Stomach ghrelin-secreting cells as food-entrainable circadian clocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(32), 13582-13587. doi:10.1073/pnas.0906426106
- Dennis, E. A., Dengo, A. L., Comber, D. L., Flack, K. D., Savla, J., Davy, K. P., & Davy, B. M. (2010). Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle‐aged and older adults. Obesity, 18(2), 300-307.
- Lorenzen, J., Frederiksen, R., Hoppe, C., Hvid, R., & Astrup, A. (2012). The effect of milk proteins on appetite regulation and diet-induced thermogenesis. European journal of clinical nutrition, 66(5), 622-627.
- Cho, S. S., Case, I. L., & Nishi, S. (2009). Fiber and Satiety. Weight Control and Slimming Ingredients in Food Technology, 227.
- Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.
- MacKenzie-Shalders, K. L., Byrne, N. M., Slater, G. J., & King, N. A. (2015). The effect of a whey protein supplement dose on satiety and food intake in resistance training athletes. Appetite, 92, 178-184.