I love to eat and one of the reasons I am so much into running is that it allows me to eat certain things that I could not eat otherwise because my metabolism is so low. When I had my metabolism tested a while back it came in at roughly 1,400 calories per day and unless I would work out and do physical exercise that would be my limit unless I wanted to gain weight (a lot of weight that is). If you read the nutritional labels on food you know that the average diet is based on 2,000 calories per day – I think that is a recommendation from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) if I am not mistaken.
I Admit I Overeat
Since I am just another human being I have flaws (and I am sure my wife would say I have a lot of issues) and I make mistakes. Overeating is one of those mistakes that I make. If I am hungry and have the “right” food close to me I eat … a lot! My biggest problem is that I eat too fast, but that partially comes from the fact that I like to eat my food while it is hot. I do not like to eat food that is lukewarm and so I eat fast and that in return leads to overeating because it takes some time for the stomach to let everyone know that it is full. You can imagine what that means – especially if you have a weak metabolism = weight gain, unless you work out … a lot. I have gotten better both with less overeating as well as working out and so I am doing quite alright with my weight at the moment, but what if there are additional ways to reduce the risk of overeating?! Here are my best tips to avoid overeating.
I mentioned this before, but fast eating is one of the biggest issues when it comes to overeating. It is important to slow down so that your stomach can register that it is full and “notify” your brain about it – which in return will tell you to stop eating. One way to slow down your eating is by chewing more on each particular bite. In addition, taking frequent breaks from chewing helps as well. What I do is to take sips of water in between. So, let’s say I eat five bites, put the fork down, and then take a small sip of water before picking up the fork again. I also load up my plate with less food initially. I’d rather go and have seconds, but by the time I get seconds I might already feel full or at least fairly and therefore the risk of overeating is dramatically reduced.
Snack before Dinner (or Lunch)
Have something in between meals and you reduce the risk of overeating. Preferably you want to have a healthy snack about an hour before your next meal. I often eat a banana or an apple as a snack in between meals. That way I do not get overly hungry and simply have better portion control when meal time arrives. Try to avoid processed food snack options as they will not fill you up the same way as fruit or other good choices. As mentioned, fresh fruit makes for a great snack, but you can also pick choices like Greek Yoghurt (low fat), some deli slices of ham or turkey, or chew on some nuts or almonds (which you could also mix into the Greek Yoghurt. Besides eating an apple or a banana I also drink a glass of Kefir instead of eating something. Kefir (at least the one I am enjoying) comes 99% free of lactose and it features a good mix of carbs and protein and does not have much fat either.
Did you know that being dehydrated can trigger the feeling for hunger?! As a runner you want to be well hydrated anyway, but if you suffer from overeating you definitely want to have enough water (not soda) in the hour before meal time arrives. Drinking one to two large glasses of water before a meal dramatically reduces the risk of overeating. Studies have shown that it might help to reduce the calorie intake by around 100 calories per meal. Well, 100 calories does not sound much, but over the course of a week it would mean the difference between having eaten 700 calories or not.
Avoid using too many artificial sweeteners as they are proven to make you hungry – especially hungry for sweet foods like chocolate or candy in general. But while it might be easy to fight off the need for candy, feeling hungry even if you are not is a recipe for overeating. Stay away from sodas, especially the diet sodas as they are one of the worst offenders when it comes to artificial sweeteners. If you drink tea, use honey to sweeten your beverage. If you drink coffee, use actual sugar and not artificial sweeteners. If you are concerned about using sugar because you drink a lot of coffee, try to reduce the number of cups per day which also reduces the need for sugar. Experiment to find out how much sugar you really need and are still able to enjoy your cup of Joe.
Protein is your Friend
Protein offers many great benefits for us runners and it is also great when it comes to fight off overeating habits. Eating protein makes you feel full longer and by eating appropriate amounts of protein with your diet you feel less hungry. Result? Less overeating. There are several different ways to consume protein and you should mix it up a little bit. I mentioned earlier that I am enjoying a glass of Kefir before meals. It comes with a good amount of protein. Other sources of protein come from eggs, veggies, or meat. You need to check a little bit to find the right mix of protein-rich foods for you. Example: Just eating eggs can dramatically impact your cholesterol levels and so it would not be a good choice to eat too many eggs per day. While red and white meat contain protein, a healthier choice is eating Chicken or Turkey and less red meat like beef. For many years I ignored Chicken almost completely, but over time I have made my peace with chicken and I love it. I often make grilled chicken breast on the grill and either eat it warm as the main course of the meal or I cut it into smaller pieces and mix it into salad. Sometimes if I have leftovers I just take the grilled chicken breast and warm it up in the microwave the next day and then eat it for lunch or dinner. If you are vegan, there are plenty of resources to get your protein “your way” as well. Oatmeal or Tofu are two great sources for vegans to get their protein intake taken care of.
Fiber is Proteins’ best Friend
Similar to protein, Fiber is a great addition to your diet if you want to avoid overeating. How? Your body takes longer to process a fiber-rich meal, therefore prolonging that sense of fullness in your stomach. Fiber and protein do a great job in leaving you hungry and if you can add those to your diet early in the day (preferably breakfast) you’re less likely to overeat. Several studies have shown a decrease in calories eaten during the day if the breakfast was rich in fiber or protein. Fiber can come from many sources (example: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) and it fits perfectly into a runners diet. Some of the best sources of fiber are Raspberries, Avocados, Chia Seeds, Flaxseed Seeds, Oatmeal, Apples, and Broccoli.
Stress, mainly emotional stress is a reason why many people overeat. Stress triggers the production of cortisol in your body. Cortisol is known to cause cravings especially for sugary types of food. Eating sugary types of food is already “dangerous” when it comes to keeping your weight under control, but if you combine this with overeating it really becomes an issue. This one is hard to control and once you are in such a stressful situation it is hard to get out. Give in to some sweet food, but here is a little trick that I follow. Eat that one candy bar, but then immediately go and brush your teeth. Not only will this protect your teeth from the sugar attack, but it also interrupts the process of eating the wrong type of food. In addition, by getting the taste out of your mouth one of the triggers of overeating on that specific food has been removed. However, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid stress as much as possible. Make sure to get enough sleep and to find time to relax. Meditation and breathing techniques also help to shave off the edge when you are suddenly in a stressful situation. It takes a little bit of practice, but if you really practice this, you will be fine.
Revamp your Diet
Some people decided they cannot prevent them self from overeating and they went to the extreme of completely changing their diet. By turning your diet around and mainly eating vegetables, some fruit, and whole grains they eliminate bad foods. While you can overeat on fruit and veggies, it is better to overeat on Broccoli than on candy. You get the idea – if you cannot stop yourself from overeating, then only have those foods around that are healthy in the first place.
In general it is Ok to overeat every once in a while. I am no saint when it comes to overeating certain types of food. In my case I add an extra workout or be very careful with what I the next day to create a matching food deficit (in a controlled matter). Prevention is key and so is strength to resist the urge in the first place. It takes a bit of training to avoid overeating for good, but it is doable. You might not have to go to those extremes of revamping your diet, but keep that option in mind. Also, it takes time to reach this goal. I am still not where I want to be, but I have been able to cut down on overeating incidents. At the same time I am working out frequently and so things are stable. Getting a grip on overeating helps with weight loss and is not just important when it comes to stabilizing your weight.