Overeating promotes weight gain and obesity. The conventional weight loss approach tells you, you need books, counselors, programs, or meal plans to determine when and how much to eat to avoid overeating. However, instead of using external strategies like these, you simply need to turn your attention inward.
Your body tells you when it needs food, which is fuel, in the form of hunger sensations (1).
How Do I Know if I’m Hungry?: Gastric pain, abdominal gurgling noises, weakness, fatigue, mood changes, and preoccupation with food are common symptoms of hunger. When you eat when you are hungry, the calories consumed provide cells throughout your body with fuel for life sustaining functions, movement, and exercise.
Once you start eating and the food you eat begins to digest, your body tells you when it has had enough in the form of fullness and satiation sensations. These tend to be more subtle than hunger and are experienced with far less food than most people think.
Tips for Tuning In to Your Satiation Cues:
- Eat without distractions and in a comfortable environment. You will become more sensitive to these cues (2).
- To avoid overeating, refrain from eating unless you are physically hungry and end meals when you feel comfortably full. This may mean leaving some food on the plate!
Relying on your body’s internal signals for hunger and satiety to regulate when and how much you eat may sound simple, but in a society where food is widely available and accessible it can be very difficult to say “no” when you are not hungry or to push a half-eaten plate of delicious food away at your favorite restaurant.
For some, emotional overeating and sensitivity to food cravings may present significant problems in one’s ability to control their diet. Registered Dietitians with special training in eating and weight disorders can help you gain control of your eating using these strategies and many more.
By Tracey Ledoux, PhD, RD, LD
1. Berthoud, H.R. (2006). Homeostatic and Non-homeostatic Pathways Involved in the Control of Food Intake and Energy Balance. Obesity, 14(S8), 197S-200S.
2. Wansink, B. (2004). Environmental Factors That Increase the Food Intake and Consumption Volume of Unknowing Consumers. Annual Review of Nutrition, 24(1), 455-479.