Do you find yourself frequenting the kitchen more often, skipping meals, or eating while watching TV? Afterwards feeling full, frustrated, maybe even somewhat hopeless? You are not alone. We are all going through a very unusual, stressful time. Overeating and snacking may be filling a void of boredom or other emotions. There are many factors that lead to over-indulging. Whatever your reason, there are solutions.
The following strategies can help resolve overeating and mindless snacking. Use these as a guide to check-in with yourself.
Dial in on Hunger Cues
Are you aware of when your body is telling you it’s hungry? Hunger cues are not the same for everyone, waiting for stomach growling may lead to overeating. Hunger can feel a bit different for everyone. Signs include:
- Growling stomach
- Mild gurgling or gnawing in the stomach
- Difficulty concentrating
- Uncomfortable stomach pain
- Feeling Faint
- Irritable (“hangry”)
Tip: note which hunger cues you experience to become more aware and in-tune with physical hunger. This is a needed step for establishing when and how often to eat. Start a meal or snack when you are lightly to moderately hungry (level 4 and 3) to stay ahead of ravenous eating cycles, end your meal/snack feeling satisfied, not stuffed or sick.
*** Refer to hunger/fullness scale
When the focus is not on food during a meal, it is easy to overeat. Carve out time each day for meals, allow your body to focus on eating, enjoy your meal, and become more aware of fullness.
Tip: Make a goal to eat at least one meal per day without distraction. Pay attention to satiation (fullness cue), and become aware of how satisfied you are over the course of the meal.
Put your fork down between bites, focus on savoring each mouthful. Eating too quickly does not allow time for the stomach to tell your brain you are full -- which can take 5 to 20 minutes. Eating too quickly will lead to overeating, and by the time your body tells you it’s full, you have already over-indulged.
Tip: Set a timer for 20 minutes during your next meal, and see how long it usually takes you to eat. At what point do you notice fullness? Refer to hunger/fullness scale.
Eat Frequently and Stay Hydrated
Skipping meals, going long periods of time without eating, and dehydration may lead to regular overeating. Set a daily reminder for meals, snacks, and refilling your water bottle. Make a meal plan that will keep you fueled and feeling satisfied. Keep your water glass or water bottle visible, as a reminder to stay hydrated.
Tip: link drinking water with an everyday task. When you’re well-hydrated, your food choices and portions will be a lot healthier and satisfying.
Have a Plan
Access to tempting foods or beverages on a daily basis at the office or at home is an invitation to graze throughout the day. Knowing this in advance, before you grab for temptation, think about how you will feel afterwards- satisfied, full, uncomfortable, guilty? What about if you DON’T have it- will you feel more satisfied, happy? Sometimes you will want to indulge, that is okay, but you will probably find yourself saying “no” a lot more than “yes.”
During stress-related events, your body actually increases cortisol levels, which can increase appetite. Whether you are hungry or not, you may find yourself on the search for something to fill that hunger. Check-in with yourself before you grab something -- “Am I actually hungry, why am I on the search? Is it from boredom, stress, tiredness, emotion?” What about self-care -- are you taking care of your needs?
Are you getting enough sleep? Lack of sleep can increase your appetite. What can you improve in your bedtime routine? Set a reminder for when to start preparing for bed, turn off electronics, check-in with yourself, and at a specific time, add breathing exercises before bed, or meditate.
Challenge yourself! Add one of the tips into your regimen. Once it becomes a habit, add another. Make sure to check-in with your health coach for continued support.