People who don’t stick to healthy eating habits often blame themselves for the lack of willpower, without exploring other factors that may contribute to difficulty of maintaining a healthy diet and weight.
According to health experts, one of the main reasons we eat when we’re not hungry is because we sometimes use food to shield ourselves from uncomfortable feelings. People sometimes eat to get relief from boredom, depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, and other moods.
However, experts suggest that a big part of weight management is recognizing these mechanisms and applying skills and strategies to address the difference between the need to eat and the desire to eat
Dr Dieudonee Bukaba, a nutrition expert, reveals that one of the effective ways to curb overeating is drinking more water.
“Dehydration can easily be confused with hunger and it contributes to low energy, so keep hydrated to curb hunger and minimize tiredness. Start your day with a big glass of water and set a reminder to drink some more every few hours. If one still feels hungry after a meal it is advisable to drink a glass of water to curb that feeling.
“Our brains often trick us into thinking that we’re hungry. This happens when we’re dehydrated, bored, or stressed. We must recognise when we’re actually hungry and wait for that moment to eat. If your stomach is growling, you know that you’re hungry. If your stomach feels content but you’re craving food, hold off on that snack,” he explains.
Bukaba says eating slowly helps one eat less, makes one feel full and offers one an opportunity to enjoy their food as well. No matter how busy you are, you must manage your time to eat well.
“Chew for long. If you plough through meals, you’re likely to overeat and the stomach reflex that signals to the brain that the stomach is full will be delayed. If you chew for long not only will it help with digestion, but you’ll also feel full after less food,” he says.
The nutritionist adds that if one feels compelled to eat something, they should opt for a healthy snack instead of junk food. Go for raw vegetables, such as celery or carrots with hummus since the crunchiness might assist in easing tension. These will also fill you up faster, unlike junk food. Most importantly, know when to stop. Eat mindfully and slowly, pausing between each bite to allow your body to process your satiety, he adds.
“Keep junk foods away from your home. If you have no junk food available in your house, it will be much more difficult to binge on unhealthy foods. Fill your kitchen with healthy foods so that those are all you have to choose from. If it’s helpful, delete all food delivery apps to distance you further from unhealthy temptations,” Bukaba advises.
Go to bed on time
Bukaba says not getting enough sleep stimulates appetite hormones, so you’ll end up eating more and choosing higher-calorie foods the next day.
“Improve your chances by going to bed at regular time, sleeping in a dark room with the window slightly open to get fresh air and avoiding using gadgets just before bed,” he says.
Stick to balanced meals
According to nutrition experts, eating balanced meals that contain carbohydrates, fats and proteins helps prevent overeating. Although everybody has favorite foods and different calorie and nutrient needs for their individual bodies, basic strategies for putting together a balanced meal can benefit everyone. Balanced meals provide necessary nutrients from different food groups, and can even assist in losing weight, boosting heart health, and reducing the risk or side effects of many common chronic health conditions.
Eat at regular times
Clodette Kayitesi, a nutrition professional at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali, argues that many people know what to eat but overlook when to eat. When a person skips breakfast and has a light lunch, they are likely to overeat in the evening and feel triggered for a sweet treat, she says.
“Establish a routine to eat the main meals at similar times. This will help prevent strong feelings of hunger, which could result in you over-eating the next time you have a meal. Regular meal eaters tend to have a lower energy (calorie) intake compared to those who eat irregularly – crucial if you’re looking to maintain or lose weight”, she adds.
Choose satisfying foods
Kayitesi recommends that people should steer away from foods that give them a lot of calories for very little volume.
“The higher the fiber, protein, and/or water content of a food or meal, the more likely it is to be satisfying in your stomach without going overboard on calories,” she says.
Kayitesi adds that using a smaller plate and paying attention to the presentation of a meal can increase your awareness of the food in front of you and help you stop eating when you are comfortable. “The brain looks at the plate and decides if the portion is adequate. It takes some time, but the smaller the plate, the smaller the portion,” she says.