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Whether it be emotionally charged, out of boredom, or pure mindlessness while at the table — overeating is something we’ve all done at some point.

Our culture tends to overeat in general with larger portions than ever, but you’d be surprised how much smaller of a portion you can eat and feel satisfied.  Somewhere along the way, we’ve been programmed to eat until we are full, instead of eating enough to satisfy our hunger and return to neutral.

Whatever reason it may be to you, there are some simple tricks you can use on a daily basis to make sure you’re more mindful of your consumption and keep things at a healthy level.

1. Drink more water

This may sound like a no-brainer, but the majority of people just do not drink adequate amounts of water. Dehydration accounts for countless ailments and symptoms we encounter on a regular basis, and you may not even be thinking your water intake is related. For example, hunger and cravings are often dispelled by drinking a tall glass of water. So whether it be getting a smart water bottle that’ll remind you to drink enough water, using a water intake app, or keeping your bottle by your side throughout the day — do whatever is necessary to stay properly hydrated. You’ll find your cravings dissipating, and you’ll be less likely to overeat.

Tip: stick to half your body weight in ounces as a standard; for example, if you weigh 175lbs that would be 87.5 ounces per day.

2. Don’t eat while distracted

Do you know that a large popcorn at the movies is 15-20 cups, above 1,000 calories plus 600mg of sodium that we eat mindlessly because we are distracted? Whether it’s in front of the TV or while playing with your phone on your lunch break, distracted eating can cause you to eat more than you were planning to eat. Even if you only have a limited portion in front of you, you won’t feel satisfied when you’re done, making you more likely to grab something unhealthy to “fill” you up the rest of the way. Be mindful when you eat, and you’ll find that satisfaction.

3. Focus on your portions

Growing portion sizes are changing what Americans think of as a normal portion. Believe it or not, the kids’ size now was the ‘normal’ size in the 80’s. Instead of putting all the food on the table for the whole family to grab, portion it out, at least for yourself. You should have a well-rounded meal with non-starchy veggies/salad taking up half of it, followed by a lean protein, and then a starchy carb which should be the smallest part of your plate. Choose a smaller plate too, 9-inch plate, so you’ll trick yourself into thinking you’re eating a more significant portion. If you still feel hungry after eating your plateful, take more vegetables as more fibers help us to feel full.

4. Rethink your restaurant meals

A 2016 study reported that more than nine in 10 U.S. restaurants are serving meals that exceed the recommended calorie limit for a single meal, averaging 1,200 calories an entree. Which is more than double the calories experts recommend that the average adult woman consume at lunch or dinner. Even with healthy lifestyles, there will be times you go out to eat with friends or family. Make a healthy choice and ask your server to box up half the order from the start or see if someone is willing to split the portion with you. If not, you’ll have another perfect portion for tomorrow, which will make you look forward to lunch! Don’t order some small salad that you’re not excited about, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be bland or boring. Ordering two healthy starters for dinner is another good strategy, picking a first appetizer and pairing it with a side salad is a great way not to overeat, but still, leave satisfied.

5. Write it all down

Sometimes, we’re unaware that we’re overeating, which is even worse. Keep a food journal for one week and jot down every little thing you eat, even if it seems minuscule or unimportant. Do not forget to record your drinks as they may contain empty calories as added sugar and fat. It also helps to note how you’re feeling so you can correct behaviors once you spot a pattern. Recording food and drinks is worth it as self-monitoring is consistently related to successful short and long-term weight loss.

Sources: Energy Contents of Frequently Ordered Restaurant Meals and Comparison with Human Energy Requirements and US Department of Agriculture Database Information: A Multisite Randomized Study- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, April 2016, Volume 116, Issue 4–Log Often, Lose More: Electronic Dietary Self‐Monitoring for Weight Loss. Jean Harvey et al, Obesity, volume 27, Issue 3, March 2019

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