Tips to avoid overeating

I've heard that eating until you've had "just enough" is a good way to avoid overeating. But, how do I know when I've had "just enough?"


Great question—and a challenge for many of us!

First, some background: Babies are born with an innate ability to follow "inner signals" telling them that they've eaten enough. They show it through behaviors such as pushing away the spoon, turning their head, spitting out food and playing with food instead of eating it.

But as we get older, outside factors can override this inner signal, so we eat when we're not hungry or keep eating after feeling full. These factors include being urged to clean our plates, following set meal times (for example, if it's noon, it must be lunchtime—even if we're not hungry), eating while distracted (for example while working or watching TV), or turning to food to cope with emotions such as sadness, anxiety or boredom.

With some practice, you can get back in touch with the inner signal to stop eating when you've had just enough. Try these techniques:

When you eat, eat. Turn off the TV, set aside the phone, close the book and stop other distractions that take your attention away from eating.
Slow down. It takes time for your brain to tell your stomach you've had enough food. If you eat too quickly, you can be way past full before you get the message.
Eat when you're hungry. If you're not hungry when you start eating, it's hard to know when to stop. Some people use a "1 to 10" scale to assess their hunger level, with "1" being famished, "5" being neutral and "10" being stuffed. Try to start eating when your hunger level is about a "3"—hungry, but not so hungry that you feel out of control.
Check in with yourself. Pause every few minutes while eating to assess how full you feel and whether or not to continue. Aim to stop eating when you feel satisfied—maybe at "6" or "7" on the hunger scale.
Keep at it. It takes time to change lifelong habits—but with practice, you can do it!
Monster–size portions can trigger overeating, too. Learn about portion distortion.