Friends came to stay with us over the long weekend, and, as it is prone to do at Casa Baratta, the conversation turned to food.
In addition to ooing and ahhing over our vegetable garden and weighing the pros and cons of This Restaurant vs. That Restaurant, we also talked about what it means to have a healthy diet.
More specifically, we talked about overeating.
And while I’d love to gush for days about the spectacular culinary choices that abound in my little corner of the world, I know that this latter point is more pressing because SOOOOO many people struggle with it.
Overeating is understandable when the food is scrumptious, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought people only overeat when the food is too good to stop.
People overeat all the time, whether their fork is spearing the best thing they’ve ever tasted or their plate is filled with meh.
Eating past capacity every once in a while isn’t such a big deal, but the problem is that so many of us are doing it all the time.
When overeating becomes a habit you end up with all sorts of problems beyond just the obvious weight gain.
Luckily, scientists have been cued into this problem for quite some time now.
As it turns out, there are quite a few studies that show us easy ways to counteract overeating.
Here are a few of the results:
Love Your Food.
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you probably already know that I’m a big fan of eating mindfully.
Eating mindfully means fully engaging in the sensory experience of eating, so before you even take a bite, admire what your food looks like.
Notice the colors and textures.
Smell your food.
Listen to it as you interact with it!
Feel how each bite changes in your mouth as you chew.
Pay attention to what happens when you swallow.
In other words, actively love your food.
Studies have shown that you’re much more likely to overeat when you don’t see how much you’ve eaten.
Eating mindfully means that you’re about as aware of your food and the way it makes you feel as you can be.
So the more often you eat mindfully, the more satisfied you will be with your meal and the less likely you will overeat.
Clean Your Kitchen.
The kinds of foods you have in your kitchen aren’t the only reason you’re snacking more than you’d like.
A recent study published in the journal Environment and Behavior demonstrated that people who live with a messy kitchen are much more likely to feel out-of-control.
And when people feel out-of-control they end up eating larger quantities of unhealthy snacks.
So if you notice that your dirty kitchen is stressing you out, set up a system to make sure it gets tidied up on a regular basis.
You’ll feel better when you do, and you’ll be adding to your willpower reserve to help you stop overeating.
Keep Meals Simple.
Neuroscientist Catherine Katz, author of the blog Cuisinicity, explains that we are much more likely to overeat when we are presented with too many flavors in our meals.
This is because each flavor activates a different set of cells in our brain which trigger cravings up to a specific threshold.
So if you trigger your salt receptor cells by eating something with a little bit of salt, for example, you’re not going to feel satisfied until you’ve eaten enough salt to fill up that threshold.
Same goes for sweet, spicy, sour, bitter, and umami.
We each have different thresholds for each of these flavors in our brains.
If you have just a little bit of any flavor, you won’t be satisfied until your brain is satisfied.
One of the best strategies to prevent yourself from overeating on a regular basis is to keep your meals simple and focus on just a few flavors.
That way your brain won’t crave more of any one flavor and trigger you to overeat when your stomach is already full.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
Which of these strategies are you most excited to try?
What other strategies do you use to make sure you only eat what you need?
Leave a comment below, because who knows? Your strategy might just be the thing that someone else needs to hear to change their own relationship with food.
‘Til next time,
Love, Hugs, and Coconut Cream Puffs,